Posts Tagged ‘Fox News’

TV is Still Politically Powerful

May 19, 2017

IT  STILL  DOMINATES THE NEWS MEDIA SCENE

If anyone truly understood the political power of TV it was the late Roger Ailes, the creator of FOX News, who, according to news report, died because he fell and hit his head in the bathroom of his Palm Beach, Florida home.  He played a major role in helping Republican presidential candidates from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump get elected by advising them on how to  use TV.

President Trump certainly seemed to  understand Ailes’ “orchestra pit theory.” It enabled him to get tons of free TV news time, especially during the Republican primary fights. TV fell for the ploy hook, line, and sinker. Many, including me, believe this is the main reason he won the nomination. The “pit” theory, I read in Wikipedia, is explained in this Ailes quote:

“If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”

During Nixon’s time, TV was, no doubt where, to a large degree, elections were lost or won. It was and still is where most people get their news. At least, that’s what a Pew poll tells us that was the case in 2016..  However, that is changing.

The poll shows that 57 percent of US adults get their news from TV, cable, network, and local; 38 percent from social media, websites/apps; 25 percent from radio, and 20 percent from print newspapers.

However,  the trend appears headed online.  50 percent of people ages 18 – 29 get their news online, 27 percent of them get it on TV, 14 percent on radio and 5 percent print newspapers.

49 percent of 30 through 49 years old get their news online, 45 percent  on TV, 27 percent  on radio, and 10 percent from print newspapers.

Seniors still depend on TV heavily, 72 percent ages 50 – 64, and 85 percent ages 64 plus. The  age 64 plus crowd give print newspapers their highest percentage, 48 percent.

Where I get my news? From TV, online, radio, and magazines.  What about newspapers? Definitely. Big time.  But, not print editions, unless you count the Ledger-Enquirer online copy of the print edition as a print edition. I read both the e-edition and the website edition. I also occasionally sample newspaper websites from Washington D.C, Atlanta, New York,  Israel, U.K., Russia, France, China, and other countries. It’s amazing what’s out there for us to read now.

 

The Case Against Audience Research for TV News Departments

November 26, 2012

It is good to know that at least one important news executive believes that broadcast news is still a public service.  That’s what  Jeff Fager, CBS News Chairman and 60 Minutes Executive Producer, told Arizona State Walter Cronkite Journalism School students recently, and I was fortunate enough  to hear the lecture on C-span.

“We are approaching a story in a smart way, a focused way that helps people better understand what is happening in the world,” he told  them.  “It’s about telling a story and it’s about reporting, how good a reporter are you? How well can you dig things up? How well do you  find things out?”

He explained how retired 60 Minutes Executive Producer Don Hewitt influenced him, saying  that what Hewitt believed goes against all the conventional wisdom you hear about in news today.  “We never did audience research. We still don’t believe in it. I don’t believe in it.” However, it drives many news decision-makers now.  It may tell you not to do a story because it’s not visual and the audience doesn’t care about it.  He said he knew serious journalists who  run news organizations who would not cover the war in Afghanistan because research told them it was a turn off.  He says they are wrong.  A hundred thousand Americans are risking their lives in a war zone.  What  he didn’t say, but what I do say is that such behavior is irresponsible for anyone who calls himself a member of the Fourth Estate.  News media have a civic responsibility in a democracy such as ours. 

The truly important point he made, in my view, because it is one I tried to make repeatedly when I was still in the business, is that you cover a story because you think it is important  and you make it interesting.  It is up to you, the reporter, to do that, to make it interesting. 

For those who don’t buy the no-audience-research news philosophy, you need to take a look at the most successful news program in the  history of television.  60 Minutes has been on the air for 45 years  and has been and still is phenomenally successful. It is a ratings champion, still  often in the top ten. It is a combination of hard-noised investigative reporting and some stories about celebrities.   Fager says he plans to cut back on the celebrity stories and make the program even more relevant. The stories are not selected because of audience  research, but because the people who manage 60 Minutes believe they are important, important enough to do well.

Fager says CBS News will continue to follow the tradition established by people like Edward R. Murrow, Fred Friendly, and Walter Cronkite. It will continue to challenge authority. It will take risks.  It will report from war zones. These are  things many news decision-makers don’t do because they are dangerous, expensive, and risky, but CBS News will.

