The FOX News – MSNBC Taste Test : Conclusions

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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141 Responses

  1. Tom Van Dyke says:

    And the truth is that grouping Maddow’s commentary with Shultz’s or O’Donnell’s is a huge stretch. Shultz and O’Donnell’s Romney rants seem more akin to the FOX anti-Obama screeds, politics aside…

    Grouping Schultz and O’Donnell with anyone on Fox is a bigger stretch. They have no equals.

    I’d like more info on Rep. Peter King’s [and therefore for some reason, Hannity’s] “slander” on the Dr. Shakil Afridi affair. King’s charge is straightforward, that the Obama admin mentioning DNA collections put the finger on Afridi; the Obama admin disputes and denies the charge. However, it does not appear to be a closed issue either way as of yet.

    And BTW, a close inspection of Greta van Susteren’s work will show a praiseworthy even-handedness. She was a defender of Bill Clinton during his impeachment, and although her subjects and subject matter lean right, her actual work reveals nothing to believe that she’s still not a Democrat to this day. She does not advocate, and she does not leave statements unchallenged. Her work is every bit the equal of Maddow’s and indeed far less partisan.

    And her ratings are better, too.Report

    • Herb in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      There may be no equals over at Fox, but there was certainly inspiration. Schultz/O’Donnell are basically counter-programming.Report

    • gyrfalcon in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      Greta van Susteren’s work “shows a praiseworthy even-handedness”? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

      GVS has morphed over the last several years into a cheap partisan hack. The fact that she only delivers screeching right-wing tirades once or twice a show instead of all the way through the hour doesn’t make her nonpartisan. It’s all-GOP all the time. It’s particularly amusing when she plays naif and asks some right-wing politician what Obama’s motivation is for destroying the economy.

      Give. Me. A. Break.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      TVD –

      “I’d like more info on Rep. Peter King’s [and therefore for some reason, Hannity’s] “slander” on the Dr. Shakil Afridi affair. King’s charge is straightforward, that the Obama admin mentioning DNA collections put the finger on Afridi; the Obama admin disputes and denies the charge. However, it does not appear to be a closed issue either way as of yet.”

      Two things: As to why (since you seem to not understand) I might be critical of Hannity, it is because he reported a non-event as having been a proven fact. Also, there was no mention of DNA testing at all – his (and Rumsfeld’s) charge was that Afridi’s name had been purposefully leaked. Also, I am not sure why you view this an “open” story. The “upper level official” who initially “leaked” the leak to FOX is now known to be King, who has since admitted he hasn’t actually been given any data that says a leak occurred; rather it seems to be the kind of thing he believes this administration would do. At the very least FOX should report this as an unsubstantiated claim by a GOP Congressperson until something additional comes to light. If at a later date facts come to light that suggest such a crime was actually committed by the White House, you can report on those facts then. Until such time, to report King’s musings as a confirmed fact is sloppy and cynical propaganda – period.

      “And BTW, a close inspection of Greta van Susteren’s work will show a praiseworthy even-handedness. She was a defender of Bill Clinton during his impeachment, and although her subjects and subject matter lean right, her actual work reveals nothing to believe that she’s still not a Democrat to this day. She does not advocate, and she does not leave statements unchallenged. Her work is every bit the equal of Maddow’s and indeed far less partisan.”

      I am not a regular watcher of van Susteren, so all I can go on is her episode from May 31st. However, to whatever degree that episode is indicative of her current work, then to that same degree the assumption that she is a Democrat that challenges her guests’ wild accusations is bullshit.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        As I said a few times elsewhere, it’d be interesting to see folks of other stripes conduct the same experience, ideally with the same episodes. That would be much more productive than armchair shrinking an exercise in Monday morning quarterbacking.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I understand you fine, Tod. Without direct quotes, your charges are just assertions. Even if they were phrased the way you say, that is parsing: the core issue of the Obama admin’s responsibility for Afridi’s unveiling remains, an issue that remains unresolved.

        Therefore, without proof on your part, accusing Fox of slander is itself a slander.

        If you understand.


        • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Is my commenting about Ed Schultz slander, Tom? Or does that train only go one way?


          • Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            Isn’t it libel? Or do comments count as speech rather than press?Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I don’t think you’re understanding the point, Tod. 😉

            Calling O’Reilly [for instance] a blowhard is like saying the sky is blue. Calling him a liar is something else.Report

            • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              Then I am calling him, and the rest, something else.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Exactly, Tod. Again, my objection is formal. Without direct quotes, assessing your charges is impossible. Further, there’s no way you [and we] can know right now whether Rep. King’s accusation is true or not.

