The news that two opinionizers, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, will be co-anchoring MSNBC’s “hard news” coverage of the inauguration along with a diminished Brian Williams seems to have been greeted by media watchers as it always is: with a yawn. Like the increasing use of opinion people in reportorial roles it’s all but ignored as “media reporters” write eyewash about MSNBC’s newfound commitment to hard news and straight reporting.
Similarly, writers like Gabriel Sherman call Tucker Carlson’s ascension to FNC prime time “Trump TV.” Silly to anyone who actually follows Carlson’s career and libertarian instincts, even sillier when it’s used to characterize the entire channel. But when was the last time you heard Gabriel Sherman refer to MSNBC as “DNC TV?” Your Cable Gamer took a closer look at MSNBC prime time, using the last day where full posted transcripts were available: January 16. Who were the hosts, who were the guests, and how did they align? How many were left? Right? Pro- or anti-Trump? Let’s go to the transcripts:
- Ted Lieu (D)
- Hakeem Jeffries (D)
- Debbie Stabenow (D)
- Jonathan Chait: Pro-Obama
- Ilan Goldenberg: Anti-Trump
- Cedric Richmond (D)
- April Ryan: Ostensibly impartial but praises Obama
- Jonathan Capehart: Anti-Trump
- Mark Thompson: Anti-Trump
- Wesley Clark (D)
- Richard Stengel: Obama appointee
- Howard Dean (D)
- Steven Brill: Pro Obamacare, anti-repeal/replace
In three hours of prime time there was quite a spectrum of opinion: from pro-Obama to anti-Trump. But if you hoped to hear even one person with a viewpoint in favor of Trump or his proposals, you were watching the wrong channel, because there were none at all. Zero. It was as close to DNC-TV as you could get without just putting Donna Brazile in charge of leaking the questions.
In contrast, that night’s opinion programs on Fox News, while reflecting a right-of-center perspective, included people from the left like Mary Anne Marsh (D) and Jehmu Greene (D). Bill O’Reilly goes out of his way to include opposing views on his top-rated hour. Tucker Carlson Tonight, the show that so alarmed Sherman, has made its bones with the lively, often-riveting exchanges between Carlson and people who vehemently disagree with him. Only Hannity had no dissenting voices on January 16 (though usually he has at least one Democrat on).
Your Cable Gamer just made up the moniker “DNC-TV” for MSNBC prime time. Yet it’s far more truthful and on-point than the “Trump-TV” taunts from anti-Fox partisans like Gabe. Meanwhile, tomorrow MSNBC will reduce the discredited Brian Williams to the role of sidekick for two partisan co-anchors: a political hack, and a far-left talk show host. And call it “news coverage.”
There’s a new report out from the folks at Gender Avenger, the site that tracks how many women get invited to panels, cable news shows, and the like. Whatever you think of the validity of this exercise The Cable Gamer thinks it’s a good thing to have straight, impartial statistical data of this sort. But is everything what it seems?
The announcement for the month of May is described as follows:
Who Talks? monitors the highest-rated morning and evening shows on three major television news networks: CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. Any guest who is not the host (or substitute host) and is asked to comment substantively on the 2016 presidential election is counted as an analyst. We count the total number of election analyst of each gender in each show and then compare aggregate numbers and proportional representation. Data is published monthly.
Sounds pretty straightforward. Here are their May stats on the percentages of female pundits:
- New Day: 31%
- Fox & Friends: 22%
- Morning Joe: 24%
- Anderson Cooper: 48%
- The Kelly File: 15%
- Rachel Maddow: 33%
You’ll note CNN shows win in both morning and evening categories. In fact several times Anderson Cooper has been singled out for “hall of fame” status. In one odd case he made the “hall of fame” for a 43% week, even though Rachel Maddow scored 50% (sorry Rachel, no “hall of fame” for you!).