Now, if we can just get the rest of the broadcast news world to follow their lead.  When is the last time you saw a truly important local investigative report on a controversial subject?  For many  years, even though we did not have the resources of CBS News, we use to do some digging, some investigative reporting, a lot more reporting on what legislators in Atlanta and Montgomery were up to. We didn’t rule them out because they might not be good TV picture stories. We made them interesting, and used creativity to come up with illustrative pictures, and, yes, we got good ratings.    

Also, corporate management stayed out of the newsroom. Stories were not killed because they might offend some powerful person or organization.  At  least, that was my experience. Management tried to hire capable broadcast journalists and let them do their jobs. More than once I had to be defended by station management, and I have to say that when I was a news director, they always backed me solidly.  Once, when a powerful businessman called my then boss the late Jim Woodruff, Jr. , he said to Woodruff, “You can tell them not to run that story, Jim.” Woodruff told him, “Yes, you are right. I could do that. I could tell them not to run it, and it would not run. And then I would not be able to hire a decent reporter.” Ah, the good old days.     

 

Interesting Night for me to Sample Keith Olbermann’s Show

January 22, 2011

I almost never watch either Keith Olbermann or Bill O’Reilly.  I rarely watch any of the verbal bomb throwers whether they are on the right or the left.  I like my pundits to show a little class, and that’s something you don’t get much of on the cable news channels. But, last night I did decide to sample Olbermann’s show and lo and behold it turned out to be his last one.

Even though I don’t often play in  the mud puddles that the vociferous talkers wallow in, I must admit that I was glad that there was a counter to O’Reilly.  He and Olbermann were both on at  8 p.m Eastern Time.  For a while there was no alternative to the Fox right-wing propagandists, but MSNBC discovered there is an audience on the left and now has a nightly schedule of them.  Since there is no longer a Fairness Doctrine to make sure broadcasters air opinions on both side of an issue, we certainly need for the cable news outfits to provide us with right and left alternatives. 

What do I watch regularly? Nationally, it’s NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, and I do sometimes record either the ABC or CBS newscast and watch them also to compare coverage. While I am not completely happy with any of  the big three network newscasts because I think they spend way too much time on soft stories, I think  they come closer to really being fair and balanced than the cable news channels.  Fox saying it is “fair and balanced” reminds me of Nixon saying ,”I am not a crook.”  If you are “fair and balanced” or “not a crook” you don’t have to say it, just be it.

Also, I watch the Daily Show regularly.  It is satirical, but quite often, in my view, its admittedly “fake news”  gets to the real truth of major stories more than the “real news” channels.  Yes, Jon Stewart does come across as a  liberal, but he also takes liberals to task when they go overboard.  He did that with Olbermann a couple of nights. Also, he often interviews conservatives like Bill O’Reilly on his show, and O’Reilly has even had Stewart on his show. Stewart has even invited Glenn Beck, but he won’t come.  

We still really don’t know why Olbermann left or was forced out. We do know that he has had  confrontations with some MSNBC higher-ups, but that’s all we know.  He didn’t tell us why he was leaving when he announced his departure last night, which I thought was really strange. but we will probably find out soon.  I must admit that I am curious about it.

Maybe Ray Stevens Doesn’t Think “Everything is Beautiful” Anymore

July 7, 2010

When we decided to attend the Ray Stevens concert at Hiawassee, Georgia last Saturday, July 3rd, it was because I could remember his country music novelty hits of the 1970’s, songs such as “Everything is Beautiful” and “The Streak,” and that it would be a night of fun nostalgia, and a highlight of our 4th of July weekend in the Young Harris area. It was, but it also was something else. 

After the opening act, a twangy country band, which I thought would never end, there was a 30-minute intermission used to hawk Stevens' CDs and to sell hot dogs and hamburgers, and to go to the restroom. I used that occasion to pull out my cell phone and take this shot of the sound and lighting control booth. The Georgia Country Fair music hall was anything but fancy, as you can see, but it held a lot of folks, and the sound and lighting were first class.

 The huge music hall at the Georgia Country Fair (that’s the name of the place; the fair was not being held) was almost sold out.  I thought people there were folks who remembered Stevens’ heyday.  I didn’t realize that Stevens is hot again and got that way by latching onto the lucrative right-wing media circus. He has made some totally unsophisticated, puerile videos against healthcare reform, “We the People,” and illegal immigration, Come to America,” that, after getting publicity from Fox News interviews, have gotten millions of hits on YouTube.