                I trust you’re aware that the White House leak situation is a big issue right now, and getting bigger? Even those who don’t watch Fox News are becoming aware.


                CNN, the FBI…Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                You know that article doesn’t say what you think it says, right? It makes no mention of the leaks regarding the spy.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Kazzy says:

                No, this is definitive proof that even the Lamestream Biased Socialist Left-Wing Media is aware of what a Crooked Chicago Politician Barry Sowerto truly is.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m showing you the ocean, you’re niggling about the stream.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                No, Tom. You’re changing the topic. We were talking about mountains. You’re talking about oceans.Report

              • Kazzy, you skipped over my original formal objection that there’s no way to know whether King’s charge is true or false at this time, and therefore cannot be called “slander” by anyone who purports to be any resembling a trustworthily neutral observer.

                If you’re going to attack what I write, you’re obliged to attack it in toto, not tear off the smaller pieces that you are able to chew.


              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Should Hannity be reporting things as true if there is no way to know if they are true or false?Report

              • Without direct quotes, Kazzy, you and I are discussing ether, the lack of direct quoting being another of my formal objections, as you recall. We don’t know what Hannity said.

                You do recall the Lewinsky affair, however, yes? Until the blue dress, the affair was only an allegation. The existence of an allegation is reported all the time, esp one side alleging something about the other. The making of an allegation is news in itself.

                “DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz accused Mitt Romney of blowing dogs in 1972, the Associated Press reports…”

                Ed Schultz could read that with a straight face [and would], and be responsible only for the truth of whether the AP reported that, not that DWS said it, or of course whether or not Mitt blew the aforementioned dogs.

                Likewise, if Hannity “reported” that Rep. King charged the Obama admin with leaking info that helped arrest and/or convict Dr. Afridi, that’s entirely kosher. If he further opined that he believed it, he’s an opinionator, not presented as a formal newsman like NBC/MSNBC’s David Shuster or Fox’ Bret Baier.


                You realize we’re arguing formally here, right? The rules of evidence, the rules of journalism, etc. And applying them to the OP as they are applied to Fox and MSNBC.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Likewise, if Hannity “reported” that Rep. King charged the Obama admin with leaking info that helped arrest and/or convict Dr. Afridi, that’s entirely kosher.”

                He did not. Nor did he ever say it was something he believed. He simply said that it happened.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I take Tod at his word. You don’t. Who is the gentleman?Report

              • Honest men can misremember or mishear, Kazzy, esp when there is an admitted animus against the speaker, an animus that is both palpable here, and admitted by Mr. Kelly previously, that he’s more turned off by movement conservatism than by it’s left counterpart.

                No aspersion on Mr. Kelly’s honesty was intended. Direct quote are not only best, there is no replacement for them. As we see below.

                To the issue, past the parsing of the words of Hannity and Rumsfeld, is the substance of the issue—the administration’s critics hold that NO details of the bin Laden hit should have been revealed, down the name of Seal Team Six.

                Without context [and direct quotes], there is no substance, only some “formal” argument to be looked at.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                You only seem interested in “formal” arguments when it is your team in the crosshairs.Report

              • Ad hom again, Kazzy. It always comes down to the same misery. And you wonder why I ignore certain people. I’ve seen the movie before and the ending is always the same.

                Since you seldom see me in a milieu where it’s the conservatives talking out their ass, don’t assume you know me. I’m a Libra; I’m the Pi Man.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Tom, you’re kind of being a troll. This “yes, everything you say about the other guy is right on, but you can’t criticize my guy, and if you are you must be making things up!” is tiring.

                Look, the whole point of this exercise was to live-blog and record my reactions, not to get a transcript. But hey, here you go – even knowing that as I post these “direct quotes” you swear you need you’ll just jump to excuse B for why any criticism of FOX is undue:

                HANNITY: What should the president do to protect this guy, putting aside that it was leaked, what should he do now?

                RUMSFELD: Let me even go back a step. Why would anyone help us if somebody leaks the name and the fact that somebody might have helped us. Why would anybody in our government leak information that suggests that a foreign national is giving us assistance? It is putting them and their families in jeopardy. It is outrageous, it is inexcusable for us to be mismanaging information in that way… it was leaked. I just think it is so terrible that people who step up and give us a hand, then are put in jeopardy because it will keep people from doing that.

