Kurtz: Some "Fox journalists" worried Beck "undermines their credibility"
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From Kurtz's March 15 Washington Post column:
In just over a year, Glenn Beck's blinding burst of stardom has often seemed to overshadow the rest of Fox News.
And that may not be a good thing for the top-rated cable news channel, as many of its staffers are acutely aware.
With his celebrity fueled by a Time cover story, best-selling books, cheerleading role at protest rallies and steady stream of divisive remarks, Beck is drawing big ratings. But there is a deep split within Fox between those -- led by Chairman Roger Ailes -- who are supportive, and many journalists who are worried about the prospect that Beck is becoming the face of the network.
By calling President Obama a racist and branding progressivism a "cancer," Beck has achieved a lightning-rod status that is unusual even for the network owned by Rupert Murdoch. And that, in turn, has complicated the channel's efforts to neutralize White House criticism that Fox is not really a news organization. Beck has become a constant topic of conversation among Fox journalists, some of whom say they believe he uses distorted or inflammatory rhetoric that undermines their credibility.
Fox staffers note that veteran producer Gresham Striegel left the network after clashing with Beck and say the host has surrounded himself with loyalists from Mercury, some of whom remain on that company's payroll. (Striegel did not respond to a request for comment.) When Fox covers breaking news during Beck's hour, some journalists say, they are flooded with angry e-mail from viewers about the preemption.
Friction between opinionated cable personalities and journalists has also flared occasionally at MSNBC. But Beck has caused such anguish at Fox that some of its journalists celebrated the failure of last week's interview with embattled ex-congressman Eric Massa, which Beck pronounced a waste of time.
One thing is beyond debate: Beck provides a strong lead-in for the network's evening lineup. "The significance of Beck to Fox's bottom line cannot be underestimated," says Tyndall, the industry analyst. "Getting an audience that size at 5 p.m. is absolutely unheard of."
But that growth has come at a price, at least for those at Fox who believe that Beck is beginning to define their brand. Glenn Beck is a media phenomenon married to a phenomenally successful network, but away from the cameras, theirs is a troubled relationship.