Swans Commentary » swans.com May 20, 2013  



Establishment Journalism


by Gilles d'Aymery





(Swans - May 20, 2013)   Tabloid journalism is a mix of Yellow journalism and Gossip journalism, peddling junk news about celebrities, politicians, drugs, crimes, scandals, etc. The more it sells copies or attracts viewers the more it sells ads. With the advent of the Internet and the Web the tabloids found a space of predilection, and it did not take long before the cable news networks jumped on board. The grandfather, CNN, was created in 1980 by Ted Turner. MSNBC, owned by Microsoft, and NBC and Fox News by Murdoch, all paragons of neoliberalism (or neoconservatism), followed suit in 1996. CNN's ambition was to cover the world 24/7 in a dispassionate, read American-benevolent, neutrality. CNN had the entire cable news network to itself. Then competition raised its ugly head. It was a bit messy at the beginning as the new cable networks were searching for their own demographics. That period coincided with the loss of ratings by the network television and broadcast news, especially the 18-49 segment of the population that advertisers focus on the most.

It took a few years for these cable networks and their parent companies to find their footing. Journalists and former political operators moved from one cable network to another. For example, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, both arch conservatives, first worked at MSNBC before joining the cast of Fox News. By 2000, after various trials, they decided to become entertaining political shows -- mostly hourly -- centered around an anchor and targeting specific political demographics, Republicans (Fox News), Democrats (MNSBC), or both (CNN). They all covered the very same stories hour after the hour. Only the commentaries changed according to each network's point of view.

With the advent of Obama and the Tea Partiers, Fox News went ballistic with its new slogan "fair & balanced." They became Murdoch's side office of the Republican Party. MSNBC countered with it "lean forward" campaign in favor of the Democrats, and CNN, "we stay informed so that you get informed," as they were losing ratings, moved increasingly to the conservative side. But altogether they remained within the realm of the Establishment -- that is, they never challenged the system, only criticized one side or the other of it. Challenging the system could be deadly to a professional's career (e.g., Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, Phil Donahue, Eliot Spitzer, etc.) But if accepted by the Establishment you could even be a member of the Church of Scientology (cf. Greta Van Susteren of Fox News).

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the U.S. I turned on the TV, which I rarely do. The New Jersey coastline was particularly decimated. I followed the footage of the news on MSNBC. I eventually moved to Fox News, and CNN. To my surprise, the footage was identical, so were the ads. Only the commentaries differed. Even a natural disaster had to take a political slant. The next time I turned on the tube was in December when a creep fatally shot 20 kids and six adults in an elementary school in Connecticut. Once again, the three cable news networks used the same footage, the same ads, and once again only the commentaries differed. Following the uproar of the public, the networks moved to cover the discussion about full background checks before buying a gun, and prohibition of war-like armaments (AK-47, M16, etc.). These did not last long since in this country guns are kings -- a raison d'être. They did not have legs.

I stopped watching the tube for a while except on Saturdays when we enjoy food shows on PBS. Then, in April 2013, two crazies used pressure-cooker bombs to attack the Boston Marathon. Terrifying. The three cable news networks were back at it, hour after hour, day after day. Each of them used the very same footage, the very same ads, and once again, only the commentaries differed...but the story was identical.

Then it moved to some lunatic that had abducted three adolescent girls and kept them prisoners for 10 years. That story went on for an entire week. Same footage. Same ads. Different comments. I hear that lunatic gave place to another harebrain in a different city. Same story but I fell asleep. I woke up hearing about Syria and red lines, and more tantalizingly, Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP. So many scandals that should provide the cable news networks with plenty of ad revenues. There were a few gossips about a crime, a death, or a mastectomy here and there. Ratings were good. Advertisers were glad.

Network Television may be in its twilight but money keeps paying the piper.

Wonder why the 18-49 segment of the population is moving to AMC, FX, Netflix, Amazon, and others?


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published May 20, 2013