                HANNITY: I agree with you….

                (italics not mine, bolding mine)Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                awww… good old rummy. an idiot, but a useful idiot.
                I wonder if he ever got his phone line fixed?Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Tod, you should have bolded “if,” which supports my point completely.

                You had a better case with Hannity’s “putting aside that it was leaked.” Charitably, we could credit him with having meant “whether it was leaked,” which if he were writing and not speaking extemporaneously, I believe he would do—if only out of self-preservation.

                As for the “trolling” bit, my formal objections are valid. It’s the gentlepersons of the left who keep disputing that—or failing to know what a “formal” objection even is—and obliging me to defend my point and integrity what can only be seen as counterattacks rather than defenses of your original post.

                As is my custom, Tod, I don’t insist. Had there been no response to my original objection at comment #1, I’d have let it go with that, my piece said.

                Your irritation is quite misdirected. The trolling is not coming from me, but those who attack anything and anyone to the right of, well, Rachel Maddow.Report

              • Man, you don’t just move the goalposts. You nuke the goalposts and build a different set a few towns over.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Rumfels says, “It was leaked.”
                Hannity says, “I agree with you.”
                Tom says, “We can only deal with direct quotes.”
                Tom says, “I’m sure Hannity would have written this had he been writing so I will presume that is what he meant in the direct quote there.”
                [Kazzy’s head explodes]Report

              • You should at least thank me for helping you with your case. And the goalposts are where they have always been, Ryan.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                And, after you bold “if”, put

                It is outrageous, it is inexcusable for us to be mismanaging information in that way… it was leaked.

                in 72-point blinking red.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Truth is a defense in these things, you know. The point holds even on the level of revealing Seal team Six.

                And mind you, my formal objection was that we didn’t know what was in the direct quote—had it been in the OP we wouldn’t have wasted so much time speculating.

                But since we don’t know the truth of the matter of the leaking, it’s not a “slander” at this time, any more than opining on the Lewinsky matter was a slander before it was established as fact with the infamous Blue Dress.

                I’m hope this clears that part up. I meself have no opinion on whether the administration helped screw our own operative, Dr. Afridi. I don’t know. But along with the ocean of other leaks about to be litigated, I think it’s quite possible.

                You are aware of the coming spitstorm over national security leaks, yes? Nothing here @ LoOG yet, but I’m often first to the post with tomorrow’s news today. gently, in the comments sections. I’m sure you’ve noticed.



              • James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Tom, you’re kind of being a troll.

                Tod wins the World Wide Webz Award for Understatement of the Year.Report

              • Ah, the last little dagger. Now my day is complete.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Denial ain’t a river in Egypt, baby! Glad I could complete your day–time for me to have a beer on my back porch and not think any more about you.Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Man that’s clever. The “no one ever said what you say they said” dodge.

          And then when he provides quotes, there’s the inevitable “you’re taking his words out of context” dodge.

          And then when context is supplied, there’s the “but that wasn’t the context atall” dodge.

          And then the dispute about whether Hannity made unsubstantiated accusations about matters of fact devolves to a dispute about intentions: the “Hannity wasn’t asserting anything but only asking a question” dodge. Which is a killer. No doubt.Report

          • Perhaps the examples were out of context, Mr. Stillwater. If you’re going to dog me, pls use facts instead of innuendo. You have said absolutely nothing of substance here; you have however, flung poo poo.Report

  2. DensityDuck says:

    I haven’t read the other comment threads; did anyone point out O’Rourke’s “smart versus stupid” experiment where he compared the NYT Review Of Books to an evening watching CBS?Report

  3. “MSNBC talks about FOX all the time. I mean, constantly. … Sean Hannity’s most outrageous disinformation campaign was actually worse. … Worse, he reported this with an ex-Secretary of Defense and White House Chief of Staff. … Whereas FOX’s shows have the appearance of a concerted and strategized effort, the hosts of MSNBC are all over the map.”

    These are related, are they not? MSNBC attacks the GOP; Fox is part of the GOP in a way that MSNBC is not a part of the Democratic Party.

