One of the more pompous predictions of the former guy (Donald Trump) was that without him “all forms of media will tank.” Although there is some truth to that in the sense that he attracted eyeballs in the same way that a bloody highway crash does. He insisted on constantly being the center of attention even if that meant making a fool of himself, which he did more often than not.
However, what Trump failed to predict was the rise of progressive media and particularly MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Her performance has been a bright light in a media environment that has been shrouded by a global pandemic. During the first quarter of 2021, Maddow rose to become the number one cable news program, beating her competition on the prior leader, Fox News. For part of the quarter Maddow was the number one program on all of cable, not just cable news. She marked that milestone on March 3rd:
We are extremely appreciative of everyone who watches and supports this show and this network. We will keep doing our best to be worthy of your time and your trust. pic.twitter.com/YTUuHOSAeC
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) March 3, 2021
During the quarter Fox News was the biggest loser, having dropped 40 percent into third place behind both MSNBC and CNN. By comparison CNN was off 32 Percent, and MSNBC fell only 19 percent. It isn’t surprising that viewership was down this year. It was being compared to an unusually eventful prior year that was bombarded with profoundly significant developments like the pandemic, the second impeachment, and the presidential election.
This year by contrast has been languid, in the most pleasant way. President Biden has sought to make his policies the story, rather than himself. The ponderous presence of a psychotic narcissist has been banished from Washington, although it still emits it’s pitiful, emasculated roars from its new lair in Palm Beach. This sea change is a big plus for journalism. As Tom Jones at the Poynter Institute noted…
“Now, for the most part, Trump can be ignored. Which means stories that really matter can be covered. Maybe it won’t draw the audience we’ve seen in the past, but it will be important.”
The standings in the ratings are likely to be volatile in the coming months, Fox News may regain its leading post when viewers who abandoned it for more radical pastures (Newsmax, OANN) return. They may find those other outlets tiresome, specious, and devoid of substance. And Trump isn’t around to promote them anymore.
Fox’s CEO, Lachlan Murdoch, is confidant that Fox News ratings will increase because its viewers will appreciate Fox’s unethical commitment to right-wing propaganda. Murdoch recently admitted that Fox’s role is to be “the opposition” to Biden and the Democrats, saying “That’s what our job is now with the Biden administration, and you’ll see our ratings really improve from here.”
Maybe. But the fact that MSNBC and Rachel Maddow prevailed during one of the most competitive seasons in modern times is evidence that many viewers hunger for honest and informative reporting. Fox’s approach to journalism as an ultra-conservative confirmation bias generator can only succeed on a temporary basis. And its reporting will have no lasting impact anywhere other than in the minds of the indoctrinated wingnuttery.
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How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.