Today, the news is a multi-billion dollar business and, unlike the case 50 years ago, is expected to make a profit. The way the cable news networks mainly attract eyeballs is that they report and comment on the news with attitude. Gone are the days when news organizations even pretended to report news down the middle, avoiding editorializing.
Of the three major cable news networks in the United States, it is understood that Fox News is right of center in its editorial approach and CNN and MSNBC are both left of center. While a certain balance is achieved with guests and paid contributors, this approach colors the way they report, particularly when it comes to presidential candidates. Election cycles are often quite profitable for cable news.
The media world has not gone back to the 19th Century when newspapers were openly affiliated with political parties. But, Fox is not going to have much good to say about a Democratic candidate for president nor will CNN and MSNBC report on a Republican with much favor. This bias, once abhorred in the media, is part of these organizations’ brands.
Do the cable news networks have a particular bias for or against particular political candidates? Some media observers suggest that they may have.
On the Democratic side, Bill Curry writes in Salon that the media has accepted the Hillary Clinton “inevitability myth” at the expense of her rival Bernie Sanders (2). Some evidence exists for that observation.
MSNBC’s Rachel Madow recently observed that it is “hard to imagine” Bernie Sanders winning (3). The assumption colors the way that the media, even MSNBC, and CNN, reports on the Democratic race. Why bother with a candidate who is doomed anyway?
Another reason for the pro-Clinton and anti-Sanders bias is that the Clintons have become adroit at managing journalists. The one thing that media organizations crave more than anything is access to the powerful. The Clintons have used this desire to tamp down on criticism, withholding access to any reporter and media organization which scrutinizes the Clintons too closely. Without the ability to put a woman one assumes destined to become president of the United States on the air, the fewer viewers the network will have and therefore the lower the ratings.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Fox News has developed a reputation for being in the tank for Donald Trump (4). Some truth exists for this supposition, but the facts are a little more complicated.
Fox and Trump
Trump had been a draw on Fox News for years before he became a serious presidential candidate. Interviews with the mercurial businessman were always entertaining and drew many viewers. Now that Trump is in line to become the Republican nominee for president, his value as a guest has become even greater.
Also, some FNC hosts such as Sean Hannity like Trump for ideological reasons. Trump is considered an “anti-establishment” candidate, willing to shake things up in Washington, or at least he would lead one to believe that is the case. Conservatives like Hannity and Ed Bolling find that quality attractive.
They also tend to like Senator Ted Cruz for the same reason, sometimes conflating the two very different politicians. Hannity has promulgated a conspiracy theory that entails the Republican movers and shakers plotting to deny Trump and Cruz the nomination for a preferred candidate to be unveiled at national convention (5).
However, Trump has, from time to time, gone too far even for Fox News. FNC recently had to chastise Trump for his “extreme, sick obsession” with Fox’s rising star Megyn Kelly (6).
The real estate tycoon turned politician has carried on a long-term twitter feud with Kelly ever since she asked him a question during a debate about some of the misogynist things he has said about women.
Ironically, the feud, pregnant with unseemliness, has boosted the ratings of Kelly’s show through the roof. Thus, being an enemy of a powerful politician can be as profitable as being his or her friend.
References & Image Credits:
(1) TSW: Adam Green Film Exposes Media’s Attempts to Stop You from Thinking for Yourself
(5) Real Clear Politics
(7) Photos of Presidential Candidates
(8) Megyn Kelly Photo