    As to every day being the most importantest ever in the history of journalism, have you ever read Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death? Postman argued that the point of discussion on TV isn’t to be rational, it’s to be entertaining. The TV news, he wrote, is presented as exciting (with pleasant banter and exciting intro music), and isn’t capable of hosting reasoned discussion. In real life, if you’re really trying to figure out a tough question, you’re going to have to stop and think and ask questions. You can’t do that on television. And, because television is presented as the model for all discourse, Postman feared that Americans tend to think of TV-style assertive, doubt-free insistence as the proper way to discuss, and think about, all issues.

    That was true to an extent when he wrote it almost 30 years ago; it seems to me that it’s even more so today.

    It’s not just that you have to define your policies in a sloganeering manner– it’s that sloganeering entirely displaces policymaking and rational argumentation, even or especially among political elites. It’s no accident that one of the angry young GOP freshmen got his start on an MTV reality TV show. It’s the same skill set.Report

    • Unless there’s a direct money link between the GOP and Fox, I think that this small data set shows (rather suggests since show is pretty strong for the amount of data we have) that both MSNBC and Fox News are more or less just propaganda machines for their respective “team” either blue or red.

      Fox could spent more time shouting about the crap on MSNBC or it could attack the Demo’s directly. It goes right at the Demo’s while MSNBC having the same choice opts to split it’s attention. I think the “Hey… didn’t you used to date?” analogy is pretty spot on.

      And awesome reading.

      And really quite common with many sport franchises.Report

  4. Rose Woodhouse says:

    I agree that Rachel Maddow is the only watchable figure on cable news, with a possible Anderson Cooper exception. And I just find him personally appealing, not a super journalist. Isn’t there a market for a non-dumbed down news analysis show that isn’t PBS?

    Just reading about this, and the gender selection story (about which I hadn’t heard), made me utterly relieved I no longer follow politics so closely.Report

    • John Stewart.

      I’d say Colbert but he’s more of a clown joking about “the Right” than he is anything resembling informative or commentary.Report

      • Ryan Noonan in reply to A Teacher says:

        Colbert has the distinct advantage, however, of being hilarious. Jon Stewart’s smugness drives me up a wall.Report

        • MikeSchilling in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          Maybe it’s me, but I watch Colbert and think “You’ve been making that same joke the whole show. And yesterday, and the day before that, and for years before that. Honestly, Steve Martin mined out the ‘Look at me, I’m a big jerk’ lode decades ago.”Report

          • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

            I get a weird vibe from Colbert. It’s like he’s making fun of the people who think that he’s making fun of Conservativism. Or some weird attacking of the so-called “conservatives” from the pretend Right but using actual Conservative principles behind it… like mocking Republicans for fiscal profligacy with the intent not of merely mocking Conservatives but actually telling them to be more fiscally conservative.

            If you know what I mean.

            I’ve been wondering this since the 2006 Press Corps dinner, actually.Report

    • LauraNo in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

      Chris Hayes has 2 hours Saturday and Sunday and Melissa Harris-Perry follow with 2 more hours. There are panel discussions and such. Not every story is going to interest everyone but I find most of the topics covered interesting.Report

  5. Creon Critic says:

    Two comments. First I don’t think the extent of the disaster that is the US cable news landscape becomes fully apparent until one watches the BBC News Channel. Actual acts of journalism are committed on BBC News. All. The. Time. I believe the British tabloids are the lowest of the low, but it appears that in the US our tabloids have TV channels.

    Second, on the MSNBC vs. Fox mentioning or not mentioning each other. I wonder if that has something to do with how well the networks follow the instructions of corporate parents three years on.

    At an off-the-record summit meeting for chief executives sponsored by Microsoft in mid-May, the PBS interviewer Charlie Rose asked Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of G.E., and his counterpart at the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, about the feud.

    Both moguls expressed regret over the venomous culture between the networks and the increasingly personal nature of the barbs. Days later, even though the feud had increased the audience of both programs, their lieutenants arranged a cease-fire, according to four people who work at the companies and have direct knowledge of the deal.

    In early June [2009], the combat stopped, and MSNBC and Fox, for the most part, found other targets for their verbal missiles (Hello, CNN).

