Like Joe Muto, the ex-O’Reilly Factor producer now known as Gawker’s “Fox Mole,” I too ceased working at Fox News last week. I too had qualms about working at Fox initially and, throughout my three years there, had concerns about some of the network’s programming. But unlike Muto, my departure was on good terms. I found the network to be a pleasant place to work, and producing for John Stossel there was always a great source of pride for me.
Nevertheless, when I first heard that Gawker acquired a “mole” at Fox, of course I was excited. It was my final week there, and everyone who works in an office knows it’s always fun to hear some juicy gossip about the people you see every day. I expected earth-shattering details about the network’s big names, some scandalous news we’d hear about for weeks to come.
Instead, we learned that this guy named Joe Muto really hates his job.
Kudos to Gawker for getting 1.5 million hits out of a hardly newsworthy story (and for only $5,000) but where does that leave Muto? He got the 15 minutes of fame he seems to have craved, but now he’s out of a job, maybe a career, and possibly knee-deep in legal trouble — all for “dirt” you could find simply by touring Fox News or turning on your TV. The mundane “revelations” he tried to pass off as salacious felt more like cheap gossip-porn for the anti-Fox crowd, confirming their prior convictions that Fox is a den of political and moral inequity.
My Fox co-workers and I laughed at how Muto risked his career to leak videos that were pretty worthless. It would have been far more interesting to find footage of anchors cursing between segments or yelling at producers (it exists.) People would definitely love another “Fuck it, we’ll do it live!” far more than stolen Fox News footage showing that Mitt Romney is a blueblood or that Sean Hannity is a partisan Republican.
And then there was that insidious Hannity mid-interview tie switch. As if that is a revelation? Just like how some shows tape during daylight hours yet air at night. Or how the skyline backgrounds behind guests appearing via satellite – you may want to sit down for this – THEY’RE FAKE.
After Muto posted about Fox’s depressingly low-rent office space, my fellow employees on the 17th floor all gave knowing laughs at the all-too-familiar image of dangling toilet paper strips used to provide privacy from the large gaps in bathroom stall doors. I guess Muto deserves some credit for at least inspiring funny conversations around the office about the embarrassing toilet paper drapes, or about the time one anchor posted an angry note in the bathroom instructing everyone how to properly flush a toilet (“flush the urinal first to get pressure in the toilet”).
Muto was also right about the slow computers, malfunctioning printers and faxes, and bedbug concerns. And the Fox newsroom is indeed an ugly, cramped basement with no daylight, where workers typically eat lunch at their desks.
But I challenge you to find someone who works in an office and doesn’t have similar gripes about the workspace. Heck, I worked at ABC for almost a year and I remember being shocked at how unglamorous the place was — we regularly ate lunch at our desks, the carpet was gross, and machines frequently broke. There’s a reason many people relate to the words “PC load letter?!”
But we were all at a loss as to why Muto would risk his career to rant about the dreary office space we’ve all learned to deal with. Large corporations can be stingy – so what? Maybe Muto just wanted to get in with the “cool” Gawker crowd. I know I’ve wanted to write for not nearly as cool Mediaite for a while, and being their Fox mole could have been a nice appetizer but for what? Muto should have demanded a Gawker job if he got fired.
The truth is that Muto seems to be just another “left-winger” (his words) with an axe to grind. If he hated the network so much, how did he bear the years of being behind the camera for some of O’Reilly’s notorious ambushes like this one? In his CNN interview, Muto claimed that being an O’Reilly producer effectively “blackballed” him from getting another job in the TV business (wait, who was he exposing again?). But Josh Feldman accurately points out that plenty of Fox Newsers have gone to other networks.
When I sought to move on from Fox, I had pleasant meetings with other networks — even with Fox News blaring on my resume. Most people in the TV business recognize that being a Fox producer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a raging conservative. Any HR person in this business knows that all too well.
It’s more likely that Muto couldn’t find another job because, as last week’s events show, he isn’t the best decision-maker on the planet. Or, better yet: Muto never left because he actually had a pretty cushy gig. After all, he came to Fox a production assistant, performing thankless tasks like printing scripts, and eventually worked his way to writing segments for the highest-rated cable news show in America.
As a Fox employee, I too was unhappy with the network’s seemingly incessant coverage of non-stories like Common’s connection to the President, or the so-called “War on Christmas,” or the Ground Zero Mosque. But every network airs its share of bogus controversies. Perhaps it’s a symptom of the 24-hour news cycle? I don’t know. But it was never a reason for me to want to do something as stupid as what Muto did. As an at-will employee, if I ever felt truly disgruntled…I could just, well, leave.
And I did leave. Not because of anything Fox did, but because of the amazing perks that come with being a full time blogger.
Editor’s Note: Andrew Kirell will begin as a full time editor at Mediaite on April 25.
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