Far from being an outlier, Roger Ailes fits snugly in an American tradition of partisan and skeezy journalism. As the owner and captain of his own media empire, William Randolph Hearst bent the news to suit his political ambitions for five decades. His vilification of President Franklin D. Roosevelt makes Fox News’ harassment of President Obama look like patty-cake. Robert R. McCormick, owner and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, ran headlines like “Moscow Orders Reds in U.S. to Back Roosevelt.”
The tradition of an American media owner or boss pushing a candidate or a cause is so firmly ensconced in journalistic history that the true outlier is the mogul who plays it completely straight. Walter Annenberg used his Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News to smear opponents and reward his political friends, facts be damned. The Manchester Union Leader’s William Loeb (subscription required) hammered liberal Democrats as “left-wing kooks” and called President John Kennedy “the No. 1 liar in the United States.” Nelson Rockefeller, in Loeb’s eyes, was a “wife-swapper,” and President Dwight Eisenhower was a “stinking hypocrite.
The Rolling Stone article is a long read (about 10,000 words).
The New York magazine one is less long (about 6,400 words).
Both are interesting explorations of Ailes and the Fox News operation. File under: Weekend Reading. And if you only have time for one, head Schafer’s advice, “If you enjoy a scary nighttime story, read Dickinson’s [Rolling Stone] piece. But if your tastes run toward political comedy, click on Sherman’s.”