Tent Shooting 101…
The Hill’s Joe Concha pens an article I think is wrong in almost every way…save one.
It starts with what appears to be a non-sequitur…
Before addressing this spat, here’s a personal note from somebody who can say he’s both on the inside and outside when it comes to the world of cable news.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of meeting those who work on-air in cable news regardless of network — and I’ve been on them all many times — it’s this:
A majority are phonies. Absolute phonies.
The reason? A potent brew of ego, self-importance, a lack of self-awareness, more ego, and a constant need for attention.
Yeah…ok…they’re phonies. I get it. What on earth does that have to do with the propriety of the spat between Hannity and Kelly? Nothing.
Oh sure Concha takes a long and windy road from “they’re phonies” to the Howard Stern Show and somehow comes to the conclusion that because that dysfunctional family, which only succeeds because its sum is greater than its parts, is able to toss dirty laundry about that this is something everyone should emulate because it’s “more real” and “less phony”…
That may work for shock radio. It’s death for cable news.
The Stern show can get away with that because that’s where the bar is lowered to. It’s expected. It’s kind of like watching NASCAR for the crashes. You know there’s going to be shit flying around at some point and that’s why you tune in.
This is where we start getting into that “elitist” “high horse” territory of cable news has to aspire for higher than the Howard Stern Show. There need to be standards. The Stern Show basically has no standards (that don’t involve not breaking the law).
Tent shooting is anathema in cable news and journalism in general. Roger Ailes…you know the guy who used to run the network Hannity and Kelly call home…absolutely abhored tent shooting. Just ask Chris Wallace. MSNBC has had its occasional on air shenanigans but they have mostly been few and far between. Over at CNN, they run such a tight ship over there that anyone who dared take a shot at someone else would probably get fired…if they weren’t top flight talent that is.
Networks hate tent shooting. It means they no longer control the story and, worse, they don’t know where it’s headed. A news organization is hundreds if not thousands of people. It’s not the size of the tiny crew of the Stern show. There are just too many moving parts to allow those parts to start teeing off on one another.
And usually, when they do start teeing off on one another, even if it’s just passive aggressively, it’s sign of a real problem with the talent. No network wants to telegraph that it has talent issues in its shop.
It’s a distraction. No network likes distractions. On the Stern show they can get away with that crap because people have come to expect the lowest common denominator there. Then again, when the beefs get really bad it’s a problem even on the Stern show as you can tell from the turnover that show has had with its cast of characters.
So that’s why networks don’t want tent shooting. Tent shooting produces articles about the tent shooting and questions start swirling. Some of those questions linger for a long time, especially when it appears there’s genuine friction under the surface.
Just a few weeks ago everyone was aghast at the Washington Post’s Editorial board basically taking a dump on The Post’s Journalism wing over its Snowden coverage.
I actually don’t read Kelly’s comment as an attack at Hannity. It really reads as an attack at Trump to me. But Hannity’s response was definitely an attack on Megyn and, of the two, the one that crossed a few lines. But this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise because Hannity is so in the tank for Trump that’s his commentary has taken on an apoplectic take no prisoners scorched earth bent to anything negative about Trump no matter how legitimate it is. And Kelly’s comment was definitely legitimate because Trump has retreated to nothing but safe zones…even worse than Hillary.
Disagreement between co-workers isn’t a bad thing.
It shows authenticity — a concept all the phonies in this business can’t seem to grasp.
You want to know what helps make Fox so popular as it enters its 15th year of being No. 1? It’s editorial talent.
And what that talent does best? They speak their minds, even when it means (gasp) disagreeing with the way a co-worker runs his or her shop. The media bubble thinks it’s bad for the network, the end of harmony at Fox.
Guess what? Harmony is boring. Disagreement is much more engaging.
This is stupid. The propriety of the behind the scenes spat which breaks out into the open is bad not just because it’s an unnecessary distraction for the network but also because it also does absolutely nothing to help the shows.
What does the viewer get out of Hannity and Kelly publicly fighting each other? Nothing. The two don’t interact with each other on air almost ever so any hostility can’t drive a “What happens when they next come face to face” narrative ala Pro Wrestling. The Kelly File and Hannity shows are islands unto themselves. So any hostility off screen isn’t going to do anything on screen. Engaging? There’s nothing for the viewer to engage in when the spat happens off air and there’s no interaction on air.
It’s bad for the network. There is no upside for the network. The “media bubble” is 100% right about that. But the idea of “network harmony” is a straw man. It’s a myth. It has never existed. Concha is right about that. There has never been network harmony. There never will be network harmony.
But, while it might be fun to consider that there is no such thing as network harmony and extrapolate from that networks should embrace their employees showing that there is no such thing as network harmony, the reality is any network that goes this route would surely implode fast. No corporation could survive long by having its dirty laundry aired publicly by its employees engaging in tent shooting exercises and score settling while the network flounders about in the slippery slope world of what attacks are kosher and what attacks are going too far.
This is why we had PR people to begin with…to protect the corporation from its own employees by making one group of people the focal point between the public and the employees.
Social Media has blown up that model to some extent by creating multiple avenues for the talent to communicate with the public (and vice verse). Which is why networks have social media policies with very specific terms about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. Some are more draconian than others obviously but it would not be unreasonable to conclude that Hannity’s tweet violated FNC’s social media policy.
For those of us who are process junkies (like me) or media navel gazers (like a bunch of others including Concha) spats that erupt are manna from heaven. We love it when we have same shop talent on talent violence. That’s even better than network on network violence.
But we’re not normal. We aren’t the casual viewer who doesn’t benefit from it. And our agenda totally differs from the networks we cover. We want openness because we learn more. Networks don’t want openness because it will lead to only one place; anarchy.