Archive for ‘Fox News’

June 3, 2009

Bradley Prizes: ‘Standing Room Only’!

NTCNews reports:

A standing-room only crowd is expected Wednesday night at the Kennedy Center for the sixth annual Bradley Prizes ceremony.Weekly Standard editor and Fox News contributor Bill Kristol will receive one of the $250,000 prizes awarded by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation . . . .

Read the whole thing. Guess I’ll be expected to wear a bowtie to this little soiree. Hanging out with George Will, Michael Barone and all that crowd, eating free food, yadda yadda. Man, life is tough for a blogger . . .

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March 6, 2009

‘Morning Joe’ vs. ‘Fox & Friends’

This morning, I happened to be awake at 6 a.m. — did I mention I love my wife? — and while Mrs. Other McCain was in the shower getting ready for work, I relaxed contentedly by toggling back and forth between “Fox & Friends” and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Fox fans can crucify me for saying this, but “Morning Joe” is the better program, and the superiority of the MSNBC show was blindingly evident today. While “Fox & Friends” had on Geraldo Rivera to talk about Rhianna (allegedly) getting beat up by her boyfriend, Joe Scarborough, Mike Barnicle, Pat Buchanan and Mika Brzrzbuyavowelski were talking about real news — especially the economic meltdown and the inability of Congress or the Obama administration to do anything to stop it.

Excuse me for thinking that gotterdammerung on Wall Street is more important than a domestic-violence case involving two second-rate pop stars that no one over 30 ever heard of until Chris Brown (allegedly) beat Rhianna to a bloody pulp.

OK, there may be some kind of “counterprogramming” rationale behind Fox producers going with celebrity tabloid news at 6 a.m., but there is a word for that rationale: Wrong. Most of those who get up at 6 a.m. and switch to the early news are essentially serious people. They’re in a hurry, getting ready to go to work, and they want to hear about news that makes a difference in their lives, which doesn’t include the obnoxious Geraldo sharing gossip about two pop singers.

Furthermore — and Steve Doocy’s my Facebook friend, so I want to be careful how I say this — the “Fox & Friends” crew seems too lightweight. The “Morning Joe” crew is anchored by a former congressman and features a veteran political adviser in Buchanan. Barnicle doesn’t impress me much, but Brzrzbuyavowelski, though hopelessly liberal, is at least a smart, serious liberal.

To employ an overused word, the implicit gravitas of the MSNBC crew gives them more leeway to joke around amiably like a bunch of buddies just talkin’ news, whereas Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade lack that sort of heft (Doocy wasn’t on the show this morning). My impression is that Kilmeade is a hometown favorite in the New York market, so Fox isn’t going to pull him from the show, and I wouldn’t want them to pull my buddy Doocy, which makes Carlson the prime candidate for replacement, if the executives want to tinker with the formula.

Bay Buchanan? Kate Obenshain? I don’t know. They need somebody with a credible government/politics background. They need to change something. The whole mood of the Fox show is wrong for the current economic and political climate.

Any serious news junkie toggling back and forth between Fox and MSNBC in the mornings — and this isn’t the first time I’ve done this in recent weeks — can’t help but notice the difference. “Fox & Friends” feels too fake perky-cheery like “Good Morning, Orlando” or something, whereas “Morning Joe” exudes a vibe that is simultaneously confident, smart, and relaxed.

Roger Ailes needs to be paying attention, because whatever the total Nielsen numbers, he’s losing “the eyes of the influentials,” to borrow a phrase from Jon Henke.

UPDATE: I’m getting some push-back in the comments, which is OK, but Hyscience agrees with me. To those who only watch Fox, you should try toggling between “F&F” and “MJ” some mornings. Maybe it’s me, but the Joe show is less show-biz, more laidback, and I like that — even if Barnicle and Brzrzbuyavowelski aren’t to my taste.

