Monday, November 15, 2010

Conflicting Perspectives on Cable News

An interesting topic for my Politcal Science class. I wrote a short essay about it, and I wanted to post it up to get some thoughts. (Sadly, I could only write a one page paper, so it is much more abbreviated than I had originally wrote.) On a random note, Go Eagles!

The media has a very important function for our political environment, by bringing the political world closer to our hands. It bridges the gap between the White House and our house. A new trend that has appeared in our media broadcast has been the expanse of cable news networks. These broadcasts often go around twenty-four hours and give plenty of news updates. Fox News network and MSNBC are two very popular media broadcasts that actually have become partisan in their editorial work. Fox News is often a very conservative channel, and MSNBC is seen as a very liberal channel. I viewed two different broadcasters on November 11th, 2010: Bill O'Reilly and Rachel Maddow.
The topic on the Bill O'Reilly program was a detailed interview with former President George W. Bush. They discussed many different topics including the economy, foreign policy, and President Obama. The President took a very candid approach to the interview and answered very honestly. I was surprised at his forward and direct speech of the former President. O'Reilly pushed Bush to talk about a variety of topics, despite the reluctance of the former President. The President considered many of the questions and answered as well as he could, but some of the topics Bush simply refused to answer. Bush wanted to advertise his new book, but he did not wish to be a part of the current “political scene” as he referred to it as.

The tone of the coverage was very pessimistic. While President Bush claimed to be very optimistic about the economy and the future of America, O'Reilly pushed back with many of the downturns of the state of the union. O'Reilly cited the foreign policy issues and economic issues the country faces. While Bush acknowledged these truths, he gave little more than his own opinion on them. The interview did not have a very noticeable bias associated with it. It seemed that O'Reilly did nothing more than his job as a broadcaster. I would likely watch this program again, but only if it was a similar program to this interview.

The other program hosted by Rachel Maddow consisted primarily of an interview with Jon Stewart, a famous political satirist. The interview consisted of again, a variety of topics including cable news, George W. Bush, and his own program. Jon Stewart had many things to say about these topics, and of course, he was ready to crack a joke about all of them. While I thought the interview was interesting, I thought that Maddow did not do a very good job. Stewart often contradicted her and seemed to dominate the discussions. While he is a satirical comedian, the wealth of knowledge that he brought to the table was surprising.

The tone of this interview was very scathing actually. Maddow certainly was not quiet about how she felt about each of the topics. She was argumentative and very defensive about her positions. Stewart gave some good ideas and logic behind his statements, but Maddow was quick to try and correct him. I think that without a question this episode had a strong liberal bias. It was apparent from the beginning of the interview. Maddow certainly did not appeal to me as a viewer in the slightest. I would probably not watch this program again.

While the stations as a whole have their own bias, these two broadcasters had their own personal biases. Each came from different sides of the political spectrum, and each of them gave their opinions on current affairs. Essentially, I learned that each station has their own biases and interests in mind. One must listen to the news and editorials presented, but they must dig deeper and try to form their own opinions.


  1. Believe it or not, I watched both of these interviews as well and my take was almost exactly the same as yours. Dad watched O'Reilly but he did not watch Maddow, so I gave him the rundown on it the next day. I said some of the same things to him that you highlighted in your essay. One thing I noticed was how Jon Stewart added "as you see it" to the end of several of Maddow's comments. I found it funny that she refused to admit that she might possibly have a biased viewpoint. I also think that Stewart tried as hard as he could to be nice to her. As he said near the beginning, people tend to grant pardons to those with whom they agree. The bottom line is I agree with both of your assessments.

  2. I agree that you need to listen to political speech with intellectual honesty and decide for yourself what the truth is. My problem with the "elite media" types IS that they can't or won't admit that they have a personal bias. It's impossible to seperate your personal views from reporting or interviewing. It use to be "just the facts and nothing but the facts", but with 6 or more outlets reporting just the facts, the news is not compelling enough for people to watch. Where Fox News wins is that they present both sides of an argument (more so in the past than now) and let the people decide what (or who) is right. That's why Fox CAN say that they're the most powerful name in news, because they're intellectually honest and I think other intellectually honest people appreciate that. Fox is crushing their competition because they foster honest debate on the issues of the day. I purposely listen to both sides of the political spectrum, knowing that the TRUTH is somewhere in between.