March 8th, 2010 | Published in Uncategorized
Conservatives have been celebrating the extraordinary popularity of Fox News in the era of Obama. A recent example is In From the Cold’s description of drastic cutbacks at ABC News and the continuing struggle for ratings at CNN. For me this raises the question of whether or not the shrinkage affecting traditional print journalism is hitting TV as hard.
The figures are undeniable – Fox is doing well – and I think there are two factors ( no pun intended) driving their outstanding numbers. First they are delivering a right of center view to a right of center country in a market left wide open to them by a left of center media industry. Second, they are getting a significant bump from an electorate who is suffering buyer’s remorse from electing a president and congress well to the left of it own center of gravity. The recent election of Republican Brown in Massachusetts in what is arguably the safest Democratic senate seat in the nation is clearly connected to some of FNC’s increased popularity.
As a student of the media I am not sure how far the demise of TV will go. I think dead tree print media are probably toast, but I think as a culture we are addicted to TV news as entertainment because it is so easy to consume passively. Put simply, it’s fun particularly if it reinforces our political views. The problem is that it is much less about news than any print medium (on paper or the net)and much more a form of drama. Each TV story is a scripted, edited, and heavily produced bit of theater. In that sense FNC has always been fully in the MSM mold from the beginning. Watch CSPAN for 10 minutes then watch Obermann or Beck and see how they are all about a high octane mix of opinion and emotion. Watch an event on CSPAN that gets reported by the MSM and see how they pull out the dramatic (sound bite journalism) and edit the story to suit their ideological purposes. I thoroughly enjoy watching the dinosaurs of the industrial age media go broke, but I think TV news will continue to live on as an emotional parasite on our collective need for vicarious drama.