OCALA, Fla, February 28, 2014 – Like traveling actors, issues enter and exit America’s political stage. Debate rages, then quells, and is often forgotten, if not rewritten, in the pages of history.
One topic that manages to remain in vogue, though, is media bias. Both sides of the aisle claim that powerful press agencies have stacked the cards against them. They say it is all but impossible for the whole story to be told because certain individuals have no interest in truth.
Where there’s smoke there must also be fire, correct?
For millions of Americans, television news serves as a major source of information. Today, cable and network stations are competing to dominate the future of televised news. Which will ultimately win out?
“I don’t know that the answer would matter much,” Norman Solomon says to Communities Digital News. He is a longtime activist for leftish causes, ranging from the anti-nuclear energy movement to opposing various military conflicts. Solomon is most well known, however, for his journalistic work, which revolves around exposing and preventing biased reportage. In 1997, he founded the Institute for Public Accuracy and had a nationally syndicated column from the early ’90s
Solomon continues: “The meaningful distinctions between the two categories seem to be fading.”
Dr. Tim Groseclose is a political scientist who serves as the Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics at UCLA. In his bestselling book Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, he did something a bit unusual. Rather than simply claiming the press is prejudiced, a scientific argument was made which holds that our country’s very social fabric is defined by journalistic presentation.
In 2012, he told this journalist that “(w)ith at least one aspect, cable has an advantage. This is the fact that with two of the networks (ABC and CBS), they only show about 2 1/2 hours worth of news each day – namely a 2-hour morning show and a 1/2 hour evening show.
“This means fewer hours to distribute fixed costs. For instance, suppose you’re ABC, trying to justify a bureau in, say, Australia. You might think, ‘How often are we going to show a story from Australia? Is it really worth it to maintain a bureau there?’ But if you’re Fox or CNN or MSNBC, you might think, ‘We’ve got 24 hours to fill, there’s a good chance we’ll have room for a story from Australia.’
“Once the cable outlets invest more in fixed resources – like bureaus across the world – they might have a higher quality product. People might actually prefer the cable-news shows over the network-news shows.”
Why have cable news stations gained such traction over the last few decades?
“Well, cable news has only existed during the last few decades,” Solomon points out. “They have flexibility and ability to go after big niches that broadcast networks have often lacked. And other types of media outlets, such as big daily papers, developed a fascination for what was on cable news channels even though the viewership of those channels was routinely small in terms of numbers.”
Dr. Groseclose “suspect(s) a big part of it is the simple fact that more and more people are beginning to subscribe to cable TV. A couple decades ago, lots of people had no choice but to watch only the networks. Today that’s true for hardly anyone.”