Fox Sources Speak Out On Network's Presidential Candidates And Extremist Coverage

Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

Signs of friction within Fox News continue to grow as two more sources indicate "frustration" and "surprise" at the direction the news channel is taking, with one source pointing to concerns that the "opinion side bleeds over the news side."

One source complained about the "political slugfests and extremists" on the network, while the other said the network "pander(s) to the extreme."

These concerns follow Media Matters' recent report that sources familiar with the situation say that the Fox Washington bureau is slanting more to the right in recent years under Bill Sammon, vice president of news and Washington managing editor, who took over for Brit Hume in February 2009.

The latest sources to speak out -- a current Fox News staffer and a longtime contributor -- responded to Media Matters' questions about Fox's employment of five Republicans who have expressed interest in running for president.

Media Matters has documented that the potential candidates -- Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, John Bolton, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum -- appeared on Fox at least 269 times in the first nine months of 2010.

Asked by Media Matters about the potential candidates frequently appearing on Fox, the longtime Fox contributor expressed concerns about the "increasingly incestuous" nature of the network.

"It becomes increasingly incestuous. If you look at the line-up and who is on the shows, they feed on each other. You see Beck on O'Reilly and it is not just the candidates. They do not have the real serious contenders, which are not Huckabee and Palin. That surprises me because it is a news organization. I don't recall a time in news when this has happened."

The same source also complained about the presence of extreme views: "I think Fox has very good coverage on Shep Smith, Chris Wallace and Bret Baier. The others are more political slugfests and extremists. It narrows your audience."

Asked if the "political slugfests and extremists" included Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, the contributor responded, "Yes."

The other source, a current Fox News staffer, cited Shepard Smith's show as among the few straight news programs on the network: "I wish we had more programs like that, with high news content."

The staffer added, "There are people who are concerned that the opinion side bleeds over the news side. More of our programs are turning into opinion programs. It is frustrating."

"We are a 24-hour news operation and in that time there are sometimes three stories we cover," the staffer also said. "We cover the ones that we cover to death. Even as a viewer, I am like, 'I get this, can we move on to the next thing?'"

"Can't we do something new and different? I am bored with hearing the same stuff over and over again."

The veteran staffer also said that the assignments are made based on what will draw ratings, not news content: "When you sit in the meetings, it is all about ratings. I would like to do more real journalism and it is frustrating. Why do we have to pander to the extreme?"

Asked about the potential candidates who frequently appear on Fox, the staffer responded: "Our bookers are begging Democrats to come on, we bend over backwards to get them and they won't go on. It is ridiculous and unfortunate. I don't think it is a valid reason not to go on, but they feel that way and it hurts our credibility if we can never get Democrats to go on."

"It feels frustrating that there is a lot of real journalism that goes on here, but what tends to get attention is what is controversial," the staffer added. "It gives the perception that the newsroom is in disarray."

Fox News officials declined to comment for this story.

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