These scorecards get a lot of play from friendly media sites, some of them quite knowledgeable, so The Cable Gamer is mildly surprised that none of them spotted a disconnect in the methodology. The criteria state they monitor the “highest-rated” evening shows on the three cable news nets—so where is Bill O’Reilly? O’Reilly has had the #1 program on cable news for “15 years and counting” (as viewers are reminded every evening). Yet The Factor has never been rated by Gender Avenger.
The Cable Gamer recently asked GA how it is that they skipped over the undisputed “highest-rated” evening cable news program, and got this response:
We too noticed the error in describing all the targeted shows as “highest rated” and have since amended our references to “popular” to encompass all. The reason we picked Megyn Kelley [sic] is that we wanted to follow all the 9 o’clock hour shows in the evening.
Yeah, well, we aren’t sure exactly where “highest-rated” as been amended to “popular.” The Cable Gamer couldn’t find it on the GA website, where “highest-rated” still appears in the criteria. And if the intention is to cover the 9 o’clock shows, why not just say that? Mind you, CNN doesn’t always run Anderson Cooper at 9 o’clock; sometimes they have documentaries and series like The Eighties in that time slot. What effect does that have on the stats?
This seems like a lot of finagling in what would otherwise be a straightforward contest among highest-rated shows. But what if it was as advertised: a contest among the most-watched programs? The results would be mostly as they are, except The O’Reilly Factor would replace The Kelly File. We started too late to capture the first part of May, but other than that we made a count, sticking to the criteria, and got these results for the last three weeks of the month:
- The O’Reilly Factor: 40%
In fact for the week of May 16th O’Reilly scored an impressive 46%—that’s higher than the measly 43% Anderson Cooper scored in his “hall of fame” week. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Mr. O’Reilly has a repertory company of female guests who appear regularly: Katie Pavlich, Eboni Williams, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Lis Wiehl, Martha MacCallum, Monica Crowley, Mary Anne Marsh, Dana Perino, Kirsten Powers, etc.
One would think Gender Avenger would want to throw a little “hall of fame” action O’Reilly’s way, as an encouragement to people who do provide the diversity GA calls for. But the rules have been quietly bent just enough to exclude Bill O’Reilly from contention. Funny that.
CNN has announced the hiring of yet another media reporter: Brian Lowry of Variety. Does that name sound familiar? Maybe you’ve heard of him:
BILL O’REILLY: As you may know, a variety of Americans who despise FOX News are using the Dr. Tiller story to bash me and this network. A few examples: Variety magazine TV writer Brian Lowry has written more than 100 negative pieces about FOX News over the years. Here’s Lowry’s latest:
“O’Reilly said any criticism of his attacks on Tiller were being mounted by his enemies — FOX News ‘haters’ and ‘vicious individuals’ on the far left — implying that no rational person could find the heated and repeated rhetoric emanating from the channel toward a private citizen troubling.”
A private citizen? That sounds like my mom. As usual, Lowry dishonestly portrays what was in play with Dr. Tiller and his criminal prosecution. Lowry is a FOX News hater.
Oh, that Brian Lowry. He’s made a name for himself in exactly the fashion that makes him so desirable to the suits at CNN. Inside Cable News has said they “don’t give much credence to Lowry’s FNC pieces because they are almost always slanted or otherwise negative towards FNC.” The Cable Gamer has a few examples:
Megyn Kelly might be the new kid in the Fox News primetime lineup, but she’s mastered the oldest trick in the network’s playbook – namely, playing the victim.
Since its inception, Fox has emulated the “If it bleeds, it leads” mindset of local news, garnishing its presentation with snazzier graphics and more urgent production values. The canny post-Sept. 11 adaptation has been, “If it scares, it airs.” Race is just the latest and perhaps ugliest aspect of that equation.
With Megyn Kelly Move, Fox News Makes a Cosmetic Change…Fox remains the same: A conservative-leaning channel dominated by older white men, with a few younger women thrown in for an audience that remains skewed toward senior citizens who still enjoy seeing a pretty face or two while hearing about how Obama is destroying America.
