Go-to journalism blog Romenesko today published a remarkable letter from Charlie Reina, a former Fox News Channel producer. Reina discusses the motivations behind Fox’s current “War on Christmas” campaign.
Make no mistake about it: Fox is on a mission. Its slogans say, “Fair and Balanced” and “We Report, You Decide.” But in the six years that I worked there, what I heard most from Fox management were mission statements — about turning things around, taking news back from the liberals, and giving “middle America” a voice long denied it by the “east coast media elite.” In other words, using its news report to bring about change — in the media and, ultimately, in the direction of American culture.
As FNC’s man at the top, Roger Ailes, knows well from his years as a political operative, there is no more effective wartime strategy than to divide and conquer. That’s why so much of his network’s programming is confrontational…
But what really separates Fox from the competition is its unabashed use of religion as a divisive weapon. Common sense — and common courtesy — have long dictated that personal religious beliefs be kept out of news reporting unless the story at hand involves religion. But on Fox, it’s not uncommon for an anchor to raise the issue of a guest’s religion, or lack thereof, a propos of nothing.
The most glaring example I can recall is a 2002 interview with a guest who had been cited for his charitable acts. At the end of the discussion the anchor said (paraphrasing here), “So I understand you’re an atheist.” The guest acknowledged that this was so. “Well,” said he anchor, “we’re out of time now, but I’d be glad to debate you anytime on the existence of God,” and, with that, ended the segment.
Fox anchors will tell you that no one in management dictates that they bring up religion. But my experience at FNC is that, once management makes its views known, the anchors have a clear blueprint of what’s expected of them…
So, again, it’s no wonder this “War on Christmas” (now in its second successful year) is a production of Fox News Channel — the very network that has made accusation, recrimination and confrontation the gold standards of cable “news,” and whose personalities have fashioned a self-serving “war” out of whole cloth, thanks to … a shameless management willing to use even Christmas for its own political ends.
OK, let’s lighten things up a bit by revisiting one of my favorite links, “If Fox News Had Been Around Throughout History.”
Update: The media relations director for Fox News has responded. You won’t believe it.