Friday, October 06, 2006


Colleges hate Fox News

Brandon Nadeau of the University of Connecticut's Daily Campus enlightens us to the travails of Fox News Channel's declining viewership. He writes :

This summer I was visiting my grandfather when my cousin's husband came by with his kids. While I had turned on CNN earlier, he switched it to FOX News. I questioned this change and I was told, "I watch it because it's funny." I guess less people are laughing these days at the right-wing clowns that populate the 24-hour news network. Ratings are in sharp decline for FOX's 10-year anniversary. In August, FOX's daytime programming lost 7 percent from a year earlier and the primetime ratings, Bill O'Reilly's turf, lost 28 percent.

Ah. "Right-wing clowns." What incisive terminology from a college newspaper writer! How acute! How penetrating! If we were running a large news operation, we venture to say we'd want to hire Nadeau right on the spot. No, not really.

We admit we're really curious as to who these "right-wing clowns" are at FNC. There's Sean Hannity, of course, who we could see may qualify. And ... who else, exactly? Many probably say Bill O'Reilly, but anyone who's actually watched him knows he's more a "populist," or a "traditionalist" than anything else. He's firmly in the global warming believers' camp, and thinks the Big Oil companies are essentially a bunch of hoodlums.

At the same time, CNN is seeing an increase of 35 percent overall and 21 percent daytime. Nine years ago, FOX surpassed the world's first 24-hour news network in the ratings, a year ahead of the expectations of the network's founder, former Republican think-tanker Roger Ailes. "Fair and Balanced" isn't as attractive as "The Most Trusted Name in News" these days. While FOX is still beating both MSNBC (whose Keith Olberman has seen an increase in ratings of 55 percent in the last year) and CNN, the gap is quickly narrowing and for the first time ever, FOX is declining in viewership.

Actually, Keith spells his last name "Olbermann," Brandon. And, we wonder -- would Olbermann qualify as a "left-wing clown"? Especially since he spends much of his show each night devoted to ripping anything conservative he can get his hands on? The same Olbermann who devoted numerous hours following the 2004 election on the subject of whether said election was "stolen"? The same Olbermann who just recently apologized to Bill Clinton for Fox News's Chris Wallace's quite ordinary -- and quite fair -- question?

As for the ratings question, it is indeed true that FNC's viewership has declined over the last few years or so. But we like this analysis from the bloggers over at The Colossus of Rhodey. They say:

Fox's Bill O'Reilly continues to dominate -- by a prodigious margin -- that most valuable of time periods, although if it's any consolation to poor Keith, the ratings for CNN and MSNBC have been gaining over the past year while Fox's have dropped off a bit. But that's like bowling games of about 280+ for a long time while your competitors are notching around 120 or so. They can only improve while you maintaining such a maximum level of performance can only help but drop off a little.

Colossus offers this link which shows the difference in viewship from 2005 and 2006 for the major cable players, as well as the overall current ratings. Regarding the latter, Fox still not only wins each time slot, they win decisively.

Nadeau continues:

Most critics point out these differences as why FOX is in decline. CNN tends to report much better, usually from where the story is, whereas FOX usually commentates on the news. Also important is the obvious bias presented by FOX and its newsmen. Tony Snow spent years on FOX News doing the news before President George W. Bush pulled him back into politics as his press secretary - (he was a speech writer for Bush's father.) After 10 years of a hard right slant, people have gotten tired of such a bias and a blind following to the Republican right.

"Obvious bias." Do Nadeau and all the other big Fox critics ever stop and wonder just WHY Fox came to so dominate the cable news market ... and so quickly? Do they ever consider that it may be the "obvious bias" of the other cable networks, as well as the biggies (ABC, NBC, CBS)? That these news outlets had an "obvious bias" to the left, and that Fox News filled a much-needed niche that actually presented the conservative point-of-view on various topics?

And, oh golly -- Fox had Tony Snow at one time! Therefore, Fox has "a hard right slant." Nadeau's "logic" then dictates that since ABC has George Stephanopoulis heading a Sunday pundit show, that network has a "hard left slant." For, as you may be aware, George was a high-level advisor in the Bill Clinton administration.

What other Fox competitors feature pundits who worked for partisan public officials? Let's see: There's Chris Matthews at MSNBC who worked for President Jimmy Carter, longtime [Democrat] Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill as well as [Democrat] Senators Frank Moss and Edmund Muskie. Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" worked for [Democrat] Mario Cuomo and [Democrat] Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

We often wonder why it's "biased" for Fox to have people like Tony Snow working for them, but people like Stephanopoulis, Matthews and Russert can somehow "maintain objectivity." It would be quite depressing if it wasn't such a humdinger.

Nadeau goes on to yammer about stories Fox covered that he deemed weren't worthy, like naming an "energy drink" "Cocaine." He says

I'm sure that right now FOX is getting calls over Cocaine energy drink and how it's reprehensible to market a drink named after a drug to children. I think it's reprehensible to act like it matters, I think it's reprehensible to ignore the actual news in favor of human interest stories and miniature horses.

In our opinion (which actually matters as much as Nadeau's, although he reaches a lot more people), naming any sort of product which may be consumed by minors "Cocaine" is quite newsworthy, especially to, say, parents. We think it's reprehensible that Nadeau belittles such a story. We concur that this story does not equal the importance of, say, the genocide in Darfur, but why does this mean a news network shouldn't report about an addictive drug's moniker being used on a soft drink? In addition, we're privy to the general notion that the public would actually like to see some good news reported every once in a while. Perhaps this is why "human interest" stories get telecast here and there?

What's truly puzzling is the worriment that Fox News causes those on the left. The ONE news outlet with a conservative slant really sends them into a paroxysm of woe. We'd tend to use the analogy of the 1994 Republican Revolution in Congress -- the Democrats, who had enjoyed a monopoly on power for over 40 years, were overwrought at their political ouster. Likewise, the Big Media, who fancied a monopoly on news until FNC came along, are now acting similarly.

It's the inevitable sensation of realizing your power -- and ideology -- are no longer paramount. Or, to put it in blue collar terms, it's "sour grapes."

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