November 28, 2008

On hating O’Reilly

Very interesting, if true, especially the assertion that “last year’s purchase of the Wall Street Journal [by Murdoch] ‘was in no small way about wanting to trade the illiberal — the belligerent, the vulgar, the loud, the menacing, the unsubtle — for the better-heeled, the more magnanimous, the further nuanced.'”

This is another aspect of the “Fox Effect” I’ve written about before. Fox has its own combative brand that has in recent years tended to define the GOP brand. Two Irish Catholic guys from New York, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, have effectively become the face of the Republican Party. Is it unfair ethnic stereotyping to say that these two argue like a couple of Irish Catholic guys from New York?

Both O’Reilly and Hannity have a habit of bullying guests with whom they disagree. If you’ve ever seen this shtick — constantly interrupting, badgering, insulting, demanding that the guest “answer the question!” but never giving them time to do so — it is impossible to enjoy unless you have a sadistic streak. It’s the same cacaphonous ugliness that I always hated about CNN’s old “Crossfire” show, and every other “shout show” imitator. There is an audience for that confrontational style of TV (4 million tune into O’Reilly regularly) but you’re never going to build a genuinely mass audience for rude disagreement.

When a David Brooks or a George Will or a David Frum sneers at Republican “populism,” it is this belligerent mode of discourse that they have in mind. Hard-core Republicans may cheer when Hannity works his bully-boy routine on a liberal, but such acts of signification — “I aggressively diss liberals, therefore I am a true conservative!” — can never persuade the unpersuaded.

Most conservative Fox viewers don’t notice this, simply because of their ideological affinity with the bully boys. But remember when Bill O’Reilly sneered at talk-radio “Kool-Aid drinkers” and “right-wing liars” who opposed the bailout?

See? When O’Reilly points the obnoxious name-calling at you, it’s not quite so enjoyable, is it? (My apologies, BTW, to any Irish Catholic New Yorkers who don’t like being lumped in with O’Reilly.) This kind of rudeness gives the conservative intellectual class a pretext to disparage “populism” and to denounce Sarah Palin as a particularly divisive populist. The intellectuals, quite rightly, don’t want conservatism to become so closely identified with rhetorical belligerence.

If Murdoch himself is concerned that the O’Reilly style is “vulgar” and “menacing,” to what extent has the general public absorbed that general perception of conservatives that O’Reilly and his Fox cohorts have helped create?

November 23, 2008

Our unbiased media

Mark Halperin’s ruminations on this year’s blatant pro-Obama bias, and the attempt by some in the media to defend their grossly unfair coverage of the campaign, prompts Ace to say:

They have no defense. To ladle additional lies upon a breathtaking record of dishonesty adds insult to injury.

To Ace, and everyone else enraged by media bias, let me offer what I conceive as the underlying rationale of this bias, which comes in two parts:

  • THE FOX EFFECT — The rise of Fox News as the No. 1 cable news outlet has resulted in ideological counterprograming. The success of a conservative news network has had an effect that might be best understood by reference to Newton’s third law of motion. At first, there was the “equal effect” — chastened by Fox’s success, most networks sought to rein in their traditional liberal bias. But then, after the 2004 election, the “opposite effect” kicked in. Network executives figured, “Hey, Fox already has a monopoly on conservative viewers. Let’s let our freak flags fly and give liberals what they really want.” I really noticed this phenomenon during the 2006 campaign, when the media (a) pretended that the contributions Jack Abramoff’s clients made to Democrats were meaningless, and (b) presented Mark Foley as the GOP poster boy. The existence of Fox News provides a ready-made excuse for liberals in the media to think of their bias as “balancing” Fox.
  • “IT’S THEIR TURN” — What is the most elementary definition of “fairness”? Taking turns. So, Clinton had his 8 years in the White House, then Bush had his 8 years, and now — by the taking-turns definition of “fairness” — it’s time for another Democratic president. The careful observer will note that liberal bias was somewhat ameliorated in 2000, when Al Gore sought the “third Clinton term.” Eric Alterman seized on negative coverage of Gore (two words: “earth tones”) to suggest that in fact the media has a conservative bias, but it was really more of a case of Clinton fatigue in the Washington press corps. Plus the fact that Gore is such a notorious phony.

