Carl Cameron has had the last 22 years to think about how the media, and in particular cable news, covers the men and women who run for and hold elected office. Cameron, a Fox News original who announced his retirement from the network on Tuesday, said he has no regrets about his career and loved his time at the network. But he does have some suggestions for how the media can do things differently.
Some of the political coverage issues he has identified: an excessive focus on clashing “personalities” and personnel moves to the detriment of policy debates; excessive “screeching” on the news; and the media aggravating political tensions in a way that turns people off.
“The constant musical chairs at the White House is catnip for political reporters,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in a wide-ranging interview about his career. “The problem with it is that it’s not governance.”
Cameron said he was often forced to lead his stories with the political fight of the day, “because I know that’s what all the competition is going to be doing,” he said. “If I don’t report on it, people will say, ‘Well, Cameron missed that one.'”
Assessing the media landscape more broadly, he said, “There are better ways to tell stories. There are better ways to chronicle the American experience than screeching at each other. And that’s something the networks are learning.”
Cameron, who has been described as the dean of the campaign press corps, said that cable news has a role to play but that it should not be the “be all and the end all” of coverage.
“I’m not throwing rocks at CNN or MSNBC or Fox,” he said. “Collectively, we can all do better. And most of the journalists really want to.”
He recounted that back in 1996, when Fox News and MSNBC launched, cynics doubted that the two cable news networks could compete with CNN and said they would be starved for viewers. “Well, that never happened,” he said.
Cameron assessed his own work at Fox News, where he held the title chief political correspondent, by saying that both Democrats and Republicans would say he treated them fairly over the years. “What I was trying to do was give them an honest shake, give them an opportunity to say what they think, explain what their ideas are, and tell us why they should be trusted with our political futures. And that’s being diminished,” he said.
While he’s stepping away from campaign journalism, Cameron said he won’t be disappearing. He said he has “a bunch of irons in the fire,” and might write a book. He also expressed an interest in figuring out a better way for citizens, politicians and the media to have a conversation about the issues that matter. “Somebody has to go out there and find a way to communicate that actually creates a dialogue as oppose to creates a shouting match,” he said.