What’s in the Message?

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It gets frustrating at times when you work in the media and find yourself in a profession that is constantly blasted by people accusing you of being biased, and you then see that the media outlet with the reputation for being most biased happens to be getting high ratings.

It’s such an obvious double standard.

Veteran journalist Terry McDermott, in this month’s Columbia Journalism Review, makes this important point:

“The perceived problem is not that Fox’s straight news is relatively bias-free and its opinion programming overwhelmingly conservative. The problem is that the news portion is very small and the opinion portion very large. It would indeed be like a traditional newspaper opinion-news division if the ratios were reversed.”

He then compares Fox News, CNN and MSNBC in terms of staffing and coverage. Citing his own personal experience, he says one almost always finds a CNN crew or stringer (an industry term for a freelancer) while covering news around the world. He adds that one almost never runs into a Fox reporter, and never one from MSNBC.

So what are people who work in the media supposed to get from this?  If ratings are supposed to be a signal of what the viewers actually want, does that mean we all should be delivering less real news and more opinion?

1 Comment

  1. Fox doesn’t send reporters out…they just feed on AP, and then edit and spin whatever reports they find. That clip comes to mind where Beck or one of the other numbnuts @ Fox aired a clip that contained material from several different public events in order to make a big news report on the supposed popularity of the teabagging movement. When caught, they said it was done “erroneously” which of course is extremely unlikely.

    Just out of curiosity, I took a look at both and this morning. CNN has a bunch of news articles, domestic and from abroad, while Fox News – to whom even a slow news day is full of big revelations – talks about Obama’s health care reform, and abortion:

    “Obama tries to ax state special projects in health reform, but he and advisers used backroom deals to advance bill


    “Debate that black babies are ‘endangered’ is at heart of bill to outlaw abortions prompted by baby’s race or gender”

    Not every single day is filled with health reform-related melodrama, Democratic backroom agendas, and Obama’s satanic plans to turn the nation into a Socialist pseudo-paradise. But this is what Fox News patrons come for – not actual news reporting – so naturally this is what they deliver.

    The problem with the credibility of Fox News is that it is less and less separated from the channel’s airings of ultra-conservative opinion shows. Beck, O’Reilly, et al. star in shows which obfuscate the line between newscasts and newsdrama.

    As for ratings, people who watch Fox News don’t do it to get “fair and balanced” news reporting from around the globe; they watch Fox because the opinions presented in their programming reaffirm their own unhinged ideologies. This way viewers who are anything but fair or balanced themselves can feed on the idiot box while continuing to convince themselves that they are.

    The ratings of Glenn Beck’s show are proportionate to the amount of foam flying out of his mouth as he twitchily proclaims that his bigotry is simply patriotism. Should he become less loud and more rational, those ratings would suffer, because, well, that’s just not as entertaining.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.