News as entertainment?

23Oct11

Fox News Channel has changed the face of cable news networks. Even though Fox News appeared only 15 years ago, it has quickly surpassed the other networks (such as CNN and MSNBC) as the highest viewed cable news channel.  “Fox News Channel came out of nowhere to beat cable news rival CNN in ratings after just five years in existence,” notes the Washington Post article.  In 2011, average viewership is at 1.9 million per night, more than MSNBC and CNN combined.

Whether or not you agree on Fox News’ decisions to rely heavily on editorial commentators made up of Republican officials and candidates, it has set itself apart from its competition based on its political orientation. Another thing that sets the news channel apart is the “underlying belief that news needed to double as entertainment.”  TV producer and creator of the network, Roger Ailes, accomplished this by making “the graphics flashier, the segment titles more arresting and [pushing the pace] to match that of a multi-tasking public.” Ailes knew how to capture the attention of an audience.

Additionally, bringing on hosts such as Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Shepard Smith changed the typical roles of the on-air journalist. “The reporter and host became personalities,” notes director of media studies, Tom Goldstein, at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Other cable news channels have followed suit by adding exciting visuals as well as employing their own media personalities (Anderson Cooper, anyone?).

Fox News has attracted a large and loyal audience unparalleled by other networks. However, has it come at a price? Do people now expect their news media to be flashy and entertaining? Does this take away from the integrity of the story? There are surely a whole host of other factors that bring about more questions surrounding this issue, ones I would welcome to hash out in class discussion on journalism.

-Sarah D.

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