    Maybe Fox networks are particularly obedient?Report

    • Levi John Wolf in reply to Creon Critic says:

      You’re spot on about the American cable networks being analogous to British tabloids. I came to this realization recently, too.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Creon Critic says:

      CNN International is worthwhile, too. Not the CNN we get in the U.S., but the CNN the rest of the world gets.Report

      • I second this. Every time I’ve been abroad, I am utterly astounded at the difference in quality between CNN International and CNN USA. This tells me that the problem isn’t that cable news is incapable of producing quality, but rather that there is something inherent in (and relatively unique to) our culture that seems to demand crappy excuses for journalism.Report

        • karl in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          Really? I find most of CNN Int. just as loud and bloated as the domestic version (headline segments excepted), the BBC is about the same (at least the BBC I get on the Continent). The best source for straight reporting overseas tends to be … wait for it… Al Jazeera. If you’re lucky, however, you can catch good shows on each network throughout the day — you just never know when.Report

  6. Mike Dwyer says:

    Reflectionephemeral makes a good point above:

    “MSNBC attacks the GOP; Fox is part of the GOP in a way that MSNBC is not a part of the Democratic Party.”

    I think is basically true. While both stations are critical of the other side of the aisle, Fox also actively roots for the GOP whereas MSNBC seems to endorse the Democrats more through their silence (with the exception of Chris Matthews who is still smitten with the Kennedys).

    My quick assesment of both stations is this:


    – Hotter chicks
    – No other positive qualities


    Morning Joe is straight awesome.
    – Rachel Maddow is clearly a liberal but she is fair and she slams Democrats almost as much as Republicans
    – It makes me just a little sad that Maddow glams up for her show when she is actually a fairly butch lesbian
    – Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell are the Evil Trinity of partisan punditry. I actively root for them to be fired en masse.Report

  7. Mike Dwyer says:

    Also, great series Tod. I have really enjoyed these posts.Report

  8. Roger says:

    Awesome, awesome job, Tod. This series may be my favorite ever on the League.

    As a suggestion, have you considered next investigating the journalistic bias (if any) of the news divisions of CNN, Fox and the networks?


    • Tod Kelly in reply to Roger says:

      “As a suggestion, have you considered next investigating the journalistic bias (if any) of the news divisions of CNN, Fox and the networks?”

      Right now I am feeling like I have earned the right to never watch cable TV news ever again.

      And thanks!Report

      • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Is there a unit for cable news exposure? Something like rads for radiation?

        Te real question is what is a safe level and how long does one need to wait after exposure before it is safe to watch again.Report

  9. DavidTC says:

    There’s a reason that the only cable news I watch at all is Maddow.

    I have, on occassion, watched others on MSNBC for five minutes or so, until they started sprouting random imaginary theories about what’s going on. Which is still better than Fox, which seems to be flagrantly lying every time I happen to watch them.

    The only ‘theories’ on Maddow show are ones she can back up with actual documentation. When she stands there and says that Gov. Walker is trying to destroy unions, she’ll back that up by a clip of him talking about exactly that. (Well, she also has funny theories, like her theory that ‘John Boehner is bad at his job’ because he appears unable to count votes needed for stuff.)

    Look, there’s a difference between news and opinion, I know that. But there’s also a different between an _opinion_ about the news, which Maddow clearly has, and wild-ass conspiracy theories about the news, which everyone else at MSNBC and half the people at Fox do. (And by ‘half’, I mean the other half of Fox are doing wild-ass conspiracy theories about _falsehoods_ or other conspiracy theories.)

    An opinion about the news is when Maddow (To use the example above) lays out what organizations donate to which politicians, and connects that with the anti-union things the right has done recent, and points out that reducing union membership will cripple fundraising on the left. That, although everyone else has forgotten it, is a hypothetical, it is not actually ‘news’, it is an opinion about news. I am not criticizing Maddow, the point of her shows is to give opinions about news.

    Everyone else, however, seems to start with the opinion as a base, and then have opinions as if the base is true. Or invent conspiracy theories and then have opinions about them. Or have opinions about other people’s opinions. And then treat _those_ opinions as if they are true, and have opinions about them. And then the ‘news’ half of the cable news starts reporting on opinions as if they’re news, allowing yet more opinionating about imaginary stuff.

    Nothing on cable besides Maddow appears to be ‘events that actually happened, and my somewhat political thoughts on those actual real events’.

    I wonder if this is helped much by Maddow’s tendency to not have guests, or only have one at a time and just let them talk. The thing about multiple guests is that then you can give your opinion on their opinion, and vis versa, and the parts you agree on are now ‘true’ and you can talk about your opinion on that ‘true thing that everyone agrees on’.Report

    • Michelle in reply to DavidTC says:

      Maddow has a D.Phil in political science from Oxford. She’s not your typical talk radio shill–she still seems to hold fast to the notion that facts actually matter and that backing up your opinion with actual facts is important. That it seems refreshing in this day and age is a sad commentary on our media culture.

