Big changes at the top for Fox News

Thursday brought big changes at the top of Fox News, where Suzanne Scott has been named CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. Lachlan Murdoch, who on Wednesday was named chairman and CEO of the proposed “New Fox,” elevated Scott to become the first woman to run the network, a distinction all the more notable in the wake of sexual harassment charges that brought down former CEO Roger Ailes.

“Suzanne has been instrumental in the success of Fox News and she has now made history as its first female CEO,” Murdoch said in a statement. “Her vision and innovation have helped create some of the most popular and lucrative primetime programs on cable and as we embark on the era of the proposed New Fox, I am confident that Suzanne’s leadership will ensure the dominance of both Fox News & FBN for years to come.”

ICYMI: Veteran editor announces on Twitter he was fired from newspaper

Scott will step into the role as Fox News becomes even more important to the Murdoch’s media holdings after the sale of 21st Century Fox’s movie studio, entertainment channels, and regional sports networks to Disney. That deal is awaiting government approval.

The promotion makes Scott the only woman currently running a major television news organization, but it doesn’t come without controversy. Scott has been with Fox News since its inception, serving as an executive under the network’s late CEO Roger Ailes. She was named in lawsuits brought by former Fox employees, and was reported to have helped rally women to support Ailes after former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment in 2016. Scott has denied those charges.

While echoes of the Ailes years will be hard for Fox News to completely quiet, major changes are underway. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports that new policies—including mandatory sexual harassment training, the installation of a meditation room (in Oliver North’s old office!), and guidance on gender-transition policies—have left some staffers on edge. “It’s not the Wild West anymore; there are now policies and procedures,” a network spokesperson told Sherman.

Sign up for CJR's daily email

ICYMI: Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

The changes announced yesterday also include the promotion of Jay Wallace, who had been in charge of Fox’s news division, to president of Fox News and executive editor. Jack Abernethy, who ran the business side of Fox News as co-president, is heading to Los Angeles where he will continue to lead the expanded Fox Television Stations Group.

Below, more on the new head of Fox News.

  • Not without baggage: Nancy Erika Smith, the attorney who represented former host Gretchen Carlson in the 2016 lawsuit that led to Ailes’s firing, told The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi that Scott’s appointment “shows that Fox News has no intention of changing its culture.” But, Farhi reports, “people at Fox say Scott and Ailes had a more distant and difficult relationship than the one depicted by Ailes’s accusers.”
  • Ailes’s continued presence: The Daily Beast’s Andrew Kirell has an overview of the allegations that Scott “played a role in upholding ex-CEO Ailes’ culture of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
  • Conflicted reception: Since Ailes’s ouster, Fox has promoted women to several senior positions, but The New York Times’s Emily Steel and Michael M. Grynbaum capture the complicated nature of Scott’s promotion. They note that Scott becomes the first woman to lead the network, “even as her appointment signaled the elevation of an executive closely tied with the old regime that was largely ousted in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.”


Other notable stories

  • The battle over the future of CBS rages on, with two big developments yesterday. First, a Delaware judge ruled in favor of Shari Redstone, rejecting CBS’s motion for a temporary restraining order. Later, CBS’s board voted to support a proposal to dilute Redstone’s stake in the company. CNN’s Brian Stelter has an overview of where things stand, and how the situation got to this point.
  • CJR’s Mathew Ingram looks at how Facebook and Google became two of the biggest funders of journalism in the world. “Facebook and Google have now committed more than half a billion dollars to various journalistic programs and media partnerships over the past three years, not including the money spent internally on developing media-focused products like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s competing AMP mobile project,” Ingram writes. Of course, he notes, the two companies are also responsible for disrupting the media business model, and many see the business “see the tech donations as guilt money.”
  • The Guardian’s David Taylor looks at how a year of Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation drowned out the news. CJR Editor and Publisher Kyle Pope told Taylor that while print and digital media have done a good job covering other stories alongside Mueller updates, cable news has gone all in. “The Mueller investigation really boils down the partisan approach of cable news,” Pope says.
  • Politico’s Jack Shafer examines the media lovefest John McCain has received as he battles brain cancer. “The press, which McCain has long jokingly referred to as ‘my base,’ has already issued so many sugary summations of his life and political career that by the time he dies the obituary writers will have nothing to chew on but a smattering of scraps,” Shafer writes.
  • The New York Times’s big dive into the history of the FBI’s Russia investigation also serves as a chance to revisit the paper’s infamous October 31, 2016, front-page story, which declared the “FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia” in its investigation of Donald Trump. Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos write that the article’s headline “gave an air of finality to an investigation that was just beginning.”
  • In an attempt to cut down on leaks to the media, the White House communications team has scrapped its large daily meeting, report The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Katie Rogers. They report that President Trump “sees leaks as a cause of the distractions” that have hurt his press coverage. The move comes after an embarrassing episode that saw an aide’s morbid comment about Senator John McCain leaked to the press.
  • For CJR, Kim Lyons spoke with recently fired Pittsburgh City Paper editor Charlie Deitch, who claims he was fired after refusing management requests to curtail critical coverage of conservative Pennsylvania state representative Daryl Metcalfe.
  • The Los Angeles Times has suspended Jonathan Kaiman, its Beijing bureau chief, following a second allegation of inappropriate behavior, reports The New York Times’s Alexandra Stevenson. Meanwhile, Deadline Detroit reports on numerous allegations against Jack Lessenberry, one of Michigan’s best known journalists who currently serves as ombudsman for the Toledo Blade and heads the journalism faculty at Wayne State University. Lessenberry has denied the allegations.
  • Haven’t heard much about this, but apparently there’s a big wedding tomorrow?

Correction: The post has been updated to make it clear that Jack Abernethy is not taking on a new role, but will continue to lead the expanded Fox Television Stations Group from Los Angeles.

RELATED: Defying doomsday predictions, Fox News continues to dominate

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.