Is Fox News the future of news?

I’m a journalist by training. While I no longer practice that trade on a full-time basis, I still take a great interest in the field.

At this time 15 years ago, Fox News Channel didn’t exist. Now, if you look at the its viewership compared to cable news competitors CNN, MSNBC and CNBC, you’ll see that it is not only leading its competition, but crushing it.

Fox News gets accused of having a conservative bias in its reporting. Its top commentators, such as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly, are both very conservative and very provocative, and don’t make any bones about it. And Sarah Palin, Karl Rove and other prominent conservative political personalities make frequent guest appearances and/or have their own shows on the channel.

Many people love Fox News. Many people hate it. But there is no question people watch it. Which begs the question: is Fox News the future of news? Will news channels have to follow Fox News’ model – in terms of political bent and/or reporting style – to succeed in the current media environment?

I don’t think anyone will deny that journalism – and television journalism in particular – has changed dramatically over the decades. The days of stately, dignified legends like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite beaming into our living rooms each night and delivering stately, dignified news, as my parents experienced, are gone and not coming back. This satirical cartoon from JibJab (famous for their 2004 Presidential election satires) sums up the changes to news quite well, in my opinion:

There are far more messages competing for the audience’s attention than ever before. The louder and more provocative you are, the more likely you are to get noticed. And it doesn’t matter how good the substance of your message is if no one notices it.

Fox News seems to realize this. Whether you disagree with Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly or not, you can’t deny that they know how to get people to listen to what they have to say. Same with Sarah Palin. Fox News’ ratings reflect as much. And the higher your ratings are, the more you can charge for advertising, and the more money you make. With so many news media outlets now owned by major corporations with diverse holdings and profit-driven shareholders to appease, ratings, regardless of substance, are more important than ever.

As for the political slant, many accuse MSNBC, in particular its prime time hosts Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, of having a liberal bias. Even if that is true, the fact that it trails Fox News in the ratings by a significant margin suggests that the viewing public does not buy into that bias.

All of this suggests that Fox News is on to something. Whether you never watch it or watch it every day, whether you love it or hate it, Fox News may become the model that news, or at least cable news, needs to follow.

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About Joshua Brett
I am a native of Chicago, but have lived on the East Coast for almost 20 years. After starting my career as a news reporter, I moved into healthcare marketing, first with a small hospital, then with a small pharmaceutical development company and now with a chain of businesses that are working to improve access to the health care system. In May 2011, I completed my Masters Degree in Communication Management at Temple University, and I enjoy helping businesses, particularly healthcare ones, identify, tell and leverage their stories to achieve their business goals. My related interests are in messaging and framing in politics and in the use of social media platforms (including blogs similar to this one) by the healthcare industry to engage patients directly, drive them to healthcare providers and make them more educated consumers when they do so. Unlike my previous, disorganized, scattershot attempt at blogging, I hope to make this attempt more focused. We'll see what happens.

5 Responses to Is Fox News the future of news?

  1. Krista says:

    Sad but true, Josh. It seems that the trend in favor of news commentary as enterainment over news facts wins again. It’s a shame the broadcast news has become a business reliant on entainment and shock value in order to captivate viewers and inflate ad rates. Love it or hate it, Fox News is definitely here to stay and may even leave its competition in the dust if left unchecked.

  2. Erik Sokolowski says:

    Yeah, but the people who devoutly watch Fox News would believe that the Sun revolves around the earth if you tell them enough times, hell, most of them think the earth is about 6,000 years old. I would be interested to see a state by state breakdown of who watches it the most, my guess is the middle and southern parts of the country would give the highest viewership percentage. I mean, in Wyoming, if you didn’t watch Fox News you were a terrorist sympathizer for Christ’s sake.

  3. Jim Gauger says:

    Fox News pretends to report the news when it does the opposite. As a network, it contributes big money to the Republican Party. It gives politicians such as Palin (lamestream media) a platform for their ideas. Fair and balanced? Hardly. Of course, it is their right to air what they want. People like to have their opinions reinforced. They certainly aren’t challenged by Fox News’ programming. They are comforted. The future? Maybe for some folks. But if you want to be informed, you need to seek out news reports that spring from workmanlike reporting of facts that have undergone an editing process that strips out the bias.

    • Joshua Brett says:

      I can’t say I disagree with you. And I too wish the news was as you described at the end of your post. But as we both know, the news business is a business, moreso now than ever. And that means money, and the ratings that fuel the influx of money, call the shots. Say what you want about Fox News, but they know how to produce ratings.

  4. Pingback: Is the news media actually biased? Or is the other side just not captivating enough? « On Message

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