The New York Times of Cable News

With viewer numbers like these [h/t Instapundit] it’s no wonder that the White House is trying to delegitimize Fox news.


With numbers like these, Fox News is TV Cable News. It’s no wonder that Fox seems to be driving all the major stories these days. It’s simply a matter of sheer mindshare. A story on Fox reaches more people. When Fox decides something is news it becomes news whether anyone else likes it or not.

Fox is supplanting the role long played by the New York Times and the Ochs-Sulzberger family that owns the 88% of the paper. For nearly 50 years, the Times has sent out its headline for the next day out on the wire and newspapers and broadcasters have en masse synchronized their own stories to whatever the NYT decided to cover. The Ochs-Sulzbergers ultimately decided what was and was not news for the entire country.

Now Fox has stolen the crown. Even people who hate Fox now find themselves forced to react to it. Politicos and pundits who want to reach half of the cable news audience have to show up on Fox. Other news organizations are forced to cover the same stories as Fox just to remain relevant.

I don’t watch TV news in general and I dislike Fox’s format the most. It is so loud and garish that concentrating on the story is like trying to read a physics text in a dance club. However, they ask the right questions and piss off the right people.

Love them or hate them, they’re now big players and they’re here to stay.

[If you liked this post, you may also like The “Wacky Sitcom Mixup” School of Foreign Policy. ]

Blogs that have linked to this post [added manually at author’s discretion]:
Inoperable Terran — The Fox Effect
American Power — Bill O’Reilly on Leftist Fort Hood Coverage: ‘The Guard Has Changed’

23 thoughts on “The New York Times of Cable News”

  1. OTOH, the broadcast nets get about 20 million viewers every night for their news shows as compared to about 4 mil for cable. I still have no sympathy for the liberals.

    I feel much the same as you do about Fox’s shows, but there are a few that are outstanding.

    Special Report a 6 pm eastern on week nights is all hard news for the first 40 minutes. The last segment has a panel of pundits that often includes Charles Krauthammer.

    Fox News Sunday is broadcast Sunday morning on the broadcast network and again at 5 pm. Chris Wallace is a good, and fair, interviewer.

    Wall Street Journal Editorial Report is broadcast a couple of times on Saturday. Only a half hour, but features editorial staff members from the WSJ. Excellent.

  2. Robert Schwartz,

    OTOH, the broadcast nets get about 20 million viewers every night for their news shows as compared to about 4 mil for cable

    Yes, but politically, cable is where the action is. Stories germinate on internet/cable and then migrate out to broadcast and then print.

  3. Irving Gold,

    They are here to stay? so, too, taxes, death and VD.

    The difference being that leftist seem to have a pervers liking for taxes, death (when they can tax that) and behaviors that lead to VD.

  4. “The difference being that leftist seem to have a pervers liking for taxes, death (when they can tax that) and behaviors that lead to VD.”

    Liberals also have a perverse liking of Fox News, since they comprise 30% of its viewership. It’s such a trainwreck of sensationalism, naked GOP propaganda, and unstable personalities that they just can’t look away.

  5. Giantslor,

    It’s such a trainwreck of sensationalism, naked GOP propaganda, and unstable personalities that they just can’t look away.

    The funny/sad thing is that prior to the 1960’s Fox would have been a Democrat associated outlet and Palin would have been a Democrat. Loud vulgarity is the very essence of America and American politics. At every revolutionary junction in history, you find loud, crude Americans overturning the world to the utter horror of the elites (especially European ones). There’s a reason why Ragtime, Jazz, the Blues, Rock and Rap started in America and not Europe.

    Prior to the 1960’s, Democrats not only identified ordinary Americans but venerated them. How times have changed. Now Democrats don’t want to listen to anyone who didn’t go to an Ivy League and earns less than six figures.

  6. Robert if you go to the original link at Powerline Blog, you will see that cable had about 7 million viewers not 4 million. Maybe this was just for that day due to the election? I don’t know. Could you send a source link for your 20 million number? I am pretty shocked that regular network news gets that many viewers. Who are these people?

  7. Mike Allen of Politico was on a Fox program the other day. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. He also wasn’t very good.

  8. I did find this interesting link:

    It supports the 20 million viewers number for network news, but it makes the point that since cable news is always on, polls say more people respond that they regularly get their news from cable.

    I am still pretty shocked that many people watch network news. I haven’t done that in at least 10 years.

  9. Would be interesting to see some detailed demographics. I suspect many of the broadcast-news watchers are older people, who grew up on the 3 networks and still turn to them out of habit.

  10. I gave up watching network national news a decade ago. I do watch the local news at 11.

    The national network news ceased being ‘news’ for the most part longer ago than that, it just took cable news and the Web to make it obvious. Even the early cable news was just full of ‘network newscaster wannabes.’

    Now there is competition. I tend to get my news from the web, then watch/read traditional sources to see what the ‘party line’ is.

    even 50 years ago the ‘news’ [reporters, editors, etc] was full of outsiders. Somewhere around the mid-60s, the shift began. Those who wanted to ‘do’ the news signed up, mostly on one side, with ‘the system’ which mostly meant a ‘liberal’ worldview.

    Then, not only did they become earnest ‘insiders’ they became a fraternity who only let in ‘our kind, dear’.

    Sad, but there you are. Or, here we are today, where the ‘news’ watchdog is more like a lapdog, concerned mostly with pleasing its master in hopes of getting the next treat.

