A "FAIR AND BALANCED" Review of How Fox News Beat CNN

Sep 21, 2006
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Concise and complete. Easy reading.

Cons:I would have liked more input or quotes of some of the key players.

The Bottom Line: Crazy Like a Fox; The inside Story of How Fox news Beat CNN is an easy to follow read with some larger than life characters.

The Fox News channel is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. This cable channel has been trouncing all cable news competition these last few years. Ever wonder why? Is it their political leanings? Do they have incredible communicators on the air? Has the world turned Conservative? ...or is it that they truly are "Fair and Balanced" as they state in their logo?

An Early Driving Force

The book opens with negotiations between Bill Gates of Microsoft Company and GE, who controlled NBC, hammering out a merger between the two. Roger Ailes, a former Nixon man, who was working in top management with NBC was not happy with the impending union of the two giants. He knew his stature would be taken down a notch or two. Soon after the merger Ailes left NBC and made a new connection, this time with Australian born Rupert Murdoch who by then owned America's #4 TV network FOX.

Murdoch as a young man seemed to have liberal leanings. This changed as the years went by and eventually felt the #1 cable news network CNN too liberal and wanted a more "balanced" network. The FOX logo of "Fair and Balanced" News came from this sentiment.

The book continues to follow Ailes drive to present fledgling FOX cable News as a viable competitor to CNN.
He was shown as a driven man who helped Reagan and Bush I get into their positions. His niche was guiding politicians to better communicate who they were and what they stood for. The book delves into some past operations of Ailes, how his mind worked and explores his interaction with others in driving agenda. He was THE political consultant that made things happen but, just as he was in his prime, described by some as a political attack dog, he no longer felt the drive to continue in that role. This author then goes on to show Ailes savvy in the successful launch of the Fox Cable News Channel. Was he crazy like a fox?

Ted Turner and CNN

CNN is also discussed, their motives and their moves, including CNNs coup of the the bombing of Bagdad with Peter Arnett, John Holliman, and Bernard Shaw explaining how it had immediate impact on the none-cable news channels of ABC, NBC and CBS. Those channels were no longer the only source of news to the American people. Cable was now in the game. This was further enforced by the sky-high ratings during the OJ trial.

The race for superiority between Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch starts with Turner stating he hoped to see Murdoch try and take him on. Turner was then quoted as saying, "I'm looking forward to squishing Rupert like a bug".

I found the chapters interesting as Ailes started putting together a team and having 'Rah! Rah!' meetings to show that they were just about to start on something new with Fox cable News. In one of these meetings he put together a clip to the tune of West Side Story's, "Something's Coming". Two people featured were Inside Edition's Bill O'Reilly and a very young newcomer by the name of Sean Hannity. We follow Cable Fox on its first day and changes Ailes felt were needed.

This happened to be a time when there was negative talk of left leaning bias in the news industry. This was also about the time the ill founded story "Tailwind", accusing American's of using gases in Vietnam, caused a huge hit to CNNs credibility. Lou Dobb's of Moneyline also became disenchanted and broke off with CNN.

Fox was in the right place at the right time. No pun intended.

Fox Moves Up

Bill O'Reilly's move to the top of the cable news business is somewhat chronicled with information about his first show, moving up in ratings against Larry King, and his eventual rise to the number one position at prime time. More of Roger Ailes creative ideas are talked of as he brought together O'Reilly, Hannity, Colmes, Brit Hume, Shepard Smith and Tony Snow. Some brief discussion of O'Reilly being inspired by the success of Rush Limbaugh and wanting to follow that direction are discussed.

O'Reilly's vigorous attacks against the Clintons that were easy fodder at the time with the "Oral Office" scandal increased Fox ratings even farther. Talk of impeachment and then following the process continued that rise.

Fox host Greta Van Susteren was soon picked up from CNN when she was no longer pleased with the direction there. I found her entrance after Paula Zahn leaving Fox another fact filled and "fun" chapter. I had to laugh at some lines used in the book in reference to Geraldo Rivera and his leaving NBC and joining up with Fox.

Finally it seems to have been 9/11 that gave Fox cable its biggest boost. It was CNN that received most of the original audience but it was Fox that maintained it.

Author Scott Collins, a staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times, interjects stating that one of the reasons Fox may have kept the high ratings, "is that the tumultuous events of that autumn led audiences to sample all of the news networks. Viewers who had previously seldom watched Fox grew to like not just the networks fast paced newscasts but also its unabashed pro-American orientation. If terrorism had made America feel wounded, frightened, and confused, Fox helped wash those feelings away, becoming a beacon of moral certainty and defiance."

At book's end I thought the authors explanations on why Fox would use the American flag in some of its programing and why CNN doesn't "interesting".

Closing Thoughts

I found Crazy Like a Fox; The inside Story of How Fox news Beat CNN to be quick read. I was able to share as much as I have because these are known facts and not spoilers. It's the delivery and the detailed inside information that gives reason for others to explore this book. Author Scott Collins put his facts together in neat order that dealt specifically with each subject in the book's 15 chapters allowing an easy to follow flow. Collin's description of individuals involved in Fox's upward movement was concise yet complete though I would liked to have learned even more detailed accounts of how Ailes made the choices of those fronting the shows. At 227 pages he didn't rehash the same subject or give too much background and detail. The author neatly connected the dots that achieved the rise in ratings for the Fox News Channel and the fall of CNN's.

Though the subject of the political leanings of the cable news companies came into play, I do believe that Scott Collin's book dealt fairly with all the players by simply giving facts as they happened without a subjective point of view. Be sure to realize that judgement is made by a fellow who watches the Fox News Channel regularly.

"I report, you decide"

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