Today is Fox News Channel's 24th birthday. Time for a #thread about how much has changed since Fox's founding on October 7, 1996...
Fox was #3 behind CNN and MSNBC. In a high school yearbook, it would have been voted "least likely to succeed." But as I write in, Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes converted the jeers into fuel. Ailes vowed that Fox would become #1.
Here's how CNN covered Fox's launch day:

"For Murdoch, Fox News is the culmination of a long-held ambition -- building a U.S-based global television-news network."…
Fox News always had a conservative bent. That was a big part of its purpose. But in 1996 the channel wasn't all politics all the time. There were shows about health and travel and medicine and religion. There was a show called "Pet News" – the hosts even took pet owners' calls!
"For a network that would be defined by its decibel level, the premiere was surprisingly subdued," @gabrielsherman wrote in "The Loudest Voice in the Room." Instead of running with right-wing narratives and conspiracy theories, the producers ran lots of generic news headlines.
Allison Costarene and @LouisAguirre hosted the first show on the first day – "Fox X-press" – which went on to become "Fox & Friends." Aguirre was 29 and it was his first time hosting a national show. He says he was "completely oblivious that it would become what it is now."
"I was very not political at all," Aguirre told me, "but neither was the show back then." It was light-hearted – "much more pop culture sprinkled with the day's news." Things started to change when the Clinton scandal erupted. Every turn at Fox has been a turn to the right.
This was the evening lineup on launch day:

6pm: “The O’Reilly Report”
7pm: “The Schneider Report”
8pm: “The Crier Report”
9pm: “Hannity & Colmes”

The only show still standing is “Hannity.”
Look at him! "Each weeknight at 9pm Eastern," Hannity said on day one, "Alan and I will bring you an intelligent and passionate discussion of the major news issues of the day." Hannity is a Fox News original, a living connection to its past – though he tends not to look backward.
Fox always prided itself on being a lean mean machine - never investing in news gathering as much as CNN etc – but veterans like Carl Cameron say news coverage was a bigger priority in the 1990s than it was in the 2010s. "The news muscles atrophied a lot," he said.
Nowadays, ask 10 people who were there at the launch, and you'll get 10 different reactions about the Fox of 2020. Some OG's are disgusted by the Trumpier & Trumpier tilt; others make excuses for it; others are just proud to have been there in 1996, and don't watch much anymore.
Looking back at Fox's very first day in 1996, the channel's DNA is apparent. NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, a friend and political ally of Ailes, was the very first in-studio guest, Aguirre recalled: "I remember the entire interview was scripted, which I found strange at the time."
Fox News is so much more than a cable channel now. It is an addictive substance. For its biggest fans, it is an identity. Almost a way of life. That's one of the main reasons why I wrote HOAX – so hit that button,, to read all about it 📚

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More from @brianstelter

29 Sep
Is this a "Fox News debate?" Well, no, because it is live on EVERY big channel and website tonight. But in a broader sense, yes it is. #Thread time...
Tonight's moderator, Chris Wallace, stands alone at Fox. His Sunday program primarily airs on broadcast, not Fox News. He has his own producers. He has said that he doesn't regularly watch the right-wing talk shows that make Fox #1 in the cable ratings.
But here's the thing: Everyone at Fox is affected, in some way, by the Trump-Fox merger. Everyone "feels" it. The pressure from the audience, the pressure from management, the expectation that Fox will be "fair" to Trump – and I don't mean "fair" in the good faith definition.
Read 8 tweets
29 Sep
I'm up next on @JohnKingCNN's program with headlines from my interview with Dr. Fauci... 📺
Fauci said he is concerned about misleading info getting to President Trump – "that sometimes things are said that are really taken either out of context or actually incorrect."…
Fauci reiterated the basics... the info that can't be repeated often enough... "Masks are critically important in preventing the transmission and acquisition of SARS coronavirus 2." Also: "We're nowhere near herd immunity as a nation."
Read 5 tweets
22 Sep
4 weeks since HOAX came out — and today I discovered it in the front window at Barnes & Noble Union Square — best surprise of the month. Right behind RAGE, appropriately! ImageImage
A book tour is like... well, I was going to say it's like a roller coaster 🎢 , but when the experience is entirely virtual from your home studio, that doesn't make much sense. But I'll tell you the best part...
The best part: Digesting the reviews and emails and comments from 📚 readers. Even the supremely critical ones. I learned things *about Fox and Trump* by reading the reviews. Gained ideas for future stories too.
Read 5 tweets
21 Sep
Is America slouching toward autocracy?

That's the Q I opened Sunday's @ReliableSources with. Almost every day there are new signs of democratic backsliding, new warnings from political scientists. Alarm bells are ringing for all to hear, like Trump mocking @AliVelshi's injury
Gloating about a reporter being hit by a rubber bullet is autocratic, not democratic. We all know this, don't we?…
A segment of the U.S. population, a minority, has long held authoritarian leanings. E.g.: Polls showing a preference for a strongman leader to provide protection. Trump has enlivened that segment. E.g.: Rallygoers cheered when Trump told the Velshi story.…
Read 5 tweets
15 Sep
With Trump calling into "Fox & Friends" today, here's a thread about the morning show's power, from the sources I interviewed for (1/7)
The length of Trump's phoners is something of a punchline among rank-and-file Fox staffers. "When Trump was booked for 8:10, and we had an assignment for 8:40, we didn't bother writing it, because we knew he'd talk until the end of the hour," a morning show producer said
Another running joke among the staff: The fact that Trump rates the hosts. Ainsley Earhardt: a 10. Steve Doocy: a 12. Trump graded Brian Kilmeade to his face in a 2019 interview: "I used to say you, you were a solid 6, maybe a 7, but you're getting much better."
Read 7 tweets
14 Sep
It has come to this: The country's major TV networks decided to stay outdoors while Trump held an indoor rally on Sunday. News outlets exhibited more responsibility than the president:
Today I spoke with 5 people on the ground in Nevada and 5 who are involved in news coverage decision-making back at HQ. The takeaway: Trump's defiance of Covid safety guidelines is forcing news outlets to make tough calls about keeping staffers safe.
The WH press pool still attended Sunday's rally, so that all the other outlets were provided with video, photos and raw material. "There is definitely some anxiety in the pool..."…
Read 4 tweets

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