      Folks like O’Reilly, Hannity, Schultz, and the like are in the business of produce outraging–facts be damned.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Michelle says:

        “Liberal, Lesbian, Activist on Fox News? Meet Sally Kohn” By Nicole Rodgers

        SK: I think the network as a whole is much more complicated. Fox has the highest percentage of independent viewers, yet I find that a lot of liberals who criticize Fox have never watched the station. Or they’ve only seen clips of O’Reilly or Hannity, which are very explicitly sold as opinion shows and thus are the extreme examples of slant at Fox. The dayside programming, for instance, is more varied and news focused than I realized before I’d ever really tuned in. From Bret Baeir to Shepard Smith to Megyn Kelly, a lot of progressives might be impressed if they really tuned in and saw the hard-hitting and insightful reporting.

        Look, I chose to go to Fox because I thought I could make a difference there. So by definition, I think making that difference is needed. Every time I see a pundit on Fox say something anti-gay or fan implicit racial bias or slander Occupy protesters as unwashed communists, it makes my skin crawl. But I sure prefer being able to respond directly rather than just screaming at my TV. And ultimately, I’m grateful Roger Ailes is making an investment in my career when he could just put a weak, unpersuasive liberal on TV instead of me.Report

        • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Person who gets paid by Fox News doesn’t think Fox News is bad as people say? Wow!Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Yes, but Fox does something that is problematic that other networks don’t. Basically I have three problems with Fox, two of which are problems with all cable news channels, and one of just of Fox:

          1) First, for all new shows: Opinions of other people are not generally news, and do not belong on the ‘news’ shows. If it’s the opinion of Romney or Obama, sure, report on it. If it’s the opinion of some random guy, no. If it’s the opinion of someone at your own station, you must never mention it, simply because that’s just a blatantly obvious trick to slip the station’s opinions into news. And in _all_ cases, when reporting on an opinion, should you point out if said opinion is ‘true’ to whatever extent that can be determined.

          2) Second, for all opinion shows: Opinions about opinions, or opinions on crazy theories, or opinions about known falsehoods…have no place even on the _opinion_ shows. The opinion shows are to have opinions on actual facts. Stand there, on the opinion shows only, and tell me what you think, politically, the Wisconsin recall results indicate to for November. Bring in guests to give their POV. And then disagree with the guest as to their opinion, but not the facts. Do not stand there and tell me what nonsensical opinions you’ve managed to pull in off the street, and then give your opinions on the opinions instead of the facts. Do not locate some conspiracy theory and tell me some opinion on that. In fact, do not produce or air conspiracies at all…there’s a difference between ‘conspiracy’ and ‘opinion’.

          3) Thirdly, and this is the one just Fox: When giving your opinion, please make sure the thing they are based on is ‘fact’. This is the major issue for me, much worse on Fox, and it is how falsehoods slip into news via #2 and then #1.

          The process on Fox: Someone says a conspiracy theory based on a lie, and then other people on the opinion shows repeat it (While claiming they don’t entirely believe it, but it’s ‘interesting’ to tell lies like that, isn’t it? I mean, ‘interesting’ to think about.) then the news finds a ‘developing story’ and starts explaining the conspiracy, over and over again, and never even has to issue a correction. (Because they never said it was true, just that people were saying it.)

          The same thing happens on other networks, but without #3 happening anywhere near as much, at least falsehoods aren’t making it to the news, just idiotic opinions.

          I’ve made it my habit of, whenever I sit down somewhere and Fox News is on, usually when I’m eating somewhere, I watch it. (I don’t have cable at my house anymore. Luckily, Maddow is also a podcast.) I watch until either some completely untrue fact shows up, and is not immediately pointed out to be false.

          I don’t think I’ve ever made it until the end of my meal. Now, I have absolutely no idea who anyone is on Fox except O’Reilly, and it’s entirely possible that I’ve only seen the ‘opinion’ shows, especially considering when they air and when I eat. But falsehoods should not be on those either! Opinion shows aren’t just ‘Opinions about random stuff’, they’re ‘Opinions about _news_!’. It’s a _news_ channel.

