Howard Kurtz: Fox News is ‘edging back toward the mainstream’

Several factors have influenced Fox News president Roger Ailes’ shift to the middle, says Howard Kurtz: the debate over extreme rhetoric after U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, the country’s distaste with constant partisan sniping, the branding issue posed by Glenn Beck’s inflammatory rhetoric, and a desire to boost profits by capturing more mainstream viewers. Of what Ailes calls a “course correction,” Kurtz writes, “While Fox reporters ply their trade under Ailes’s much-mocked ‘fair and balanced’ banner, the opinion arm of the operation has been told to lower the temperature.”

Among the nuggets in the story:

  • A prediction from Kurtz: “Next fall’s election could well pivot on whether Ailes is more interested in scoring political points or ramping up ratings and revenue.”
  • A description of the way Fox News “plotted how to trap the candidates” in a Republican presidential candidate debate in Orlando, which Kurtz likens to a reality TV show.
  • Ailes’ reaction to an AP story reporting that a suicide bomber killed 29 worshipers in a Baghdad mosque: “How do we know they were worshiping? … I think the AP is so far over the hill, they’ve become left wing, antiwar. Gotta watch their copy.”
  • A sign of how closely Ailes watches his anchors: “Ailes keeps a wary eye on anchor Shepard Smith, who occasionally backs aspects of the Obama record: ‘Every once in a while Shep Smith gets out there where the buses don’t run and we have a friendly talk.’ “

Related: The timing doesn’t match up for Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s assertion that he signed an order requiring HPV vaccinations for girls because a woman with cervical cancer lobbied for it. | You can’t really judge politicians’ truthfulness by analyzing their PolitiFact ratings, but FiveThirtyEight gives it a shot anyway.

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  • Poynter

    @Lafollette:disqus Those points aren’t meant to illustrate the point. I wanted to highlight some of the other interesting things in the article, which is worth a read.
    Steve Myers

  • Gordon Campbell

    Kurtz is a poor man’s Goebbels.

  • Anonymous

    I have noticed that Fox has been “migrating.”  I think O’Reilly, in particular, and the network in general has moved toward the left.  The degree of skepticism that should greet the usual pronouncements from the White House just isn’t there anymore, and they have hired more liberals and retreads from the other news outlets.  The news has seemed “softer” lately, and I admit I’m disappointed in some of their coverage, especially towards China and the middle east in foreign news.

  • Anonymous

    I watch Fox much less now because they have moved to the Left, especially O’Reilly. Too willing to parrot leftist talking points; not willing enough to call out their lies. I tune in more to FBS, especially the Judge. Conservative blogs, and talk radio round it out. 

  • ikez78

    To assert that Fox news is farther from the center of the public’s mindset on political issues shows that this reporter and others in the “93% of us voted for Obama” media are utterly ignorant of public sentiment.  Regardless of your PERSONAL opinion of Fox news and thinly veiled efforts by the liberal hacks pretending to be journalists, Fox consistently is rated higher in poll after poll as closer to the way the news SHOULD be presented.  What a joke, where are the concerns about the rest of the press who donates to, votes for, and spins for Democrats at a 9 to 1 ratio?  These hacks in the media don’t care about the bias, they just care that the bias isn’t helping “their” team.

  • Anonymous

    How exactly to the “nuggets in  the story” justify the conclusion that Ailes has changed in any way?

  • TJ Johnson

    Quite a fascinating profile of Roger Ailes.  No matter what you think of him or Fox News, there’s no denying that Ailes is the most important broadcast news executive of our time — and there hasn’t been anyone like him since Ted Turner and Roone Arledge.