Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Burying the lede

When you take the devil's sixpence, sooner or later he's going to expect a dance -- say, the evening's No. 2 story at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network:

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, responding to a report based on unnamed sources, Tuesday denied suggestions that he had sexually harassed anchor Megyn Kelly a decade ago.

His lawyer, Susan Estrich, said in a statement: “Roger Ailes has never sexually harassed Megyn Kelly. In fact, he has spent much of the last decade promoting and helping her to achieve the stardom she earned, for which she has repeatedly and publicly thanked him.”

Here's the inside play:
For the most part, that looks like basic second-cycling: If the morning paper has "Fire destroys business," the afternoon paper gets "Firefighters sifted through the rubble today." Flip for a moment, though, to the last graf of the 503-word story:

The New York Times reported late Tuesday that Ailes and 21st Century Fox, now managed on a daily basis by Rupert Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan Murdoch, "are in the advanced stages of discussions that would lead to the departure of Mr. Ailes as chairman of Fox News.” While it is impossible to predict the outcome of negotiations, I can confirm that such discussions are under way.

Odd. The source in the Times's second graf is the same as in Fox's:

Mr. Ailes and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent company, are in the advanced stages of discussions that would lead to his departure as chairman, Susan Estrich, one of Mr. Ailes’s lawyers, said in an interview on Tuesday.

To be perfectly clear: "Impossible" might be an overstatement, but predicting the outcome of negotiations is difficult enough that journalists should generally leave well enough alone. (The same is true of predicting political campaigns, but that doesn't seem to stop anyone at Fox.) Guessing at the outcomes of legal actions, even when they're aimed at reprehensible people, is silly and irresponsible. But since the boss's lawyer has already talked to the Times, it seems like a phone call to the boss's lawyer might be in order.
Writing about the boss is a challenge. You can spare a kind thought for Fox News if you'd like. Or not.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Picky said...

Should I take it that the idiomatic meaning of "on the job" (partaking in sexual intercourse) is not common in the United States?

8:16 AM, July 20, 2016  
Blogger fev said...

I was not aware that British English had bestowed this timely blessing upon us, but my life is richer for it!

8:46 PM, July 22, 2016  
Anonymous Picky said...

Yes, genteel, ain't it. I would not have sullied your life with it had the expression not been so delightfully apt in a head for this story. The meaning is so common among us coarse Brits that a British newspaper could not possibly use it on the Ailes story — or rather could not possibly use it without the entendre being consciously double.

5:57 AM, July 23, 2016  

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