          Except it’s not. I mean, that network gave a hour to _Glenn Beck_. Yes, they eventually revoked it, but, honest to God, they gave a platform to Glenn Beck, a total nutter, a guy who would create _acrostic_ conspiracy theories.

          Incidentally, speaking of Fox News, I’d really like a justification for the four minute political ad they themselves produced and aired, and then reported on as if it was news. This is such a huge violation of #1 that they don’t even seem aware such a conflict of interest exists. As I said, the mere ‘reporting’ on the opinions of other employees is bogus to start with. (Well, unless you’re calling them out for lying.) Other people seemed to take at as evidence they were as political as they always appeared, but, I, frankly, have rather different issues with their amazing ability to turn ‘opinion’ into ‘something we’re going to pretend is news’.Report

  10. Michelle says:

    Brilliant work Tod. I enjoyed reading this series and am impress by your obviously high pain threshold.Report

  11. Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

    Hey, Tod — you got linked to by Kevin Drum!

    Not sure if you’d endorse his conculusions, but prepare for some traffic!Report

  12. Rufus F. says:

    Good work on this post.

    Since we don’t get it, I’m not a big television watcher, except when I’m in waiting rooms with flatscreens. What I’m generally surprised by when I’m stuck watching CNN (the favorite choice of waiting rooms) are two things: how boring the news stories are and how uncontextualized. None of them ever seem to be about anywhere outside of the US, and the ones inside the US don’t identify what city, state, or region. “Well, here’s a man who found a clever way to fight the IRS…” It’s like a riff on the Onion’s “area man”. To be honest, I’ve not yet seen MSNBC or FOX News.Report

  13. Well, one more for the chorus of “awesome work, Tod.” This was truly fantastic reading.

    It’s good to know that my generally decent impression of Maddow is justified. I don’t really watch cable news except during election returns, but if I did she’s pretty much the only one I’d watch*. I will say that, having watched some MSNBC during said returns, Maddow does seem a bit more smug and snarky when surrounded by the other yahoos.

    * This is a lie. The only one I’d watch would be Anderson Cooper, and for reasons not wholly related to his journalistic excellence.Report

  14. DrFood says:

    You can subscribe to a podcast of Rachel Maddow’s show. That’s what I do–no time for TV watching otherwise. Her shows are worth watching even a few days late (but you get the podcast of each evening’s show the very next morning).Report

  15. Sock Puppet of the Great Satan says:

    I’ll give another plug for Chris Hayes’ morning show on weekends. Because few watch it, he can be very intellectually honest and there’s genuine discussion with his guests. Maddow can be a bit hackish at times, but is mostly good. With a bigger reporting budget she could do great things, but she’s unlikely to get picked up by CNN or the broadcast networks given her overt political leanings.

    O’Donnell was decent at the start of his stint on MSNBC. But now he’s worse than Schulz – unwatchable, even for a partisan like me. I want to be informed, not told how right I am about what fools and scoundrels the other side are.Report

  16. BlaiseP says:

    I used to watch CNN, back when they still were mounting tape as fast at they could get it in from the field. In those days it was fascinating: very little editing, just “We’ve got a transmission from the front, here goes folks!”. The colour bars would appear while the tape cued up and kabang, it would start. Heady times.

    They couldn’t last. The marketing weasels eventually took over as they always do.

    One show remains on my news-ish agenda: Fareed Zakaria on CNN. That’s it. Fareed interviews interesting people but even his commentary gets a little too Friedman-esque for my taste. A good reporter, like a good writer, gives us the story and if it’s any good, lets us make up our own minds.Report

  17. Jeff says:

    Great posts — enjoyed them muchly, and a they’re a good reminder to stay off MSNBC even if I somewhat agree with their politics.


    I was labeling the GOP spokespeople as TPoSoE (“The Party of Stupid or Evil”) and right on track comes this:

    Sean just flat reported something he knew was a falsehood. And not just any falsehood, but the rather slanderous lie that President Obama “leaked” the name of an American operative working in Pakistan so that he would be arrested and, I would assume, tortured.

    followed by TVD (AfTPoSoE) claiming that no evil had been done.

    I thank Tom for making my case for me.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jeff says:

      No, you proved mine, brother. Kids call the game “Telephone,” that in each retelling, some truth is lost. No way Obama was charged with purposefully getting the guy exposed, caught and tortured. The charge is negligence, not malice. The uncharity of your summary is astonishing even for you.Report

      • Turgid Jacobian in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Hannity phrased it as questions and summaries of other people’s statements. So plausible deniability was maintained! TVD is right on style but wrong on substance (I’m shocked, shocked! to find that going on in his comments!)

