The first bit of advice that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes had for journalism students at the University of North Carolina was “Change your major.” It isn’t difficult to surmise why Ailes would counsel students planning careers in the press to stop studying journalism. The last thing that Ailes wants is more people in the business who understand its fundamentals and ethics.
Ailes spoke at the UNC School of Journalism’s Roy H. Park Distinguished Lecture Series – a series that is now a little less distinguished. He refused to allow the lecture to be videotaped for Internet broadcast. Perhaps that was because he didn’t want his latest Nazi-baiting to be documented. In remarks about his competitors at CNN and MSNBC Ailes said…
Ailes: Remember, the last time all of us got lined up together, we were lined up by two guys – Hitler and Stalin. If there’s an alternative point of view, don’t wet your pants.
Ailes also took swipes Newt Gingrich (“He isn’t going to get to come back to Fox News.”), Jon Stewart (“I don’t think he could make a living without us.”), and CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien (“The girl named after a prison.”).
But perhaps the most unhinged segment of his speech was his assertion that “in 15 years we have never taken a story down because it was wrong.” Notice that he’s not saying that there were never any stories that were wrong, only that they were not taken down. If you leave up all of your false reporting then you can honestly say that you’ve never taken one down. So technically, Ailes is telling the absolute truth. Except that there were stories taken down. And even for those stories, Ailes can claim that Fox News didn’t take them down because they were wrong. When they have had to admit factual errors, they only took them down because they were embarrassing to the network or harmful to their right-wing mission – not because they were wrong.
For Ailes to imply that Fox News has never been wrong is absurd in the extreme. If that were true then why did his management have to issue a memo threatening a “Zero Tolerance” policy after numerous on-air flubs?
“Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the ‘mistake chain,’ and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination.”
The dismal record of Fox News is available to all who care to study it. They have falsified poll data, misquoted speakers, deceptively edited video, and even aired phony stories (hoaxes, satires, propaganda, etc.) as if they were verified news reports. Some of these stories were taken down and some of them were not, but Fox rarely, if ever, acknowledges that they made a mistake.
That’s the arrogance and dishonesty that Ailes expressed in his remarks at UNC. I hope he hasn’t done too much damage to the students’ aspirations to pursue careers in journalism. Roger Ailes can only be an example for these students in a negative sense – i.e. as what to avoid if you value your integrity and want to make a positive contribution to your profession and your country.