Leonard Pitts has written an excellent column about how anonymous comments on the web bring out the worst in people.
I agree with him — and extend that plea to cable news organizations.
For years, Fox News Channel has issued snarky quotes about rivals, public figures and pretty much anybody who dares criticize the channel from the safety of “a Fox spokesperson” anonymity.
Time to man — or woman — up.
If Fox News wants to dismiss LL Cool J as having a “fledgling acting career,” as a spokesperson did this week, or trash CNN’s Jon Klein and that network’s dismal ratings, let them put their names on it. Own your words. Either that, or other news outlets and websites shouldn’t use the statement and aid and abet such cowardly attacks.
Like everyone else, PR folks worry about their next jobs. I suspect Fox would put out fewer of those “We wish him well” statements — such as the recent broadside fired at former New York Times editor Howell Raines for criticizing FNC — if somebody at the network had to take responsibility for it. Or put out a statement from Fox CEO Roger Ailes — who’s the ultimate authority for the channel’s stewardship and direction — and let him be the one to issue the schoolyard taunts.
I’m hardly the first to make this observation. The New York Times’ David Carr did a pretty thorough job of dissecting how the basic machinery works a couple of years ago, calling the network’s PR apparatus “a kind of rolling opposition research operation intended to keep
reporters in line by feeding and sometimes maiming them.”
So enough with the anonymity. You want to slap around the competition? Terrific, we in the press love a good brouhaha. It’s great copy. By all means, bring it on.
But not without attribution. Put a name on it.
Oh, and by the way, I wish you well.