He didn’t do those numbers during the Saturday night concert. He made some reference to the country being in big trouble, which got whistles and cheers from some in the audience, but said he was not going to get political during the concert. Besides, he said, “You know where I stand politically, anyway.” (I didn’t. After a Google session, I now do.) Then he continued with his non-political comedy routine, which got a lot of laughs from a lot of people, including me.   

He had a fine band, and when he did his big hits from the past, like “Ahab the Arab,” “Shiners Convention,”  “Misty” (which won a Grammy for him), and, of course, his biggest hits, “Everything is Beautiful,” and “The Streak,” he performed with a freshness that made them seem new, which is quite a feat when you consider how many times he has done those numbers in the last forty years.  He is a very talented musician, having studied classical piano and music theory at Georgia State University in Atlanta. (He is a native Georgian and grew up in the Atlanta area.)  He also has a creative mind and, in my view, is a good folksy comedian.  I wouldn’t put him in the humorist league with Garrison Keillor or the late Will Rogers, but he is self-deprecatingly funny. 

I said he sang his old hits with a freshness that made them seem new, but I did get the feeling that when he sang “Everything is Beautiful,” it was a perfunctory performance, and that he really didn’t mean it.  I think, since he now identifies with the Tea Party folks, maybe he doesn’t anymore.   

 

This is what my iPhone camera captured back on Row “P” where we were seated. The bench seats sort of reminded me of the time I went to the Grand Old Opry at Opryland at Nashville. I guess country music fans like thinly padded bench seats.

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Escaping Fox News in the Doctor’s Office

October 28, 2008

  When I arrived at my new dermatoligist’s office this morning, I couldn’t beleive the number of cars in the parking lot. I knew there was only one doctor in the building. I thought, oh no, he’s one of those doctors that schedules everybody to come it at the same time and then treats you in the order of your arrival. That, from past experience, can run into more than an hour’s wait.

  When I signed in, I asked the receptionist if that was his procedure. She said that it wasn’t, but that he was running behind. There have been very few times when I went for an office visit that my doctor wasn’t “running behind.”

  So, I found a seat in the crowded waiting room and scanned the room for magazines.  It’s always fun to see if one doctor has magazines that are older than another one. I’ve found some that were more than a year old. But, it didn’t matter. There weren’t any. That meant my only choice to kill time was to watch Fox News. It’s interesting that doctors all seem to want their patients to watch Fox News, especially since it can drive up ones blood pressure. 

  The TV sound was so low I could hardly understand  what anyone was saying.  I reflect that’s really not so bad because Fox’s obvious bias can hack me off.

 No magazines. Fox News. What I am going to do?  Well, it turned out that I didn’t need to worry because a nice lady came over to say hello. I figured it was another person who remembered me from all those years I anchored TV newscasts, but it wasn’t. It was the lovely wife of Rev. Jimmy Cook.  They came over and sat with me and we had a great visit. 

  Jimmy, who was pastor of the Morningside Baptist Church, and I have something in common.  He started out his young life on radio just a few years before I did the same thing. He stopped a long time before I, deciding in 1954 that he had rather be a preacher instead. I remembered him as Country Boy on WGBA Radio.  He talked in a wild, over-the-top hick accent on that show and played country music. He built quite a following.

  He started out as manager of the station in 1949. I started in radio in 1948 at WDAK as a 17-year-old announcer. I was still in high school.  WGBA was then owned by the Page Corporation, owner of the Columbus-Ledger Enquirer at the time. At first it was an FM station. That was when hardly anybody had FM radios. Everyone was still listenting to AM stations then.  After a while, he switched from manager to air personality and said, “That worked better for me.”

  Well, Jimmy and Mrs. Cook and I started having a grand old time strolling down memory lane as we discussed the radio era. A couple of other old geezers who recognized Jimmy and me, and who were evesdropping on the conversation, decided they couldn’t restrain themselves any more and joined in. They, too, had their memories of the “good old days.”

  So what sarted out to be a boring doctor’s office wait turned into just the opposite. We all had a great time and even though my wait to get in to see my doctor was about an hour, I didn’t mind at all because it was a fun hour.

  However, you can’t always depend on running into great people like Rev. Jimmy and Mrs. Cook. So maybe doctors should keep some of those ancient magazines availble for those of us who had rather read a year-old copy of Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News and World Report than watch Fox News.