Why Fox News Continues to Roll

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Includes: GE, NWS, TWX
by: Larry Kramer

It’s about time. People don’t have any.

For the ninth straight year Fox News [editor's note: owned by News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS)] is cable television’s top News Network. This year, it beat CNN and MSNBC combined.

And, the top five cable news programs among 25-54 year-old viewers were all on Fox: The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, Glenn Beck, On the Record and, get this, The O’Reilly Factor repeat show.

This year, for the first time, MSNBC (NYSE:GE) has moved into second place, with CNN (NYSE:TWX) dropping to third place. CNN’s marquee shows - Anderson Cooper’s 360 and Parker-Spitzer - have been extremely weak.

Politics and prejudices aside, there is a central theme to this change, and it’s not an altogether positive one. I don’t believe this is about one political opinion versus another. I believe this is about people wanting, and needing, to form opinions faster and with less work on their own part.

It is, frankly, easier for someone to turn on either Fox News or MSNBC, listen to the frequent opinion expressed, right or left, and benchmark themselves against that opinion rather than forming their own opinion based on independent thinking.

So if a new Supreme Court Justice was named tomorrow, more people would check out what Fox and MSNBC said about him or her, and then quickly decide whether or not they were in favor or opposed to approving the candidate. “If Fox (or MSNBC) like him, so do I,” a viewer can decide, (or the opposite) based totally on that viewer’s political stance and how it relates to Fox or MSNBC.

In the past, many of those people would have spent the time with a more objective outlet, like CNN or the New York Times (NYSE:NYT), done more research of the candidate, and made up their own minds. Now, it’s just faster to have someone do that for you.

It’s a bad thing for democracy. We are creating a less-informed but more opinionated public.

By the way, it does not mean that more objective sources CAN’T be more interesting. They just aren’t. In an effort to appear totally unbiased, CNN ridded itself of opinion or emotion. You CAN express opinions and still present a balanced report. It takes more work on the news gathering side to both report and curate.

But that will be the future of Journalism.