Tune into any of the major cable news networks (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC) and chances are you'll see someone screaming the following into your living room:
"The Republicans suck, they're evil"
"Democrats are baby killers and worship the devil, they're evil"
"President Obama is a deep state operative"
"President Trump drinks 12 cans of Diet Coke a day"
What the fu**? Who drinks 12 cans of diet coke a day? And why is this on the news? Tune into these cable networks and it's hard to figure out what's true, what's not, what's fact, what's fiction. It's no secret that the media drives public perception in this country. But at what point do these news networks have an obligation to provide fact based reporting and broadcasting?
Our hyper partisan society is driven by our hyper partisan politics which has resulted in these news networks becoming partisan on steroids. President Trump constantly rails on the media, calling them out as fake news, especially those networks that are critical of him and his administration. Is it fake news? Is he right? Partially, he is.
Who are the major players in Cable News in the United States?
CNN, which is short for Cable News Network, was the first 24 hour television news channel in the United States. It launched on June 1, 1980. It was founded by Ted Turner, one of the most famous American media tycoons in history. At one point or another, Turner was the founder/owner of TBS, TNT, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the Atlanta Braves. In the United States, CNN mostly broadcasts from its studios in New York, Washington DC and Atlanta.
Some of the more well known CNN anchors/reporters include Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Chris Cuomo, John King, Don Lemon, Fareed Zakaria, Brian Stelter and Dana Bash.
MSNBC which is currently owned by Comcast was founded on July 15, 1996. Originally, the network was a partnership between General Electric (which was owned by NBC at the time) and Microsoft. Microsoft divested itself from MSNBC in 2005. Some of the more famous anchors on MSNBC, past and present, are Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Chuck Todd, Chris Hayes, Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Joy Reid, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ali Veshi and Brian Williams.
You'll read a lot more about Fox News in this article because to be frank, their history has a lot more juice to it.
The king of cable news in terms of ratings, Fox News, was launched on October 7, 1996. It was founded by Australian media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. Thinking that the established news networks were liberal leaning, Murdoch wanted to create a conservative news network. In addition to Fox News, Murdoch and his family own more media and entertainment entities than you can imagine.
Who is Roger Ailes?
To create the behemoth force that Fox News is today, Murdoch hired Roger Ailes in 1996 to help launch and create programming for Fox News. Born in Warren, Ohio in 1940, Ailes was a media consultant for several Republican Presidents (Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagon and George H.W Bush). In the early 90's Ailes helped a then struggling CNBC turn around. Under his guidance, CNBC tripled their revenues and doubled their value.
Roger was a mastermind in understanding the power of media and what draws audiences. The typical broadcast journalism where news was to be fair and balanced didn't draw higher ratings. What did draw ratings were outlandish and extreme points of views. Ailes tapped into the fears of conservative America and lit a fuse to issues they saw happening in a changing America. His vision for Fox News was no doubt bold. But what came out of it was the birth of the hyper partisan news networks we see today.
In July of 2016, Ailes resigned from Fox News after several women who work or worked at Fox News accused Ailes of sexual harassment. Ailes had used his power as Fox News CEO to threaten these women. Some of the more prominent women to come forward were Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson. Roger Ailes died on May 18. 2017 after falling in his home in Florida.
Who are some of the more outspoken Fox News hosts?
Fox News has no shortage of on air personalities who have extreme views that rile up the right. You can't talk about Fox News and not mention Sean Hannity. Hannity joined the network in 1996 and currently hosts his own show at 9 o clock on Fox News.
Hannity is known for his staunch right wing views. A hardcore Donald Trump supporter, Hannity has found himself in the middle of more than several controversies. Sean helped peddle the Birther Movement, the racist notion that former President, Barack Obama, was not born in the United States. He helped promote the Seth Rich conspiracy. Back in 2017, Seth Rich was killed in a mugging in Washington DC. Hannity used his show to promote the conspiracy that Hillary Clinton and the DNC had Seth killed. It was after Seth Rich's parents begged him to stop talking about it that Hannity apologized and stopped speaking on the matter. During the debate of the Affordable Care Act, Hannity promoted the idea that "Death Panels" were going to decide who lives and who dies in the United States.
Here'a a clip of Sean Hannity and well known reporter and anchor Ted Koppel where Koppel explains why Sean is bad for America. It's highly suggested you watch this clip.
Next up, you have Tucker Carlson who was a personality on CNN and MSNBC before going over to Fox News. Over the years, Carlson has peddled his anti-immigrant views and his belief White Supremacy is a hoax.