  11. Even though cable doesn’t, perhaps, reach as many people as the broadcast outlets, they reach people that are passionate and care about American freedom…one way or another. It is obvious, to me, that the broadcast outlets are preaching to couch potatoes otherwise why couldn’t they gin up more opposition to the tea partiers with their consistent bashing? The fact IS Fox is the only outlet which gives each side some time whether ‘Giantslor’ reckons it to be a wreck that people can’t avoid watching. Of course it looks to be a wreck for him because the talking heads he supports (and will agree to appear!) are so roundly poor examples. He can always fall back and say the “principled Democrats” wouldn’t never debate…on Fox, but that only shows their shallowness. Would you debate Hitler? Could you?

  12. Network news is really out of it.

    I have not watched a single broadcast in years and years, and I’m an “old guy.”

    No way the younger crowd watches it. Too slow.

    Drudge is faster and even Drudge was slow to announce the health care bill passing Saturday night. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit was there faster.

    Stuff happens in real time on Fox.

    Network news comes very late to the game.

    The game is also up for Network news when sock puppets like Charlie Gibson pretend they don’t know anything about ACORN or Van Jones.

    They used to be able to control the news. Now network news is an also-ran.

  13. “stolen”? Implying illegitimacy, no? How about “taken”? They have taken the tarnished crown from the NYT. Or “picked up”? Or “claimed”? Or … Certainly not stolen.

  14. Work schedule means that I get home AFTER the network “newscasts” are done. So if I want national news when I get home, the answer is cable, and usually FOX. MSDNC and CNN are down the list, after Bloomberg and even Headline News. Sometimes even the BBC is preferable.

  15. When CNN was in its infancy, the top dog there refused to allow the NYT to set his agenda. In Nicaragua, his instructions to the reporter on the ground was to ignore any story the pack was doing, get out in the countryside, and find real stories.

    Pretty soon, the pack was following CNN around.

    Of course, soon they fired the smart guy and brought in some “professionals” who improved things by making sure they read the NYT everyday.

  16. Based on a recent Pew poll that showed that Fox’s viewership is basically divided into thirds…Democrats, independents, and Republicans…whereas MSNBC and CNN are heavily Democratic or independent…well, I haven’t pushed around the numbers but it could well be that more self-professed Democrats watch Fox than either of the other two.

  17. Because I live in Australia and only get back to the US every couple of years I hadn’t realized how much market share Fox had gained. I used to think that because the US moved right during the Reagan years, and the MSM hadn’t, Murdoch had simply moved into the available market share that wasn’t being served. But it is clear now that it is more complex than that – Fox is doing something well enough so that Democrats are watching. I have reached no firm conclusion, but watching the Ft Hood coverage I could see clearly – indeed trust Fox – to not try to hurriedly explain away Hassan’s actions. PTSD, workplace harassment….sure those factors might have been present but they were not the elephant in the room. It was clear from the beginning that because of the nature of the attack and the Muslim name that there might well be a totalitarian Muslim aspect to the attack. Fox’s efforts to see if there was an such an angle immediately paid off in an interview with a retired coworker. I watched CNN and MSNBC continue to try to frame it as simply another workplace shooting, but was surprised and wryly amused when CNN beat everyone else to some convenience store footage of Hassan in impeccable Middle Eastern dress on the morning of the shootings. Looping that over and over finished the ‘just another stress related workplace shooting’ line. Pictures create THE lasting impression – just like showing burning US tanks for minutes at time did in 2004. (Just to make it clear – the convenience store footage gives the lasting impression of a radical Islamist, the burning tank footage gives the impression of American defeat without proving much about either.) Fox continued to dig as did CNN and I suppose MSNBC was forced to go along as the evidence of the Islamist nature of the attack mounted. What hadn’t occurred to me before was that Fox was forcing the hands of the other cable networks – but at 60% market share that is not at all daft. If CNN had 60% or more, as they once did, I think they would have stuck with the soft line – and had the power to do so.

  18. “Would be interesting to see some detailed demographics. I suspect many of the broadcast-news watchers are older people, who grew up on the 3 networks and still turn to them out of habit.”

    One quick and easy way to check – see what commercials are being broadcast during Fox shows.

    (A quick perusal of the network news ads indicate that the Lawrence Welk Show would have younger demographics.)

  19. If you don’t think the major networks still speak to a large number of people, I might point out that two of my students have commented on the shooter as being stressed out, post-traumatic, etc. etc. Both said they had heard the incident had nothing to do with Muslims or extremism. They had not heard any basic fact that would have altered that view (what he said as he began shooting, the bizarre presentations, the history of the mosque he attended, his sense sharia law should be held above the Constitution – it isn’t like there’s one stray fact they somehow hadn’t heard). They thought they knew – that’s the distressing fact. At some schools that might not mean much, but I don’t think we are a hundred miles from Fort Hood and every semester a few veterans are in each class. This isn’t some elite school buffered from the real world. I suspect they are more likely to watch Fox than students at a more upscale place.

    Sure, out of concern for the truth, a breadth of vision, and the feelings of their Muslim classmates, I can see how there shouldn’t be blanket condemnations. I didn’t bring these up in class and it wasn’t in class discussion that these remarks were made. But the truth is the truth – and as our founders believed, it will out. Censoring news is likely to have two deleterious effects – lead to a certain paranoia, which might well take the form of lumping the “other” together because we are denied knowledge of the markers that differentiate believers from fanatics; second, it seems to encourage a sense of aggrievement that is not likely to be healthy, either. (And I realize as I write this that the aggrievement is likely to be true of both Muslims – who are told that they are probably the subjects of harrassmemt and so see it everywhere – and of fairly ordinary people, who feel they are being deprived of the truth, suspected of having evil motives, and patronized. I don’t see amy possible good result of a refusal to face facts.

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