DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

KARLE DUNBAR

Social Media Manager

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

TOM BRINKMOELLER

GERALD JORDAN

MONIQUE NAZARETH

CANDACE KELLEY

GABRIELA TAMARIZ

DAVID SICILIA

NOEL HOLSTON

JONATHAN STORM

 
 
 
 
 
The Controversial Roger Ailes, 1940 - 2017
May 18, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments
 

The television legacy of Roger Ailes is as impressive as his personal conduct seemed to be deplorable.

As the architect of Fox News, Ailes didn’t dream up anything new. He simply applied three timeless lessons to televisions.

1. Packaged properly, the news can be comfort food.

2. America has a long, rich and successful tradition of a partisan news media.

3. The most important character in any drama is the bad guy. 

Ailes and Fox chief Rupert Murdoch recognized there is a core of conservative viewers who think America and the world have gone to hell since the 1960s and probably since Franklin Roosevelt.

Nothing could be more comforting to those viewers than to turn on a news channel that consistently reinforces that belief.

This doesn’t make conservative viewers perverse or even unusual, by the way. Left-leaning viewers turn to MSNBC for the same reason, just as adherents of numerous other ideologies all have their own media.

Anyone who doesn’t constantly work to shut out all media today is battered with a hailstorm of information. Some sound good, some sound bad, some sound credible, some sound bizarre and disturbing.

Ailes, who died Thursday at the age of 77, provided conservatives with a safe place where the news would be reported and interpreted just as viewers saw it.

The government is giving away your tax dollars! The mainstream media is biased! Someone wants to take away your guns! Patriotism is dead!

Bad guys everywhere. In the 1990s, conservatives flocked to radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh for a voice that denounced and ridiculed these dangerous villains. Now, thanks largely to Roger Ailes, they also have Fox News – which save for very few occasions in recent years has run well ahead of MSNBC and CNN.

The fact Ailes branded Fox News as “fair and balanced” was almost an inside joke, less a description than a branding tool, reminding viewers that their despised “mainstream media” (MSM) is neither of those things.

It also reinforced the idea that Fox News, a multimillion-dollar enterprise with millions of viewers, was somehow a besieged, lonely outpost in the media world.

It’s an appealingly romantic image, though radio talk host Jay Severin, asked a few years ago whether conservative talk was balanced, said that was the wrong question.

“We are the balance,” he said.

Historically, he’s onto something. Our modern media evolved from the newspapers of the 18h and 19th century, most of which were founded to push a political point of view.

From Federalists and Whigs to Republicans and Democrats, parties often underwrote those early papers, which gave loyalists what they wanted.

When Democrat Grover Cleveland was elected president in 1884, the Republican Los Angeles Times refused even to report that news for several days.

That’s party loyalty.

The notion of a nonpartisan press took hold in the 20th century, when – among other things – newspapers began to court advertisers like department stores that wanted a broader audience.

People and institutions being what they are, it would be hard to argue we ever achieved a completely nonpartisan press.

We were just closer to it before folks like Ailes and Murdoch (both left) realized we were ready for a throwback to the old model of niche journalism.

So today a lot of that aforementioned media noise comes from partisan outlets, whether it’s Fox News, MSNBC or Internet sites, and the blogosphere.

This raises its own whole set of questions, like what’s “fake news” and how we average viewers/readers can sift through the mountains of information to find what’s true and valuable. That’s an ongoing discussion.

Asked about his legacy a short time ago, Ailes said he suspected it would be defined in part by his “enemies,” presumably meaning people who would think acting like an entitled bully toward your employees needs to be mentioned.  

The fact he phrased it that way, however, showed that he retained his TV lessons to the end.

“Us” works so much better when you first establish a “them.”

 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
 Website (optional)
 
AREMU
Type in the verification word shown on the image.
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: 
2 Comments
 
 
Kurt
MSNBC is hardly the left-wing partisan media outlet you make it out to be. Does Fox have a *three hour* news show hosted by a liberal as MSNBC has the conservative "Morning Joe"? No. No, it doesn't Please have your anti-Both-Siderism titers checked. I think you need another inoculation.
May 21, 2017   |  Reply
 
Mac
And the return of Andy Lack,after screwing up Sony Music,has brought more changes while Chris I,Chris II,Rachel & Larry are making real inroads against Lack's attempts to water down MSNBC. Megyn Kelly coming to the mothership at NBC. Righties Nicolle Wallace, Greta Van Sustern and the return of milktoasty resume padder Brian Williams are troublesome,if not boring. Lack wants Williams in the 10PM slot for better paying ED ads and maybe leave Lawrence O'Donnell twisting in the copper frypan adland after 11PM,if Larry is re-signed at all. Hey,I don't even pay my cable bill directly to Comcast and I hate 'em.
May 22, 2017
 
 
 
Mac
Hard to praise Ailes for anything he has been involved since stories about his relationships with women go back to the Mike Douglas days. Just the fact that he attached himself to Nixon like barnacles and helped elect the worst president in my lifetime and was allowed to play an even more important role in electing one who makes look Nixon look presidential. At least Nixon had a gang of thugs that could shoot straight. No RIPing for Ailes. I'm Irish and grudge holding is part of the DNA. Add to the fact that his golden parachute netted his estate millions with no jail time. One can hope that individuals can peck away at the estate to get some monetary good for crimes committed against. A true scumbag. A guy who caused suffering to a nation for 49 yrs.(just think of the dead in Vietnam while Nixon lengthened the war till re-election) deserves contempt not accolades.
May 20, 2017   |  Reply
 
Zeke
Too awfully bad that he didn't leave after his pal DJT & crowd remove the Estate Tax for Billionaires! Much will be protected, but we'll get some, too! (for pain and suffering)
May 27, 2017
 
 
Mac
Some reports have the Ailes young adult making his cowpoke comments at a post-funeral luncheon,not from the funeral service,all too aware of the movie he was quoting as, the kid mentioned, it was one of his father's favorites. Apples falling from a tree. Lessons taught. Fathers and sons. Forward into the past.
May 23, 2017
 
 
Mac
5/23-This just in! As for and RIPing coming from the Ailes clan,17 yr. old son threatened Daddy's accusers during the eulogy,evidently,in typical Fox plagiarism,by using a quote from a cowboy flick made before the kid was conceived,featuring Kurt Russell. Sounds like TV shaped the kid's world and it was used as a babysitter. To quote Trump:"Sad."
May 22, 2017
 
 
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: 
 
 

Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20. (Paperback will be available September 5th, here.)

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post

 

This Day in TV History

 
 
 

Dispatches From TVWW