(Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
More people at home means more of an audience for the news nets but the also-rans are not picking up the pace.
This pandemic has created a perfect storm for the cable news channels, but curiously those most in need of a resurgence are looking like they intend to avoid the new audiences. With more people stuck at home, and those who are being hungry for information, it has been a massive windfall for the channels.
While all of the major news networks have enjoyed a boost in audience numbers the gulf between the leader and the others has actually widened. Fox News, which has been consistently the rating champ for years has enjoyed record-setting numbers. While CNN and MSNBC have also enjoyed a bump in the ratings they are actually trailing further behind Fox, which is seeing all-time highs in viewership. And the two lagging are intent on only hurting themselves more.
Both CNN and MSNBC have been trending towards the practice of refusing to carry live the daily press briefings from White House coronavirus task force. The justification is that these so-called leaders in the news industry are declaring that too much misinformation is being distributed by President Trump, and that they are reframing these pressers as ‘’rallies’’, not informative briefings.
The true translation is far different; they began this kind of talk when Trump’s approval numbers shot up, and now the journalists seem intent on controlling the narrative coming out of these briefings. Anytime there is positive or encouraging news it needs to be reinterpreted by the journos. Of the many problems with this attitude is that the networks charged with the very task of informing the public are working to prevent the public from having access to the information they are actually craving.
As a result CNN and MSNBC are cutting themselves off from a healthy and eager audience. Last Thursday’s ratings tell the entire story. Fox News last year saw ratings in the 3 million viewers range on the regular, but during the task force briefing they saw nearly 6.5 million viewers. The public, hungry for the up to date information sought it out, while the others decided it would be smarter to abdicate responsibility.
This surge on Fox carried through the entire night. All of the primetime programming did double the audience of 2nd place CNN, with a number larger than the combined total of both CNN and MSNBC every hour. What these networks have failed to grasp is that with more people at home now more are able to now see the contentious attitude towards the president and the administration they have been exhibiting.
And during this crisis they are becoming more contentious. The behavior and irresponsible reporting taking place during the briefings — and with the overall coverage of the pandemic — is becoming recognized by a larger segment of the country. As a result the surge in viewers currently seen is leading to far less audience returns for the lagging networks.
A crisis like this is a time news outlets are looked at to become leaders in thought and in coverage. Instead they have become more petulant and bitter, and their reporting is reflecting this to more eyes. More might just become aware of the state of our media complex, and becoming less impressed as this crisis grinds forward.