Is the Fox News PR machine trying to get back in the good graces of the New York Times-and slyly drive a wedge between reporters there at the same time? The network's famously vicious media relations operation was ravaged in a David Carr column in the Times on Monday. But now that they've let Bill O'Reilly take his obligatory on-air shot at the paper, the network seems to have decided to play nice with Times reporters-at least, with some of them.
On Monday-knowing that Carr's column was running-the network apparently gave the scoop about its hiring of ex-Hillary flack Howard Wolfson to Jim Rutenberg, a Times political reporter.
Today, with Carr's missive still hanging in the air, Fox News gave Times reporter Brian Stelter what appears to be the only interview with Fox News executive vice president Kevin Magee regarding Fox Business' hiring of WSJ columnist Walt Mossberg as a contributor. Magee was quoted in the press release announcing the deal, which would presumably make him the guy that every reporter on the story wanted to talk to.
The network is-at the very least-going out of its way to be helpful to the Times this week. But we haven't seen or heard any indications of a Fox News apology (public or otherwise) to Times reporter Jacques Steinberg, who was grossly caricatured on air last week for writing a factual story that the network didn't care for.
The straightforward interpretation of this is that FNC has decided to play nice this week in order to prove Carr's characterization wrong, or at least to indicate that they can rise above direct retaliation against the paper. The sinister interpretation is that Fox News PR has decided to pursue a divide-and-conquer strategy with the Times, being helpful to reporters it favors while freezing out others-like Steinberg-that it does not. The classic carrot and stick approach.
Because we're talking about Fox News PR, we lean towards the sinister interpretation. So the Times had better be careful to show some solidarity in the coming weeks. Hang together or hang separately!