There is also an undeniable genius in Ailes’ we win/you lose approach, covering Democrats in a way no journalist would if they wanted their phone calls from sources returned, then bashing those who won’t respond for being hypocrites or cowards if they shy away from the channel.
FNC rise: screeching to the choir?…Fox and its key talent would also have us believe that the surge reflects disenchantment with other media and a shift in the political winds. More likely, though, it’s just a case of preaching to the same like-minded anti-Obama choir, for greater periods of time.
You know you’re going to get objective analysis when when you see the term “screeching” used about a cable network or when drawing more and more of “the choir” is treated like a sneer. As usual, the innate assumptions and biases of the author, are utterly invisible to him.
Brian Lowry says, “Extrapolating from ratings is always hazardous, given the uncertainty of measuring audience sentiment. But drawing sweeping conclusions about the zeitgeist from such data is specious at best.”
But what the hell….he’ll do it anyway…
There is nothing in Lowry’s piece that factually disputes the claim that FNC is now appealing to more moderate democrats, independents, and to libertarians (even IF people are keeping their televisions tuned to the channel for longer periods of time — an action that is politically significant in itself)….
Frankly, the essential condescension and sheer disdain so many in the media reveal in their unconscious assumptions just puts your heart in your toes and your stomach in your throat.
It pretty much puts the lie to any assertion FNC might make about the channel not being essentially an adjunct of the Republican Party. This won’t come as a surprise to many people, naturally, but it blows up the “fair and balanced” claim in an undeniable way.
The “it” that Lowry was quick to take at face value was another Shermanesque “scoop,” this one that Roger Ailes was selecting and recruiting Presidential candidates for the Republican Party. Whatever happened to that scoop, by the way? The Cable Gamer wonders if it has worked out as well as some of those other exclusives.
Meanwhile, The Cable Gamer stumbled across this observation from Brian Lowry, which may or may be relevant to CNN’s need for another media writer:
Kurtz appears seriously compromised, and looked even worse Sunday compared to CNN’s Brian Stelter…
The Cable Gamer isn’t sure how she found herself at a Fox-hating site this afternoon. Perhaps it was nostalgia for the days of The Cable Game 1.0, when exposing lies from the NewsHounds was a regular feature. But as soon as we dropped by we spotted this:
Bill O’Reilly Uses Bogus Quote To Attack Time Magazine Journalist
Don’t be shocked, but that headline is false. Whoops, we should have given a spoiler alert for that. But since the post is by NewsHound Priscilla, that really wouldn’t be much of a spoiler.
When somebody else says something that he feels is not accurate, he [O’Reilly] unleashes his patented fatwa, such as when he recently attacked a journalist for lying – an attack based on an O’Reilly lie!
The Cable Gamer will remind you you said that, Priscilla. John Anderson of Time described the movie version of Killing Jesus as a “critically eviscerated tv movie based on Bill O’Reilly’s novel.” O’Reilly took issue so naturally Priscilla had to take the other side:
The movie version of “Killing Jesus” did get some negative reaction.
So does just about every movie ever made. That doesn’t make it “critically eviscerated.” In fact, it was nominated for a best-movie Emmy! Aware of how lame that comeback was, Priscilla moved on to what she claimed is her main point, the O’Reilly “lie:”
The other bigger problem is that O’Reilly changed Anderson’s quote. Anderson did not use the word “novel” to describe “Killing Jesus.” He wrote, and I quote, “Killing Jesus, last year’s critically eviscerated TV movie based on Bill O’Reilly’s book, broke NatGeo viewership records.”
You expect this type of thing on biased right wing media, but isn’t Bill O’Reilly supposed to be a legit “no spin” journalist? If you’re going to be “fair & balanced,” be accurate.
