The Changing Face Of Journalism

h943kAt the end of last year I was reading a post over on Fabius Maximus, Fox News gives us what we want: journalism for a New America, when I realized that the article attempted to make the argument that Fox’s success could be attributed to “pretty women in tight outfits with short skirts and high heels on tall stools chatting about the news” (Ed. corrected) on Fox and Friends and Red Eye. Don’t get me wrong. The women are pretty but the last time I looked at the Fox and Friends ratings, they were in fierce battle for the 6 am slot with Nickelodeon and Red Eye was in a fierce battle with station test patterns in the 3 am slot.  Are you really trying to make the argument that the success of Fox News rested on these two shows and not the prime time shows? Okay, the article was never intended to be anything other than a rant but it did get me thinking. Why do some news channels thrive and prosper and others just suck?

Obviously if you want to graduate from MBA school than you should first look at who is dominating the prime time line up. These are the folks who are paying the bills. At 6 pm you have Special Report with Bret Baier, at 7 pm you have On The Record with Greta Van Sustern, at 8 pm you have The O’Reilly Factor, and at 9 pm you have The Kelly File. These four shows constitute the heart and soul of Fox News and all of these shows are winning the ratings war in their time slot. From this lineup we can say three things about Fox News, they are not afraid to put strong women in prime time, they respect these women enough to let them pursue stories they thought were important, and the viewers respect the judgment of these women. When you are number one in your time slot that tells me that America is pretty comfortable with female Fox News journalists discussing the major issues of the day. The more I looked at the female journalists in Fox News, the more amused I got. On several occasions I saw both the host and the experts were women and they were talking about defense issues. I could not find a subject that was off limits for women. This trend is not just at Fox News. One of my wife’s favorite morning shows is Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo although she also watches Bloomberg’s In The Loop With Betty Liu. Her favorite investment show is Consuelo Mack’s Wealthtrack on PBS. At least in my household I think I can see why Fox News is thriving and the others suck. They hire good female journalists and get out of the way! That goes a long way to explaining why Maria Bartiromo and Sharyl Attkisson joined Fox News and Fox Business. It is less about politics than management style. Good stories still rule journalism and the ratings! So far the female journalists have not abused the opportunity Dan Rather and Brian Williams served up on a platter.

Speaking of Ms. Attkisson here is a nice lecture she gave at Hillsdale College recently. I get the distinct impression that she is one of those pure journalist who went to Fox News because she really wanted the freedom to pursue the best stories of the day. Maybe this is a lesson the other networks might start paying attention to before the lights go out.

  • Fabius Maximus (Ed.)

    Thanks for the mention. But it incorrectly says that “the article attempted to make the argument that Fox’s success could be attributed to pretty women”.

    The summary is quite explicit: “Fox gives us what we really want from TV News. Journalism for a people who value Freedom from responsibility = Entertainment.”

    The body of the text also seems quite clear:

    “Pretty women in tight outfits with short skirts and high heels on tall
    stools chatting about the news. Colorful graphics with simple messages. A
    news ticket of factoids streaming on the bottom of the screen. High
    intensity stories geared to the audience’s biases, sparking their
    emotions …”

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  • Bill Huber

    Since you requested it I changed “pretty women” to the more accurate phrase of “pretty women in tight outfits with short skirts and high heels on tall stools chatting about the news”. I was trying to save you from your self. As a guy who has been married a long time, I would not be surprised if most women found your characterization of professional women offensive.

    Need I remind you that when you disparage the professionalism of female journalists at Fox News you are also talking about Megyn Kelly who was the only woman in media on TIME’s 100 Most Influential List and Greta Van Sustern who was the only news anchor to make Forbes ‘Most Powerful Women’ list? These women are winners and I would not be surprised if NBC chooses Savannah Guthrie to replace Brian Williams because she shares a lot of similarities with Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Sustern.

  • Fabius Maximus (Ed.)

    OK, I see you’re just willful misinterpreting what I wrote. The text was quite clear that the pattern I note is “News as Entertainment, with display of women being an aspect of this — not the whole.

    There’s nothing in this implying that any individual working for Fox News cannot be skilled or effective. In fact they could be hiring all MENSA members. My point is easy to understand, but you obviously prefer not to.

    Also, playing the feminism card is an odd defense of Fox News. For years feminists have complained about the objectification of women by Fox News. It’s one of the interesting cases where some on both Left and Right agree. Just picking two from the top of my Google search (which returned a long list):

    20 More Examples Of Sexism On Fox News – Grab The Air Sickness Bag“, Daily Kos, 9 June 2013.

    For something more scholarly: “Legs are content: Fox News and female representation“, Temple Media Institutions.

    I could go on, but there’s obviously no point. Done here.

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