In a new interview with Newsweek, Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, known as "The Chairman" by fierce loyalists, talks about how he has put the network on a "course correction," and subtly repositioned Fox News over the last year. This January, the channel toned down its rhetoric, as instructed by Ailes, following the January shooting of Gabby Giffords.
Ailes has always taken a firm hand in shaping Fox's editorial bent. Glenn Beck, who was originally hired by Ailes with the directive to take it to the White House, became too overzealous, and had to be jettisoned because, as Ailes says, he "became a bit of a branding issue for us." Fox has also slowly tiptoed back from its association with Sarah Palin. At the same time, when anchor Shepard Smith says something less than right-wing (like when he stated that the U.S. government was lying about its involvement in certain Middle East conflicts, or when he said the killing of Osama bin Laden was "illegal"), Ailes will push back. (As he tells Newsweek, "Every once in a while Shep Smith gets out there where the buses don't run and we have a 'friendly talk.'")
The June 9 issue of Rolling Stone featured a story called "How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory," which examined Ailes' background and early career. It was while working for Richard Nixon that Ailes "first experimented with blurring the distinction between journalism and politics." He told the Washington Post in 1972, "I know certain techniques, such as a press release that looks like a newscast. So you use it because you want your man to win."
I think the course correction is a smart move by Ailes, not only politically, but also commercially. Expanding his brand makes sense, when you consider that the median age of Fox News viewers is sixty-five, and the percentage of African-American viewers is somewhere around 1.38 percent. But expect that course to be corrected only so far. In regards to fighting the Obama administration, Ailes has said, "I see this as the Alamo."