Accuracy in Media

In response to my column on the decline of cable news because of their obsession with missing-person cases, one person wrote in, “Come-On. Get a Grip… What’s wrong with a couple of hours ‘break’ from Real News..”

A couple hours break?

On the other hand, one said, “I am so sick of hearing all of the details of the Aruba fiasco that I just can’t tolerate it any more. This Aruba show is sinking Fox News, and I am watching it less and less.”

Here’s what someone else wrote:

“I just read your article and have to agree completely that the Holloway reporting has gone completely off the deep end. I used to be a junky watching Hard Ball, O’Reilly, Hannity/Colmes and then Scarborough Country until about a month or two ago.

It was getting too much for me to waste that much time but these shows used to be compelling.  Especially the first year or so of Scarborough Country. Joe used to be hard-hitting, very conservative and used to expose media bias and liberal hypocrisy.  Not any more.  Lately he has tried to go head to head and compete with Greta just because they are on at the same time.

“Tucker Carlson is of course the worst ‘conservative’ on air.  This guy used to give in to Paul Begala [on CNN’s Crossfire] on a regular basis and after only a few tries I couldn’t bear to watch Crossfire again.  His show on MSNBC is an affront to any self-respecting conservative since not only as you said does he give tons of air-time to a liberal, his other supposedly-conservative commentator, who is supposed to counter the liberal spin, usually agrees with the liberal.  It’s amazing.  The Iraq war was debated and 3 for 3 agreed that Bush was wrong and the Iraq war was wrong.  Great discussion, no real argument.  I was done.”

Jeffrey M. McCall, a professor of communication at DePauw University, has written about the appeal of this story for some people. Bluntly put, “Ratings drive the agenda-setting decisions of news producers,” he says. Viewers are polled to check their interest level for various stories. As a result, he says, Fox News Channel’s On the Record with Greta Van Susteren has gone from being the network’s lowest-rated prime time program to number 2. Actually, her show has beaten Bill O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” which used to be the top-rated program on cable news, several times.

When she left CNN, Van Susteren was reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to have said, “I am not having fun here anymore.” CNN recently took a shot at Van Susteren, noting in a story about Tom Cruise and Scientology that Van Susteren is another high-profile member of this New Age religious group.

While Van Susteren left CNN for Fox, Rita Cosby left Fox for MSNBC, where she is doing stories about the guy whose finger ended up in a bowl of fast-food chili. This is supposed to be one of her “big stories.”

Another one of her “big stories” was how Heidi Fleiss is opening up a brothel in Las Vegas.

At the end of her first program on MSNBC, she introduced Joe Scarborough, whose show follows hers. “It is great to be part of the NBC family and also working with you especially.”

Scarborough responded, “Boy, great to have you as part of the NBC family.  Welcome aboard.  Great show.  I know you’re going to have a lot of them ahead.  Thanks for being with us.”

Cosby: “This is only the beginning, Joe.  Come on.”

Scarborough: “Only the beginning.  You’re exactly right.  Thanks, Rita.  Greatly appreciated.”

Can it get any worse than this? Well, MSNBC is now starting to run “Rita Cosby Moments,” consisting of excerpts from her interviews. Perhaps they’ll be aired on the NBC Nightly News, another part of the NBC family. Stay tuned.

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