Fox News is No. 1. Well, at least in ratings. Rupert Murdoch’s news channel continues to lead all time slots among cable news stations followed by MSNBC and CNN, respectively.
Many news pundits see Fox as the Republican Party’s propaganda machine, just as MSNBC reports news and opinion from a liberal perspective. This is not “new” news, however. The 24-hour news cycle is filled with sensational punditry instead of hard facts.
What does Fox have that the other news networks don’t? Roger Ailes for starters. The Fox news chief made headlines this week when he called NPR executives “Nazis” during an interview with The Daily Beast. Ailes ripped the network for firing news analyst Juan Williams after the seasoned conservative commentator made inflammatory remarks on Fox News about Muslims.
While Ailes later apologized to Jewish groups in a letter to the Anti-Defamation League, his comments made national headlines. And it’s not just Fox News that’s generating press coverage for inflammatory content. Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News’ parent, aired an episode of “The Simpsons” Sunday that parodied the recent midterm elections. The broadcast featured a Fox News interview segment favoring GOP candidate Krusty the Clown against a Democratic challenger.
Sunday’s episode also showed a Fox News helicopter with the tagline, “Not racist, But #1 With Racists.” No doubt this is funny stuff. That’s why “The Simpsons” has been on television for more than two decades. Fox has taken such liberties before in poking fun at itself. It remains unclear, however, whether this is a ploy to make news or just funny entertainment.
Either way, conflict and controversy are main drivers of news. That’s why Fox and MSNBC lead the cable ratings ahead of CNN with their opinion-based commentary. The question is, should PR professionals continue to feed the beast? Perhaps we should be spending more time cultivating substantive stories that encourage constructive discourse as opposed to sensational punditry.
Easier said than done.
— George Medici, firstname.lastname@example.org