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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fox News vs. MSNBC

(top, Megyn Kelly of Fox; second from top, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC; second from bottom, Heather Nauert of Fox; bottom, Jane Skinner of Fox)

As Fox News' ratings ascend ever higher and MSNBC's plummet, it's worth taking a moment to figure out why.

Part of the reason is that Fox leans right, which makes them unique among the network and cable news channels. Ultimately, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC must all compete with each other for the left-leaning viewers. Fox gets the right leaning viewers all to themselves.

Fox also employs gorgeous women as its commentators, some of whom are pictured above. It's a cheap trick, but it works. Megyn Kelly is enjoyable to listen to, but even more enjoyable to watch.

The two reasons above have already been widely cited. But there is another reason Fox is doing well: it's simply more fun. Watch Fox in the prime time hours of 8 to 10, and you'll see Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity basically hosting parties. They crack jokes, they and their guests smile frequently, and they all seem to be having a blast. O'Reilly occasionally loses his patience with guests who refuse to answer his questions, but Hannity, the more conservative of the two, never gets angry even when confronted with a hostile guest. Both men crack jokes, and one of the regular guests on O'Reilly's program is comedian Dennis Miller.

Contrast this behavior to that of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, the prime time hosts at MSNBC. Olbermann is widely reported to be hated by his coworkers for his offscreen behavior; watching him onscreen, you get enough of a sense of the man to understand why. He is snippiness personified; smiling is simply not part of his repertoire. O'Reilly ends his show with a "Pinheads and Patriots" segment, doling out compliments along with the criticism. Olbermann ends his with his "Worst Person in the World" segment; his insults are unleavened by compliments.

There are many well-adjusted and pleasant lesbians; Ellen DeGeneres comes to mind. But Maddow is from the Rosie O'Donnell camp, all resentment and vinegar. She rarely has anything good to say about anyone, even those on her side, preferring to carp about Republicans with a can-you-believe-this undertone of bitter hysteria.

Which type of person would you rather hang out with? And make no mistake, when you turn on the TV, you're essentially hanging with the people on the tube. Would you rather be with good-looking people who are fun to party with, or with nerds and outcasts who just want to vent?

The answer to that question goes a long way toward explaining the two stations' ratings.
(Please note, this is not a political treatise, merely an analysis of presentation. Also, apologies for not being able to separate some of the paragraphs; my new computer is preventing me from doing so. )


Anonymous said...

Nicely observed John. I was amused that you used a particularly butch photo of Maddow. :) This post is a good complement to your earlier comparison of the cable "news" shows. I agree with you about the snide tone of the humor on MSNBC. It seems to me that the left is becoming increasingly petulant with the polls showing how unpopular the recent "legislative achievements" are with the American public as the mid-terms approach.
I continue to watch all the shows, selectively and in small measure, for news coverage. I'm guessing that my tolerance for Olbermann is measured in seconds, Maddow a few minutes, O'Reilly and Kelly a little more, but all in small doses. But Beck, our modern day Howard Beale, is my favorite for sheer entertainment and educational value.
BTW, Isn't O'Reilly a shrewd operator to get the Kelly and others onto his show.

John Craig said...

Thank you Guy. And yes, I wanted a shot of Maddow that captured her full essence.

Ah, petulant and snide -- those were the words I was looking for when I wrote this post.

I've almost never watched Beck, I'm not quite into TV-watching mode at that hour. But he must be good considering the amount of venom he elicits from the left.

And yes, O'Reilly is quite the operator -- he knows what sells.