Can you put lipstick on a Fox?
That's just one of our immediate questions as time caught up with Bill Shine, long-time Roger Ailes lieutenant. Shine followed Bill O'Reilly out the door on Monday, just two weeks after the cascade of women's harassment claims made him more of a liability than an asset to Fox News and the wider Murdoch Empire - just as it is intending to expand greatly.
Less than a year ago, Shine had moved up as Fox and the Murdochs made a similar calculation about Roger Ailes. Then, too, they figured - as Murdoch company clean-up has entailed in recent years from Hackgate to the removal of Dow Jones publisher Lex Fenwick - they would make the minimum, public relations-positive change in management, and wait for the other news to erase memories.
So it is, at first reckoning, with the appointment of Suzanne Scott, herself a long-time deputy of Bill Shine. We're told that Scott takes charge of programming while Jay Wallace, another long-termer, continues to head up news. We're bound to hear statements in the coming days about the company's earnestness in ridding itself of its "Mad Men" culture. Just like we did last summer - when it turned out that Ailes' behavior wasn't an outlier, but a model for O'Reilly and others at America's most popular cable news channel. We'll be told it's different this time.
That seems unlikely, but let's ask five questions of the moment about what may turn out to be a less than momentous announcement:
- Will Scott and Wallace really change the culture of Fox News? Any ingrained workplace culture is tough to change - even with real intent. Already Twitter is alive with the behind-the-story comments about the unlikeliness of Scott at that. After all, in a culture of workplace of harassment - kind of proven by more than the $85 million in related payouts Fox has had to make to try to disappear the problem - Scott has been part of the enabling team. In part, of course, Fox plays a woman card, saying the gender at the top of the heap will make a difference.
- Why did the Murdochs finally throw Shine under the bus, if well-wrapped in dollar bills? Here, the playbook is clear as it was in the wake of O'Reilly's ouster ["Don't Be Fooled Into Expecting A New Fox News"]. They have a history of overextended loyalty to those who have built the empire; a good quality in moderate doses. So they delay, delay, delay and often times, the ill winds die down. When they don't, they do what needs to be done. Empire first.
We do have several new datapoints to add to this question.