Analysis: What works people up so much about Fox News?

A new poll from public policy polling on who we trust in TV news – they have to do something when there’s no elections on the horizon – has once again Fox News as both the most trusted and least trusted brand name in news.

tv-clipartThirty-five percent of Americans say they trust Fox News more than any other TV news outlet. Meanwhile, 33 percent list Fox News as the news source that they trust the least.

This, of course, is as much about us as it is about Fox News, which is really no more or no less reliable than any of the other cable news outlets – they’re all unreliable, unless what you’re relying on them for is sensationalism.

The reason Fox News tops both lists is that Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch figured out way back when how to push the needle. Back in the 1990s, when CNN was referred to as the “Clinton News Network,” Ailes and Murdoch seized an opportunity to provide an alternative, and the alternative to what conservatives still like to call the “liberal media” is, well, “conservative media.”

News, for time immemorial, relied on the news cycle for ratings. Hurricanes, elections, big sporting events, natural (or unnatural) disasters could be relied upon to bring in the viewers; at all other times, the news geeks watched, and ratings plummeted.

The Fox News formula is simple: We won’t wait, we will create. There’s never a such thing as a slow news day at Fox News. If there’s nothing sensational going on organically, Fox can create and germinate a controversy with its echo chamber that blurs news and talk.

For the longest time, CNN and the later-arriving MSNBC countered Fox News with news and nondescript talking heads who played it down the middle. Now they’re trying to play Fox News on Fox News, but they’re not doing it well, to say the least, and they suffer in the ratings because of that and also because they’re competing for the roughly 60 percent of the population that isn’t batcrap-crazy hard-right conservative, and because that silent majority isn’t nearly as interested in watching constant news alerts about nothing as the core Fox News viewer is.

What’s funny is that when there is actual news – weather, tragedies, elections and the like – CNN, primarily, and to a lesser degree MSNBC compete well with Fox News. But how often is there organic big news? Yeah, like, almost never, right?

So that’s why Fox News draws so much passion. Like them or hate them, you’re going to have an opinion.

Column by Chris Graham. More from the PPP TV News poll: Click here.


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