        SEAN HANNITY, HOST OF “HANNITY”: And tonight, a major scandal threatens the very future of the Obama administration as a senior United States senator is now accusing the White House of leaking classified information. Arizona Senator John McCain says that members of the president’s own staff have leaked sensitive national security secrets to media outlets, now on numerous occasions.


        HANNITY: Well, the kill list in particular, we are going to go to that criterion, who benefits here? It was that the president on a weekly basis was informed of who specifically was on the list and quote, “He made the decision.” So, where else could it possibly have come from, if in fact, it is true?

        from here.Report

        • Thx for the back on the formal objection, and the substance is just fine too, to wit:

          The allegation against the Obama admin is simply that in burnishing its foreign policy/terrorism accomplishments for self-aggrandizing political [election] purposes, it revealed details that compromised national security.

          I saw McCain on Fox, mebbe it was that show where he retold this story:

          “At the Pentagon, top officers fumed at Brennan’s blow-by-blow description of how the SEALs operated; they believed that the former CIA officer had given away operational secrets never shared outside the tribe. (In fact, it appears no real secrets were divulged.) No one was angrier than Mullen himself, who still fumed about that news conference nearly a year later…

          “By Wednesday of that week, Gates went to see Donilon, offering up a barbed assessment of how the White House had handled the aftermath of the raid.

          “‘I have a new strategic communications approach to recommend,’ Gates said in his trademark droll tones, according to an account later provided by his colleagues.

          “What was that, Donilon asked?

          “‘Shut the f@*k up,’ the defense secretary said.”

          -Jake Tapper

          • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            The allegation against the Obama admin is simply that … it revealed details that compromised national security.

            (In fact, it appears no real secrets were divulged.)


            • Citation please, or kindly butt out.Report

              • I withdraw my objection, with apologies, Dr. Hanley: you are correct. It is indeed in the text. (I’ll assume the parenthesis is the orig author’s and not Tapper’s.)

                However, that even the name of Seal Team Six was mentioned is a bone of contention and so the parenthetical is not exactly accurate, the revelation of countless other details of US terror efforts. This issue is far from resolved, there is much political noise to come.

                [On the formal level, only what was known on May 29 is germane to the Hannity end.]Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                However, that even the name of Seal Team Six was mentioned is a bone of contention and so the parenthetical is not exactly accurate, the revelation of countless other details of US terror efforts.

                Citation, or kindly STFU.Report

              • I withdrew the objection, conceded and apologized, James.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                And added in another claim that you haven’t backed up, which shows that your apology is merely formal–it doesn’t indicate that you’ve come to grips with the basic error of your behavior, which is not some minor rudeness to me, but your continuing employment of dishonesty as a staple of your rhetorical technique.

                I cannot understand your insistence in putting form (manners) above substance, and acting as though the real problem in discussion/debate is being impolite, rather than in being dishonest.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                or kindly butt out.

                You don’t really get this blogging thing, do you? You’re always telling people not to get into conversations between you and someone else. That’s just not how blogging and commenting on blogs works. If you want to control who joins your conversation, then don’t get into public conversations.Report

  18. ktward says:

    Truly awesome series, thanks for undertaking such a painful public service.

    I stopped watching TV news a handful of years ago; the shoddy reporting and the ratings-driven sensationalism got under my skin and put me in a bad mood. Looks like nothing’s changed!

    Now, I start my day off with a cup of green tea and Rachel’s show from the previous night, then Stewart’s, then I poke through my newsfeeds and stream NPR throughout the day. I’m a much happier camper when my ire can be spent on the message rather than wasted on the messenger.Report

  19. Donald says:

    Tod, if you do a followup, I’d suggest you watch Chris Hayes on MSNBC on the weekend mornings. I’m not sure he does “journalism” in the sense of reporting something new, but he does have very intelligent discussions with four or more guests (usually one or two conservatives and the rest liberal or left). It’s very different from anything else I’ve seen on MSNBC, including Maddow — I have a much lower opinion of Maddow than you do and while she is better than any of the other MSNBC evening clowns, I got so sick of her cutesy and often stupid sermonizing I’ve stopped watching her.

    I’m on the left, btw. From what I’ve seen of Fox it lives down to its reputation.Report