Monday, August 20, 2007

How Fox News Blew Its Chance To Go Beyond Preaching To The Choir

By MARC McDONALD

At first glance, the Fox News Channel appears to be a big success these days. Since launching in 1996, Fox has come out of nowhere to lead the pack in cable news ratings.

To the delight of conservatives, Fox News pumps out a GOP-friendly message 24 hours a day across America. Between Fox News, Drudge and HateWing radio, Republicans have a variety of outlets these days to spread the word.

I hate to rain on Fox News' parade, but there is still one major nagging problem with this "news" channel's efforts to get out the GOP message.

That is: Fox News long ago blew its chance to be a credible news source.

Oh sure, Fox News is the gospel truth to the dwindling 29 percenters who still support Bush.

But to the rest of America, Fox News is increasingly seen as a joke these days.

The fact is, Fox News is simply preaching to the choir these days. And, as the GOP has increasingly lost its luster since 2000, it's clear that Fox is going to have a smaller and smaller choir to preach to in coming years.

Simply preaching to the choir is clearly not what Rupert Murdoch had in mind when he launched Fox News. But in order to go beyond that limited audience, Murdoch needed to build Fox as a news outlet that at least had the appearance of being credible.

Really, what Fox News should have done from the beginning is work hard to build its credibility image. Then, it could have effectively sneaked the partisan GOP content in occasionally through the back door. That, in turn, would have led to a winning of hearts and minds across America.

But Fox News blew it when it completely ignored the issue of credibility and instead just rammed through blatant GOP viewpoints to its audience 24 hours a day.

Liberals often fret that Fox News is nothing more than an outlet for GOP propaganda. But that dignifies what Fox is actually doing. Truly effective propaganda subtly changes people's minds without them even realizing that they're being propagandized.

That's clearly not the case with Fox News. Few people's minds are being changed by the heavy-handed GOP sludge pumped out by Fox News these days. And to Liberals and Independents (and indeed, the vast majority of clear-thinking rational adults) Fox News is nothing more than a joke these days.

What has to be most troubling to Fox News is the fact that credibility is by far the most valuable asset that a news outlet can have these days. And once you've blown your credibility, it's really pretty much impossible to ever get it back. The latter is especially true these days when watchdog sites like Media Matters are only a mouse click away.

The ironic thing is, if Fox News had strived for at least the appearance of credibility from the beginning, it would today be a much more effective tool for spreading the GOP's message. Instead, I would suspect most Americans will never take Fox News seriously again.

16 comments:

cwilcox said...

Welcome back! Where the hell ya been? As FOX goes so has gone the permanent conservative majority that Karl Rove invisioned. I think they are incapable of restraint and got all carried away with the appearance of doing news and the appearance of governing. Nothing conservative at all about that kind of behavior.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Red Hog, thanks for stopping by. I had to take a short break and catch up on some other things. By the way, re: Karl Rove---I don't buy the official MSM story that he's stepping down from the political circus. I guarantee you that, even as we speak, he's already hard at work on strategy and dirty tricks for the 2008 election.

Montag said...

Laura Ingraham calls preaching to a dwindling choir in a right wing echo chamber, "The freedom of the new media." They seek not to inform but to coopt and brainwash by bludgeoning their audience at every turn. Their "Half-Hour News Hour" satire had to be cancelled because even their brain-dead audience knew it wasn't funny.

When the Bolsheviks tried to justify such "freedom" to libertarian socialist Rosa Luxemburg, she retorted:

"Freedom for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party--however numerous they may be--is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently."

Ron Southern said...

American tv viewers have no brain. We'd accept it if Fox suddenly grew one. We'd accept it as credible if Cartoon Network starting telling us all the Funny News, too. There are no events so rude, so crude, so insane that we wouldn't believe it, like it, watch it, and lick it! Am I ashamed of it--yeah, sure. But enough others are not.

Rich said...

Yeah, I remember last September, Chris Wallace jumped on Bill Clinton concerning his alleged failure to prevent 9/11. We lefties screamed and yelled and hollered about their lack of balance & fairness.
Wallace had an opportunity to make good and redeem himself. He had SecState Condoleezza Rice on a few weeks later. We flooded him with letters and emails saying "Alright. You say you're equally tough on Bush Administration people, prove it! Ask Rice the same kinds of questions you asked Clinton."
He didn't. Rice got away with a bunch of creampuff questions. One more chance for credibility was frittered away.

