In an excerpt from his new book, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik writes about Fox News’ beginnings, and how it differentiated itself from other outlets.
The American news consumer of just fifteen years ago would not have been able to recognize the country’s current media landscape—the range of choices, the technological innovations, and in particular the cacophony. And no other news organization has done more in recent years to reshape that terrain than Fox. Just about every news organization either mimics or reacts against the way Fox presents the news and the values it represents.
That’s not because Fox News breaks many big stories. It doesn’t. (Part of the brilliance of its financial model is to have a lean reporting staff.) That’s not because the channel draws the biggest audiences in news. Nor does it do so in television news, with some exceptions, though it is a dominant force in cable television.
What Fox News does, instead, is to determine what it believes should be the story of the day. It is a choice intended not just to select its own coverage, but to force others to pay attention—day after day. Fox News does so with an eye for episodes overlooked by other major news outlets. It particularly seeks storylines and themes that reflect and further stoke a sense of grievance among cultural conservatives against coastal elites.