Insiders say that the troubles at Fox News are only just beginning

Sarah Ellison writes: Inside the divided Fox News bunker, many seasoned executives are wondering if they are living in an alternate universe. As shocking as the Roger Ailes fiasco may have been, and as surprising as Megyn Kelly’s departure went down, Bill O’Reilly’s sudden ouster has absolutely shaken the newsroom, according to multiple insiders. (Ailes has fervently denied all accusations.) Executives spent a contentious Wednesday in various closed-door meetings as they finalized the fate of the network’s biggest star, who was forced out amid news of sexual-harassment allegations and settlements of those allegations.

The reactions to the news of O’Reilly’s departure were decidedly mixed in the newsroom. Some staffers cried. Others were elated. The move also laid bare divisions between the Murdoch sons, Lachlan and James, and their father, who were on opposite sides of the argument about whether to retain the anchor, according to a person close to the family. Eventually, though, Rupert Murdoch agreed with his sons about the need to remove O’Reilly, this person added. And the day was filled with an ominous tension as the elder Murdoch, the network’s C.E.O., moved from one closed-door meeting to another to inform on-air talent of their new jobs.

While his fate may have seemed sealed earlier in the week, O’Reilly’s attorneys did not get the official word of his departure until this morning, according to two people familiar with the matter. And O’Reilly, who was enjoying a vacation in Italy, only formally learned of his demise en route to the airport. (In a statement, O’Reilly noted, “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”) Within Fox News, it remains unclear how much O’Reilly may receive in severance, but some sources speculated that the figure could be in the ballpark of the $40 million that Ailes received.[Continue reading…]

Matthew Sheffield writes: Since a series of sexual harassment accusations led to the ouster of Roger Ailes as chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel last summer, the managerial culture he created at the network has come under increased scrutiny. Ailes’ old-fashioned, male-dominated style has been characterized by many former employees as sexist, but another aspect of it has received little attention: the many ways that Fox News was run more like a political operation than a journalistic enterprise.

During the Ailes era, the network’s ferocity in defending itself against inconvenient facts and journalists it deemed unfair became legendary among the small group of people who cover the media business. Under its former head, the network employed a team of “black room” operators who allegedly obtained phone records and credit reports of reporters disliked by Ailes. According to news reports, private investigators working for the company were dispatched to follow journalists, apparently to find out whom they were meeting. According to sources, sometimes Fox News corporate funds were used for such endeavors; other times, Ailes paid for them himself.

That ultra-aggressive approach to promotion during the Ailes era also extended to the online world, where Fox News employees and contractors were dispatched to do battle against not just mainstream media reporters but also against small-time bloggers and even website commenters. Fox News even went so far as to create at least two anonymous websites that attacked the competition. [Continue reading…]

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