A classy, sophisticated graphic is included to drive the point home:
So why does The Cable Gamer say the NewsHound headline (“O’Reilly used a bogus quote”) is false? Because it is. O’Reilly’s quote was 100% accurate. It’s Priscilla who is not being truthful.
Guess what appears at the top of the article Priscilla quoted from? This:
A correction! Why did Priscilla leave that out? Guess what appears at the bottom of the article?
Did it, really? Why did Priscilla leave that out? Doesn’t this make two bold-type announcements above and below the article that Priscilla carefully avoided telling her readers about? But wait, let’s see how the article read before the correction—back when Bill O’Reilly spoke out about it. Thanks to the internet archive we have that information for you:
So the correction that Priscilla hid from her readers was Time changing “novel” to “book”—exactly the issue raised by O’Reilly. A correction that just happens to prove the NewsHounds post to be a worthless falsehood. Remember how Priscilla called Bill’s complaint “an O’Reilly lie?” It wasn’t. The only person who actually told “an O’Reilly lie” is Priscilla herself. But that’s to be expected from a NewsHounds writer with a record of flagrant fabrications about Fox News.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for the apology to Bill O’Reilly. Why do you think Top Dog Ellen Brodsky keeps Priscilla around after years of brazen dishonesty? Certainly not to say she’s sorry for doing her job: lying about Fox News.
When you see a tweet, the first thing any writer should do is verify that it’s not a fake. Except at Mediaite. Consider Ken Meyer:
O’Reilly on Trump’s Cancelled Rally: ‘A Sign of What’s to Come’ Under President Sanders
Meyer offers a “screengrab” that isn’t even a screengrab; it’s just indented text:
BREAKING: Bernie supporters shut down free speech, a sign of what’s to come under a socialist government. #TrumpRally
— Bill O’Reilly (@oreilIyfactor) March 12, 2016
From the get-go this should raise red flags. Bill O’Reilly doesn’t sign his name to tweets. He uses BO’R. And sure enough, when you look closely at the account Ken Meyer is citing, you’ll note that the second “l” is actually a capital “I”. It’s a hoax account.
Meyer’s post was up long enough to acquire a hundred comments, many of them pointing out the obvious forgery, yet it was still there for over an hour. Just as we were about to publish, the article vanished; perhaps someone finally read our tweet:
There is now no sign of Ken Meyer’s post ever having been there, let alone any acknowledgement of the error. But on the internet, it’s not so easy to bury your mistakes.
Ken Meyer did no verification, not even the rudimentary step of looking at O’Reilly’s twitter account to see if the tweet is there. Instead he served up smart cracks about O’Reilly taking a “pot shot” and hit “publish” without even a smidgen of fact checking. And he’s given Mediaite one big, fat black eye.
Hard on the heels of a very special Reliable Sources almost entirely devoted to talking about Fox News, CNN continued to post online articles about FNC. You could read about Trump masterfully splitting the Fox News audience, or you could peruse Brian Stelter’s exposé about the “personal feud” between Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly. The latter, a thinly sourced piece with little news and much speculation, was given a little extra PR push when the Editor of CNN Money gave the story his personal endorsement:
But there’s a problem with Mr. Mooney’s tweet, and it’s this:
Megyn Kelly feels “betrayed” by Bill O’Reilly…
There is no such quote in Brian Stelter’s “great story.” Ms. Kelly is not quoted as saying she felt betrayed, and what’s more no one else is quoted saying Megyn Kelly felt betrayed. One anonymous Megyn Kelly “supporter” (who may or may not know her) described the situation as “a betrayal” but did not say that’s how Megyn Kelly felt about it. Yet here’s the editor of CNN Money somehow divining that Ms. Kelly feels “betrayed.” Where did this come from? Did he just make it up?
We expected the author of the piece to step in and clear this up. And indeed Brian Stelter saw the tweet and quickly acted—to retweet it to his 333,000 followers, fake quote and all!