More recently, Tucker has railed on Dr. Fauci because he has approached the coronavirus issue with data and caution rather than meaningless hope.
You have shown some examples of the right wing hosts presenting outlandish points of views. What about left wing hosts and networks? Do they not promote fake news?
Though Fox News has taken the prize in over the top points of views and stripped the news of any sort of fairness and balance, CNN and MSNBC have lost a lot of their journalistic characteristics as well. These are just some examples of the dozens of stories from CNN or MSNBC that turned out to be false or deceptive.
During the Russian Collusion fiasco, CNN and MSNBC reported in December of 2017 Donald Trump Jr. received advanced notice of the Wikileaks emails of Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta during the 2016 Presidential Election. This would be a smoking gun to connect the Russians and Wikileaks to the Trump campaign. Turns out that reporting was incorrect.
In August of 2019, Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC claimed to have a source who could confirm President Trump had loans with Deutsche Bank that were co-signed by Russian oligarchs. One day later, O'Donnell apologized for incorrect reporting and "not adhering to professional standards".
Just recently, Chuck Todd of MSNBC apologized for editing a clip of Attorney General William Barr. The clip cut short the full context of Barr's comments on the DOJ dropping the case of General Michael Flynn. The edited clip seemed to show Barr dropping the case as a political favor rather than upholding the rule of law. The very next sentence of Barr's comments which were edited out was Barr stating "But I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law".
The gaffes by these networks numb the public to actual issues that should be investigated and cared about. With constant errors or deceptive tactics that are revealed, the pubic grows skeptical of stories that are reported from these networks.
SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!!!
The hijacking of cable news into partisan wars can be attributed to one thing. MONEY!!
Revenues and profits of cable news networks have skyrocketed in the last several decades. Just like every other corporation, these cable news networks have 1 goal in mind and that's to make money. Of course there are journalists at every one of these networks who value balanced and fair reporting but the executives are looking at their bottom line and these hyper partisan news perspectives have drawn in a larger audience. With larger audiences comes in fatter checks from advertisements. When President Trump claims he's making these networks millions of dollars, he's not lying. The numbers below are in billions.
Do these networks have news shows and opinion shows?
Yes, they do. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson on Fox News; Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes on MSNBC; and Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon on CNN are considered opinion shows but they play dangerously close in disguising themselves as news. Millions of viewers tune in every night to these shows thinking what they're watching is factual and vetted with journalistic standards. When pressed on this (as Sean Hannity was in that Ted Koppel clip above), these commentators say they believe Americans know the difference between opinions and news.
Get your news from different sources and perspectives
The broadcast you watch will impact the way you think about certain topics. For example, from 2017 to 2018, the chart below shows what word was most associated with "gun" from the 3 major networks. What it shows is the message these networks are trying to convey. For Fox News, they want their viewers to think their guns are going to be taken away with gun control legislation.
How the partisan news is now spilling over into life and death in our everyday lives
The coronavirus has impacted life like no other event in recent memory. However, an issue that should be bi-partisan has turned into one of the most polarizing topics ever. Depending on what network you watch, you think either the world is ending or it's a hoax. It's absolutely insane that wearing a mask in public during a public health crisis has turned into this fight between liberals and conservatives. If you support wearing masks, you're a hardcore liberal. If you don't support wearing masks, you're a right wing nut job. This should not be a debate and news networks should feel an obligation to treat this pandemic as a non partisan issue. It does not help when the current administration and other politicians feed into this unnecessary frenzy.
Is President Trump justified when he shouts "Fake News"?
In a way, he is. There have been more than a dozen times, stories have been reported that turned out to be not vetted and false. In addition, there have been accomplishments that have not received the attention that they should have (The First Step Act, ISIS largely becoming ineffective in the Middle East, re-shaping the NAFTA deal).
But let's not get this twisted, the President has retweeted and peddled fake news himself. The constant lies that spews from his mouth and tweets has thrown gasoline on our media. Truth is no longer needed. Facts are not needed. Opinions, insults, anger is what grabs our attention now.
The press is important. Journalists are important. They hold our public officials accountable. They are the intermediary of the people and the government. Without a free press and media, our democracy will crumble.
You talk a lot, what now?
Studies show a persons choice in a cable news network is based on their political persuasion and that choice only reinforces what they believe without ever seeing the other perspective. Moral of the story, get your news from different perspectives and understand the viewpoint you are receiving is biased.
Oh and wear a face mask in public, it's NOT a partisan issue.