June 30, 2011

John Cook found “a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library” that addresses how to circumvent the “prejudices of network news” and deliver “pro-administration” stories to heartland television viewers. (A Romenesko reader points out that the memo was noted in the 1994 book, “SpinControl.”)

The memo – called, simply enough, “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News” – is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing [Roger] Ailes’ work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries. Through his firms REA Productions and Ailes Communications, Inc., Ailes served as paid consultant to both presidents in the 1970s and 1990s, offering detailed and shrewd advice ranging from what ties to wear to how to keep the pressure up on Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the first Gulf War.

The memo explains why television was the way to go:

Today television news is watched more often than people read newspapers, than people listen to the radio, than people read or gather any other form of communication. The reason: People are lazy. With television you just sit—watch—listen. The thinking is done for you.

Cook says the documents — drawn mostly from the papers of Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman and Bush chief of staff John Sununu — reveal Ailes to be a tireless television producer and joyful propagandist. “He was a feared figure, known back then for the cut-throat brand of corporate politics that has served him so well at News Corp,” writes Cook. But Ailes was essentially fired by Nixon after he was quoted disparaging the president in “The Selling of the President 1968.” While Ailes was being shown the door, a memo to Haldeman warned that media strategist could go rogue if he wasn’t handled properly.


> 2009: Ailes for president?; “No one knows how to win better”
> 2008: “I don’t care what people say about me,” says Ailes
> 2007: Ailes says you can thank him for putting Bartiromo on the air
> 2006: Fox News will be fine if I’m run over by a bus today, says Ailes
> 2005: Tina Brown: Nothing distracts Ailes from his business goals
> 2004: Ailes says LAT editor John Carroll owes Fox News an apology
> 2003: Ailes says it’s the unfair journos who question Fox’s balance
> 2002: NYT says Ailes shouldn’t be doing double duty as Bush adviser

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From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August…
Jim Romenesko

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