At 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.