Thursday, December 11, 2008

The REAL Secret To Fox News' Success?

Every now and then I’m forced to watch Fox News. This morning at the gym one of the six televisions was tuned to “Fox & Friends,” and I got to see Michelle Malkin make her bizarre facial contortions above the chyron:
"Culture of Corruption: Democrat Party plagued by scandals."

Um, paging Illinois Gov. George Ryan, Republican, who is still in jail! Paging Ted Stevens of Alaksa! And Duke Cunningham ... and Larry Craig ... and David Vitter .... and Tom DeLay ... and Mark Foley .... etc. etc.

This is why I hate Fox News. No legitimate news organization would promote the ridiculous idea that it’s Rod Blagojevich’s party affiliation that made him corrupt, any more than they would say belonging to the “Republic Party” made Ryan, Stevens, Vitter, Craig and the rest corrupt and sleazy.

Isn’t that what blogs are for?

Fox News does this all the time, though. Another thing I’ve noticed about Fox News is how much tabloid TV crap they air in between their partisan attacks and slanted news. There’s a lot of celebrity gossip, funny pet video clips, shark bite stories, and other sensational National Enquirer-style trash TV. It’s human interest TV with a dash of far-right ideology.

I have to wonder if this has as much to do with their appeal as anything. Though it seems counter-intuitive, cable news is a veritable wasteland for news coverage. Earlier this week I channel surfed in vain for news that wasn’t about the Big 3 auto bailout. I even tuned in to Free Speech TV, only to hear Ralph Nader talking about the unions and how they sold out their members back in the day.

Surely to God there was something else happening in the world besides the auto bailout? CNN, MSNBC and the rest just can’t seem to cover news. They take one story and repeat it ad nauseum, turning it upside down and inside out until you are thoroughly sick of it. Everything else that may be happening in the world is ignored.

I’m not sure Fox News does that, at least not to the same degree as CNN and MSNBC. At least on Fox you can find out about the Virginia toddler kept alive in the woods by puppies. If you’re into that sort of thing, of course, which I daresay the vast majority of American viewers are. How else to explain the appeal of The Today Show? Remember, too, that Bill O’Reilly got his start at Inside Edition. That’s no coincidence.

As layoffs and cutbacks are announced at NBC, NPR, CNBC and CNN, I hope the news execs take a hard look at what they’ve been doing wrong. I say it’s less any political slant their broadcast may have than it's the fact that they’ve basically programmed themselves into irrelevancy. By covering the same story as everyone else for 24 hours solid, five days a week, some of us are actually sick and tired of the topic du jour and are forced to look elsewhere for information. Hard to believe, I know, but I don’t think Americans are nearly as myopic as the average cable news executive.

I mean, honestly. If I have to go through another election season like this last one, I am shooting my television.

I frequently turn to Current TV for something different (when I can remember where on the dial it appears ....) I read more newspapers, and I surf the ’net. And sometimes I’m so thoroughly sick of news that I’ll switch to Bravo TV to watch two hours of “West Wing” re-runs just so I don’t have to hear the same crap for the fifteen gazillionth time.