Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fox News vs. White House: Sound Strategy?

Has the White House lost it? I mean, what do they hope to gain with their attack and continual denial of granting an interview with Fox News. This past Sunday White House Communications Director Anita Dunn commented about the rift between the White House and Fox News by saying, "What I think is fair to say about Fox – and certainly it's the way we view it – is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party. They take their talking points, put them on the air; take their opposition research, put them on the air. And that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is." Now I have been laid off since January and it has given me ample time to watch CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CSPAN, and other channels that make the claim to be reporting the news. What I have learned is that not one of these channels, with the exception of CSPAN, is unbiased in the programming. I have watched conservative pundits, with the exception of The Morning Joe, removed from MSNBC in favor for more White House friendly pundits.

Regardless of the White House view of the Fox News network the numbers do not lie. According to http://tvbythenumbers.com/category/ratings/cable-news the numbers of viewers for October 12, 2009 were for the major news channels:

Total Day
FNC – 1,385,000 viewers
CNN – 458,000 viewers
MSNBC –335,000 viewers
CNBC – 182,000 viewers
HLN –314,000 viewers

Prime Time
FNC – 2,453,000viewers
CNN— 563,000 viewers
MSNBC –683,000 viewers
CNBC – a scratch w/112,000 viewers
HLN – 566,000 viewers

A few weeks back President Obama appeared on 5 Sunday morning shows and on David Letterman on Monday night. Not one appearance was on Fox News Channel. The goal of President Obama for his media blitz was to get his message out and debunk the myths and rumors being spread on his health care reform plans. One has to question the logic of the Obama Administration. Nielsen Rating data for the week ending October 11, 2009 for cable shows had The O'Reilly Factor Thursday show ranked 25th. No other political talk show cracked the top 25.

With the ratings game going to Fox News and seemingly garnering the lion share of viewers, does it not make sense for Obama to appear on a channel that reaches the most number of people? Instead of granting the request of Fox News for interviews, the White House has starting using the daily blog to create a "Truth-O-Meter" to monitor lies said on Fox. Here is the statement on www.whitehouse.gov website: "For even more Fox lies, check out the latest "Truth-O-Meter" feature from Politifact that debunks a false claim about a White House staffer that continues to be repeated by Glenn Beck and others on the network."

Really, the White House is wasting their with pundits on Fox News Channel!! Wolf Blitzer last Sunday asked David Gergen on CNN about the White House's use of the blog strategy. David Gergen warned, "It's a risky strategy and it's not one that I would advcate. If you are going to get personal against the media you're going to find that the animosities are just going to deepen, and you're going to find that you are almost going to draw viewers to people you are attacking. You build them up is some ways, you give them stature." Bingo!!! Gergen hits the nail on the head with his assessment.

By singling out one media outlet as the White House is doing they are driving up their ratings and giving them legitimacy. Now the entire channel is not filled with pundits like Glenn Beck just as MSNBC is not riddled with pundits like Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, or Rachel Maddow. Anita Dunn while on CNN's "Reliabe Sources" complained the coverage Fox News had during the Presidential compaign ignored stories like the "financial collapse" instead featured stories that focused on "a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN."

Granted Bill Ayers has not blown anything up or killed any cops lately; however he still contends that he wished they, Weatherman Underground, had done more. ACORN has seen their funding stripped, Census activities revoked, and is in the middle of a video scandal involving giving advise to a pimp and prostitute on housing. The Pew Research Center (an independent, non-partisan public opinion research organization) tracked campaign stories during the 2008 Presidentail election. It found that Fox News showed 40% negative stories on Obama as well as 40% on Republican candidate Sen. McCain. Over at CNN the contrast was a 22-point difference with 39% negative stories on Obama and 61% negative stories on McCain. Then we have MSNBC that ran only 14% negative stories on Obama while running 73% negatiave stories on McCain.

Back to my original question: Has the White House lost it?