Anonymous said...

While Fox does not have credibility, their stories and views tend to seep into the mainstraem media which then does give these views an impression of credibility. Fox is still highly dangerous as is the rest of the Murdoch empire. We can't let our guard down any more than we already have.

Mark @ News Corpse said...

I can't agree that Murdoch did not intend for Fox be to right-wing propaganda machine from the start. His first hire was Roger Ailes. Do you think Murdoch didn't know what he was getting?

A also don't agree that,because their slant is so obvious, they can't propagandize effectively. What do you think they've been doing the last 10 years? And they have been effective with both viewers and competing networks. Remember the "Big Lie" theory.

Detox from Fox: Starve The Beast
I have compiled extensive documentation to prove that appearing on Fox is not only pointless, it is overtly harmful to progressive causes. It is long past time for Democrats and progressive to recognize this simple fact and resolve to stop allowing themselves to be used for target practice by disingenuous pseudo-journalists whose purpose is to defame and defeat them in politics and public opinion.

No more capitulation by our representatives and Fox's competitors. It cannot and must be tolerated. Do not cooperate with Fox in any way. Just say no!

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for my Christian friends that can't think for themselves. They are told in the Bible "you shall know them by their fruits" but they fail to be fruit inspectors...History will be harsh to them as history will reflect that the Christian Right assisted with the demise of this once great nation as they were manipulated by Fox and the political machine named Rove, who doesn't even believe there's a God...

Gerry

Diane said...

I was reading a NY city paper yesterday(Newsday, Post?
The article was about Shawn Hannity and his support of Rudy G and if this has cross some "ethical line".

Fox news stated that they do not consider Hannity a journalist, they consider him a "Conservative Commentator".
I thought that was interesting.
How many other NOT JOURNALISTS does Fox News have and what kind of ethical line are they breaking pretending that they are delivering the news by journalists

Scott Radtke said...

While you may be correct in your opinion, you provide no facts whatsoever. Are their ratings dropping, are folks getting fired? What exactly are you talking about? As for credibility, I can't imagine that was on Fox news' To Do list ever. They can't blow what they never had...or wanted.

Batocchio said...

You make a good point. I think, though, their main function is to extend the echo chamber. As with Limbaugh, viewers/listeners know they can go there and nothing will challenge them. It's similar to Rove's 50%+1 approach - stir up the base, steal a few folks from the other side, but discount the rest. Fox News is more effective than Limbaugh, though, because the MSM and many viewers do treat it as legitimate news. For the most part, they'll get factual matters right (not always), but their framing is slanted as all get out.

Hugo Lindquist said...

Nice piece.

Try not to say 'these days' so often. Everybody knows that 'these days' of fascist rule in the US ain't like the good old days of Nixon moderate liberalism.

Anonymous said...

Batocchio said...
"You make a good point. I think, though, their main function is to extend the echo chamber. As with Limbaugh, viewers/listeners know they can go there and nothing will challenge them."

Much like this blog. You know exactly what viewpoint you will get and you don't have to worry about being challenged to think differently. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle.

Marc McDonald said...

>>>Much like this blog. You know
>>>exactly what viewpoint you will
>>>get and you don't have to worry
>>>about being challenged to think
>>>differently.

Actually, I have never pretended that this site was anything other than a progressive blog. Compare that to Fox News, which laughably claims to be "fair and balanced."
As far as "challenging" readers, I've had plenty of independents who've emailed me and thanked me for what I've written.
I have no real interest in reaching out to the brain-washed Rush Limbaugh crowd. These Kool-Aid drinking folks about beyond help. You'd have as much success in talking reason to a member of Jim Jones' cult.

Anonymous said...

You guys are funny! Even better than MSNBC. I know I'm just a racist, hate women or whatever you want to call people who disagree with you. Anything to avoid the facts and misdirect attention to avoid the issues.You all should open for Lewis Black.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Anon, well now that you mention it....a lot of the Rush-listening, Fox-viewing "Conservatives" I know are actually racist bigots. They just don't know it. They're so wrapped up in feeling sorry for themselves that they have no empathy for other people. They're convinced that white males are the real oppressed in today's America. Now THAT's funny.