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Roger Ailes: Not Exactly a "Reality Based" Person

Reported by Melanie - December 19, 2004

Roger Ailes, the Chairman and CEO of Fox News, was a guest tonight (December 19, 2004) on the new C-Span program "Q & A" with Brian Lamb.

Lamb dove right into the interview by asking Ailes why "some people" in the business hate Ailes and Fox News. Ailes said Fox gets attacked but they also get copied and he thinks it's out of fear because Fox is so good.

(This post is about the first half of the interview. Ellen will post about the second half.)

Ailes said Rupert Murdoch approached him in l996 about starting a cable news network because Murdoch felt the "American people were underserved in news." Ailes said the "primary qualification" for his success at running Fox is that he doesn't "have a degree in journalism." Ailes thinks "life experience" is more important. Ailes defines journalism as a "collection of stories" with "as many facts as you can muster" thrown in.

Ailes thinks journalism schools are "too political," that they don't teach the "simple things" like gathering all the facts. He said he was once asked to donate money to a journalism school but decided he wouldn't contribute until they "graduate someone who likes America."

Ailes said Brit Hume "doesn't do opinion journalism," and that Fox doesn't "mix journalists and spinners." He said you either put journalists on a panel or you put spinners on a panel, but you don't mix the two.

Ailes said that if you watch CNN, Al Jazeera or the BBC "day in and day out," you won't find "much good" about America.

Lamb asked Ailes about his experience in the news business and Ailes said he worked as a "consultant" to local news companies and worked with reporters when he "worked in politics." He said journalists go after pictures, mistakes and attacks but "we don't do that." Ailes said "we have some very fine fournalists," and they come in every day and do an "excellent job." He said the media has a "tendency to love extremes." (COMMENT: Implying that Fox doesn't.)

Asked about Brian Williams as Tom Brokaw's replacement, Ailes said Williams is "a capable anchor for broadcast news," he's nice, polite, quite charming, the kind of person every parent wants their daughter to marry, and he has "a lot of nice shirts."

He said he'd keep on running Fox as long as he's "having fun" and as long as he's "making a contribution." He said Fox News "makes a tremendous contribution to journalism."

Lamb asked Ailes why he thinks, for example, that Bill O'Reilly draws such a large audience and Ailes said that O'Reilly was "a street reporter" for 20 years and has strong opinions which he wanted to express. He said all his anchors have a "presentation and a style." He said he has "never done a focus group" or any "cumulative research" on any of "the talent." He said he has a list of 27 things he looks for when thinking about hiring someone. He couldn't remember them all but some are: That the potential employee should "know how to tell a story," know how to "frame an argument," be "curious," and do "a good interview." He said he goes out to dinner with a prospective employee and checks to see if they're "flaky," if they have a sense of humor and he finds out if he "hates their agent" as that could make things difficult.

He said he tries to instill in all Fox employees that they must "take the news very seriously." He said it's "very important for us to be fair."

Ailes said he quit the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences several years ago after no one from Fox was nominated. He said he thought it was wrong that nominees could vote for themselves and, in fact, he said he "told my people" that if they start winning awards from the Academy they'll "probably get fired" because that means that whatever they're doing is "politically correct." He said "they decided they didn't want us to play" so they "decided not to play."

Ailes said the American people "aren't stupid," they "get it," and Fox's job is to give the audience "enough facts" so they can make up their own minds.

COMMENT: Evidently Ailes isn't a "reality based" person because the Fox News he's talking about isn't the Fox News that I see.

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