The Cable Gamer stuck her nose in and suggested to both Mr. Stelter and Mr. Mooney that a correction should be made for this fabricated quote:
But as we hit “publish” there has been no response to our tweet by Mr. Stelter or Mr. Mooney, and therefore no correction.
Publishing a fake quote is bad enough. Refusing to correct it takes things to a whole different level. And more ominously, it suggests intent.
Recently there was a disturbance in the journalism force when the Republicans decided they’d learned their lesson after the disastrous CNBC debate. As a result they pulled out of a scheduled debate on NBC (a corporate sister to CNBC and MSNBC) and took their business to CNN. And that was too much for the cognoscenti. Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple, a close follower of all things Cable Game, did not mince words:
RNC to broadcast outlets: No ‘gotcha’ questions, or else: When the Republican National Committee levels a threat, take note…High numbers explain the creepiness behind the arrangement. If you anger the RNC, that is, you stand to lose money, bonuses, congratulatory memos from the boss. The RNC’s actions against NBC will have a leveling effect. Get ready for a lot of network cautiousness in the coming debates, because sponsors know what will happen if they don’t play by the rules, ill-defined as they are.
Wemple’s concern that politicians should not “forum shop” to avoid unfriendly or challenging questions is a fair one. Inside Cable News took it a step further, coming down on CNN for agreeing to pick up the debate that NBC lost:
CNN should have refused the debate because it sets a bad precedent where political parties can shop their debates just to punish networks regardless of the validity of the “crime”…All the networks should have stood firm in supporting NBC given the circumstances (NBC being punished for something it had no part of).
“Spud” is making the point that NBC shouldn’t be blamed for CNBC’s lousy debate, but even if the lousy debate had been NBC’s own production, this would still be forum shopping. To be sure, as soon as the GOP voiced its criticisms over the CNBC questions (rightly so according to critics) there was President Obama to say Republicans were afraid of tough questions:
They can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators … If you can’t handle those guys, then I don’t think the Chinese and Russians are going to be too worried about you.
You would think the irony of the President’s critique would have been noted by somebody in the mainstream media. This is Barack Obama, the man who avoids Fox News like the plague. It took a Big Fox airing of the Super Bowl two years ago to get Mr. Obama into the no-spin zone, and that’s pretty much been it. How often do you see Hillary Clinton on Fox News? This past Sunday Mrs. Clinton did the rounds of all the Sunday news shows, except Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. At least a half-dozen serious FNC program hosts have repeatedly requested an interview with the likely Democratic candidate for President, and have been turned down. The Cable Gamer doesn’t recall Mr. Wemple’s post decrying this blatant forum shopping, but maybe we overlooked it.
Mind you, this sort of thing is encouraged by many blogs and anti-Fox sites. So Jason Easley congratulates Hillary for being afraid to go on Fox: “The Democratic Party has finally wised up.” As a side benefit this helps feed the narrative that Fox News avoids interviewing Democrats, even when it’s a lie.
And lies bring this discussion full circle, for it was a campaign of falsehoods and fabrications that succeeded in getting the Democrats to permanently boycott Fox News for any of their Presidential debates. In 2007 a pair of blogs cited a Fox News Democratic debate from 2003 and lied about Juan Williams’s questions, the language used, the post-game analysis, and—wouldn’t you know it?—how many Democrats were interviewed. To no one’s surprise, the Democrats cancelled their 2007 debate on Fox News, and the precedent was set.
Eight years later Fox News is still proposing Democratic debates, but the Dems won’t give FNC the time of day. Forum shopping has become their default. The champions of capital-J Journalism get worked up when the GOP cancels a debate with the parent company of Lean Forward. But when Fox News is frozen out, election cycle after election cycle, people like Mr. Erik Wemple can’t seem to summon up the same level of outrage. But why should they? After all, it’s Fox. Bret Baier? Megyn Kelly? Chris Wallace? Who really expects the Democrats to talk to those people?