Now I don’t generally check out anything from Yahoo!, but today I came across this study. Essentially the study says that CNN’s “factual reporting” to “commentary” ratio was becoming more and more equal. The study, performed by the Pew Research Center, found after watching hundreds of hours of weekly programming from 2007 to 2012 that CNN’s programming had become 54% factual report and 46% commentary. The study also reported that Fox News was the opposite at 46% factual reporting and 54% commentary while MSNBC (even without Keith Olbermann) had an absurd 15% factual reporting and 85% commentary. Now I know that MSNBC love love loves to be the super liberal arch-nemesis to Fox News, but seriously? I’ve watched a fair amount of Fox and MSNBC and I’m not sure where Fox is taking the time to fit in all their “factual reporting.”
The distinction should be made that this report is solely for cable channels. Shows like NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, 60 Minutes, etc. are not included in this study.
Mini-Fox-rants aside, I think this study is essentially telling us what we already know. Cable broadcast journalism is headed down a slippery and stupid slope. I understand why our journalism is headed in this direction; it’s the same reason yellow journalism flourished during the Spanish-American War around 1900, money. Commentary is cheaper and draws in viewers. As the report said, interviews and talking head speculating is considerably less expensive than sending reporters into the field. Only the biggest and best news sources can even afford foreign bureaus, what used to be a common and encouraged practice, and still those are closing more and more frequently. It is because of the costs to not only send reporters overseas but to keep them safe and provide equipment can be staggering. The same could be said of covering live events where you have to get a crew there, set up, and broadcast live.
According to the piece, polarization is the other piece of the puzzle. This, sadly, makes all too much sense as well. People want to hear what they believe, not be challenged to consider another point of view, even if that other point is the most objective. You think my grandma watches Fox because it’s honest? No, she watches it to hear what she thinks is right (No word on whether she thinks Bill O’Reilly is dapper or not). If I had a liberal grandparent I’m sure they’d do the same with MSNBC.
Polarization is nothing new, if you look back through the history of journalism, major newspapers would openly endorse political candidates. Go watch Citizen Kane, that’s seriously half the plot right there and it’s all based off William Randolph Hearst, a media and newspaper magnate who (surprise) started yellow journalism.
The thing that bothers me most is the ever-shifting nature of CNN. CNN is supposed to be the main objective broadcast news organization-nonpartisan and straightforward. Sure it’s been called the “Communist News Network,” but I cannot say growing up I ever sensed an overt liberalism from it. Anderson Cooper? Sure, but not the network as a whole, though let’s be real, who doesn’t love that silver fox? I’m well aware that for those who want a more honest brand of journalism there are outlets like the BBC, Al Jazeera, and more blogs than I can count, but those are beside the point.
The American population needs an easily accessible broadcast station that gives us the facts in a timely but well reported and nonpartisan fashion. Sure, that company may slip up and not read the second page of a landmark Supreme Court decision before reporting, but CNN has the potential to do truly great journalism on the American Broadcasting front. The 24-hour news cycle is a bitch and honestly what killed broadcast journalism, but if CNN would stop wasting money on holograms and talk shows, I think it could do some really great work and better educate the average white/blue collar American. I don’t think there are many people out there who get home from a full day of work and feel particularly inclined to scour the Internet for “objective news.” If they’re going to be properly informed citizens, they will need an honest broadcast news service. So come on CNN, get it together, America needs you to step up and do your job.
Edit: For the record, I love you CNN and MSNBC. I don’t mean to burn non-existent bridges but rather to encourage your companies to put emphasis on journalistic integrity rather than ratings. Much Love.