Friday, April 28, 2017

What Will Become of Fox News?

Josh Marshall wonders whether the sexist, racist culture at Fox News is separable from the media product on Talking Points Memo.

Today it looks like it may be over for Bill Shine, a top Ailes era executive who in the view of many was tainted by the Ailes regime but was nevertheless promoted after his 2016 defenestration. Revealingly, Sean Hannity is trying to launch a public ‘Justice for Shine’ movement to help Shine keep his job. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the Murdochs are looking to replace Shine and hope to replace him with a woman.

This all makes perfect sense. It’s how you start changing a toxic organizational culture. But again, that toxic culture is inextricably tied to the product itself: a worldview of resentment and provocation, contempt for changing cultural mores about sex, gender, race and a slew of other things. A company or a brand is a function of a relationship between an audience and a product. You cannot easily change the product without changing (or more likely losing) the audience.

To anticipate and correct any misunderstandings, I’m not saying conservatives are harassers or racists. Far from it.  But the charge, frisson and much of the gravitational pull of Fox News has been about a certain kind of cultural politics – resistance to changing cultural mores and how they affect the channel’s core demographic: older white men.

It’s worth considering whether News Corp can clean house at Fox without losing the cultural punch of the product and thus at least to some significant degree losing its hold on the audience itself.
Again, the culture, much more than people want to admit, is the product. That doesn’t mean Fox News can’t thrive under different management and different mores. But I don’t think it’s possible to recognize the scope of the challenge without reckoning with that fact.

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