Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine is a media writer with a flaw. He wrote about Fox News without seeming to think he had to watch it. On Monday night, he wrote an article hotly claiming that Fox News hosts were ordered not to talk about gun control after the Newtown shooting (except for Fox News Sunday).
Jeff Poor at The Daily Caller unloaded a painful box of facts on Sherman about all the examples of gun-control talk over the weekend. Sherman’s report was anonymously sourced and loose on the facts:
According to sources, David Clark, the executive producer in charge of Fox’s weekend coverage, gave producers instructions not to talk about gun-control policy on air. "This network is not going there,” Clark wrote one producer on Saturday night, according to a source with knowledge of the exchange. The directive created a rift inside the network....
During the weekend, one frustrated producer went around Clark to lobby Michael Clemente, Fox’s executive vice-president for news editorial, but Clemente upheld the mandate. “We were expressly forbidden from discussing gun control,” the source said. Clark's edict wasn't universal: On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace talked with Democratic Senators Joe Lieberman and Dick Durbin about gun control, and later in the program, panelists Bill Kristol and Fortune editor Nina Easton weighed in on the issue.
Poor reported “A review of the tape shows the gun control issue was broached at least 13 times on Fox News since the shooting.” In addition to those 13, Poor noted that“Fox News Sunday” (which Sherman acknowledged as an exception to the rule) was replayed twice on FNC, and they also played gun-control soundbites from the show at six other times.
But other liberal-media sources jumped on Sherman's "blackout" story without watching Fox to prove or disprove it. The Hollywood Reporter noted:
Politico ran a version of the story with the headline, “Fox News producers told not to address gun control,” and the Huffington Post reported that Fox News executives “explicitly barred people from discussing the topic.” The Daily Beast said that Clark “instructed his producers not to allow gun-control talk on air, even as the national conversation turned to gun control and producers begged for exemptions.”
Stories against Fox News seem to fit the category "too good to check." This is not the first time Sherman has tried to box in Fox with anonymous sources. Brent Bozell picked apart a previous Sherman article on Fox boss Roger Ailes:
The hot quote in the Sherman story was someone claiming Ailes thought Sarah Palin is an “idiot.” Here we go with those anonymous sources again. Ailes is trashed by “a person close to Ailes,” “another Republican close to Ailes,” “a GOPer who knows Ailes well,” “a person familiar with his thinking” and “a former Fox executive.” These sources could all be the same individual, for all the reader knows. Or the author. Or nobody. (Ask Jayson Blair or Janet Cooke how this works.)
Sherman has been writing an anti-Ailes book for a while. If MSNBC executives ordered a blackout on a subject -- and they've been extremely quiet on Obama scandals like Solyndra and Fast and Furious -- that's not so much Sherman's area of interest.
Sherman has claimed that MSNBC’s audience is much smaller than Fox’s “partly bcause liberals tend to pride themselves on being part of the fact-based community and may prefr media like the New York Times, or the PBS NewsHour, that make their points without shouting.”