The last two cheap labor Republican debates have attracted a crowd that is part ugly and douchebaggery in the extreme. In the debate last week the largest cheer was when it was pointed out that Governor Rick Perry oversaw 234 executions. Monday night Ron Paul got applause and someone shouted out “Yes” when he was asked if someone without health insurance should be allowed to die, and Michelle Bachmann tried to claim a cancer vaccine caused brain damage. Is this what we have become? Really?
Cable news punditry may reach a small hardcore section of voters but their broadcast news brethren seem to follow their lead which doesn’t contribute to accurate information for the average voter.
Cable news is like fantasy football leagues for the political wonks. The audience for the pundits on cable never rises above 3 million total viewers. But viewership is never close to the average number of voters in the US (in 2008 there were 133 million total votes cast). The broadcast news channels have more viewers (ABC, NBC, CBS) with an average of 14 million a day. Even radio has more of an audience than cable TV news channels.
Of all those shows, only O’Reilly gets significantly above two million total viewers. By contrast, NBC’s nightly news program doubles O’Reilly’s ratings in both total viewers and in the coveted 25-54 bracket. Even CBS, the lowest rated of the three, easily outdraws cable, and both broadcast and cable news face the same aging demographics: the median Fox News viewer is 65, two to three years older than the median broadcast news viewer, and CNN and MSNBC aren’t far behind.
But outpacing all of TV news is radio, and that’s where Koppel and other media observers should be focusing their attention. At first glance, radio may look like a conservative-dominated field. Rush Limbaugh’s weekly audience of 15 million dwarfs any television news program, and even Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck’s radio audiences are several times their TV audiences.
In fact, though, NPR provides a counterweight both to conservative talk radio, and to the charge that both sides have equally partisan media. Twenty-seven million people listen to NPR each week, and its morning and evening news programs get fourteen and thirteen million weekly listeners respectively, just behind Limbaugh.
But the conclusion of the article quoted above – that the audience is small – is beside the point. It seems the drivers of broadcast news follow cable’s lead in deciding what is news and the coverage of the issues and often either give misleading information or don’t squash outright lies quickly enough.
* Polling data during and after last week’s midterm elections suggested that many Americans genuinely believe President Obama has raised their taxes — even though the reality is that our president actually lowered them for most of us. This means that people trust pundits like Rush Limbaugh, a major force behind spreading that lie, over the numbers on their own tax returns.
* Another recent phenomenon? Half of new Congressmen don’t believe in the reality of global warming. It’s not that they don’t just disagree on the source or the severity of the problem. They flat out don’t think the world is getting warmer–despite the evidence outside their windows.
* The new Congress will probably try to restore millions of dollars of funding for scientifically inaccurate, largely disastrous abstinence-only curriculum in schools, many of which have been shown to spread lies like “condoms don’t work” and “abortion causes cancer.”
* News outlets picked up a wildly inflated and completely outlandish claim from an Indian blog that Obama’s trip abroad cost $200 million a day–and listeners have swallowed it. (In this case, the White House flat-out denied it.)
The scary thing is, these kinds of rumors have a way of taking root in the popular consciousness. Just as the election season began heating up earlier this year, Newsweek published a list of “Dumb Things Americans Believe.” While some of them are garden-variety lunacy, a surprising number are lies that were fed to Americans by our leaders on the far-Right. This demonstrates that media-fed lies can easily become ingrained in the collective memory if they’re not countered quickly and surely.
Another example is the media blow job NBC gave to former President Bush who is trying to sell a book. Matt Lauer, looking for his Frost-Nixon moment, never pushed Bush hard enough to actually answer questions about his presidential screw ups like Katrina and the Iraq war. I mean when the biggest nugget from the interview was Bush being hurt by the statement of a rapper just made me sad for journalism.
Broadcast media does a disservice to the citizens of this country by letting cable news pundits lead them by the nose and giving up their needed advocacy for the truth. Just ask a follow up question – please!
Ihave to remind my friends who are avid watchers of the FOX “News” channel that just because they have the highest ratings of the big 3 opinion cable channels doesn’t mean what they present is true. FOX peddles in what is called Argumentum ad populum. Facts and the truth isn’t subject to popular choice. FOX could have 300 million viewers a night and their race baiting still would not be factual.
Iwatched President Obama’s oval office speech on Tuesday night and it felt like it was missing something. Besides lacking specifics, the President threw in a bit about praying. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow gave a fake oval office speech on Wednesday night that was something I wish the real President had given.
Maddow said she wished Obama had announced three major developments in the response to the disaster:
1. “Never again, will any company, anyone, be allowed to drill in a location where they are incapable of dealing with the potential consequences of that drilling.”
2. “I’m announcing a new federal command specifically for containment and cleanup of oil that has already entered the Gulf of Mexico, with a priority on protecting shoreline that can still be saved; shoreline that is vulnerable to oil that has not yet been hit.”
3. “I no longer say that we must get off oil like every president before me has said too. I no longer say that we must get off oil. We will get off oil and here’s how: The United States Senate will pass an energy bill. This year.”
Iam sick and tired. I have tried to watch them but I can’t stand it any more. They are hurting the political discourse in this country and outside the wonks who live and breathe politics, they have no relationship with average people. I’m talking about political talk shows. Here is the ultimate guide so you never have to watch them again.
I should clarify one point. The shows and the news in general on the broadcast networks have an effect on average people more than those on cable but all of them still are pretty much worthless unless you obsess about politics.
Ultimate Political Talk Show Guide
1. The shows covered under this guide is as follows:
ABC This Week CBS Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer
Fox Fox News Sunday w/ Chris Wallace NBC Meet the Press with David Gregory PBS The McLaughlin Group
Cable CNN State of the Union with Candy Crowley CNN Reliable Sources MSNBC The Ed Show MSNBC Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann MSNBC The Rachel Maddow Show FOXNEWS Any show at any hour
2. Formats are pretty much the same in that they allow for unquestioning press release spin
3 Except for the MSNBC shows, the spin is at least misleading and in most cases lies.
4. Again except for the MSNBC shows, the hosts never really ask follow up questions.
5. The shows all have the same guests and those guests lean toward the GOP with a token Democrat in some cases. Again MSNBC is the opposite – having mostly Democratic or left leaning guests but the GOP rarely appears on MSNBC shows even as tokens.
6. MSNBC shows are better because they at least stick with facts and the truth even when it looks bad for Democrats and liberals in general. The other shows “concern troll” for the Democrats on all topics and accept the GOP talking points as true on their face.
7. The hosts and/or guests on any FOX “News” shows are either stupid, racists, or both at the same time.
8. All shows tend to have stories and topics that are important only to those who live inside the Washington DC beltway. Occasionally, most likely the MSNBC shows will actually have a topic of importance to all Americans.
9. Most of these shows favor “drama” over substance where yelling and arguing is seen as “good”, except for Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann, and The Rachel Maddow Show. Or they obsess on the political process which is like watching sausage being made.
10. You don’t have to watch any of the shows live or on your DVR. You can go to the network websites and watch clips, watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report to get a funny take on what the shows have on, or visit these websites:
and for special handling of FOX “News” crap:
11. Although it seems some shows might be better than the others, at the end of the day you don’t need to watch them to keep yourself informed. They take up time better spent with friends and family and laughing and having fun.