This is how the media rationalizes blatant unfairness as being true fairness. Remember: They went into this business to “make a difference” (see note at end) and keeping Republicans from holding the White House for an unfairly long time is the kind of difference they most wish to make.

The fact that the next Democratic president is black made the media double down on the taking-turns rationale: Hey, let’s let the minorities have a shot! To reply “no” to that proposition was, to the liberal mind, irrefutable proof of racism.

Well, then, what does this mean for media coverage of politics going forward? First of all, the Media Research Center and others need to recognize how the Fox Effect is helping drive hyperliberalism in the non-Fox media, and call this to public attention, because the appeal of ideological counterprogramming is so strong. Look:

  • ABC World News — 7.9 million viewers
  • NBC Nightly News — 7.9 million viewers
  • CBS Evening News — 5.9 million viewers
  • Fox: O’Reilly Factor — 4.0 million views

Which is to say, the major network evening news programs have an audience have a combined viewership of 21.7 million — more than FIVE TIMES LARGER than the audience of the highest-rated Fox News show. Conservatives cannot afford to ignore this kind of basic math and allow their viewpoints to be walled off in the Fox News “ghetto.” The existence of Fox — which reaches less than one-sixth of the TV news audience — ought not give the other media a license to conform their reporting to DNC talking points.

Second, the “make a difference” media types ought to be reminded of another cliche, namely, “speaking truth to power.” With the Democrats now running the whole show in Washington, the media need to maintain their adversarial watchdog stance if they want to maintain any shred of credibility. They cannot be complicit in any cover-up of wrongdoing by the Obama administration or the Democrats in Congress.

Third, conservative spokesmen and Republican leaders in Washington need to find a safe line of attack against the new regime. If I were John Boehner, I’d call a huddle and give ’em a simple three-word message: “It won’t work.” Whatever the Democrats propose, the Republican response is, “It won’t work.” Whether it’s the next round of bailouts, a proposed health-care program, or some neo-Keynesian make-work boondoggle, Republicans should reply to every Democratic idea by predicting that it won’t solve the problem it’s aimed at, and will likely make matters worse.

The beauty of this is that it’s true. Nothing proposed by Obama, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi can possibly make a dime’s worth of difference in solving the current economic crisis. These aren’t “new ideas” at all, they’re just gussied-up versions of obsolete liberal tax-and-spend policies from the era of Hubert Humphrey, ideas that weren’t even really new when J.K. Galbraith and Michael Harrington proposed them half a century ago. These ideas have always failed before, and they’ll fail again.

If conservatives will elaborate and reiterate that message — the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and Americans For Prosperity can supply the statistics and specifics — then they will look like prophets when, as predicted, Obama’s economic policies fail. And the credibility gained from this accurate prediction ought to give them leverage to attract better media coverage.

Oh, one final point: Some Republican staffers on Capitol Hill ought to make an effort to locate the favorite watering holes of the Washington press corps and never miss an opportunity to buy the next round. You might be surprised how much goodwill can be purchased with a $200 bar tab. I’m convinced that a GOP “whiskey offensive” could have a significant positive impact on the quality and quantity of the Republican Party’s news coverage.

NOTE: Despite 22 years in the news business, I never bought into the “make a difference” mentality. I became a journalist because, as Hunter S. Thompson said of his own career, “sportswriting was the only thing I could do that anybody was willing to pay for.” (And, yes, I was a sportswriter for five years.) Super-serious save-the-world crusaders bore me to tears, and there is no trend that’s hurt journalism more than the cliched five-part Pulitzer-bait series examining some Important Social Issue Of Our Time: The pathetic plight of left-handed Latino lesbians, etc. A major reason the newspaper industry is circling the drain is because of its preference for pretentious “in-depth” features to the detriment of basic meat-and-potatoes reporting — which usually does more to “make a difference” than that other stuff.

UPDATE: Linked by Ed Driscoll — thanks!