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Fox News Coverage of Anna Nicole and Walter Reed

Nico Pitney at Think Progress breathlessly reports that, “Fox News Devoted 12 Times More Coverage To Anna Nicole Than Walter Reed” on March 2.

My extensive research reveals that Perez Hilton got 7.5 times the traffic of Daily Kos last week. For those who don’t know, those are the most popular gossip and political blogs on the Web. For added context, there are eleven other gossip blogs which get more traffic than Kos.

Using these data points, I’m going to make a big deductive leap: People care more about titillating celebrity gossip than they do about military hospital conditions. While perhaps shocking, that’s reality.

As I’ve noted numerous times before, the business of the media is business. That FOX is devoting most of its airtime to stories that it thinks will get people to watch the advertisements that are the raison d’être of broadcast television should not be surprising.

Pitney makes a fair point, though, in noting the different ratios of FOX and its competitors:

NETWORK ANNA NICOLE WALTER REED
FOX NEWS 121 10
MSNBC 96 84
CNN 40 53

Now, there are multiple explanations for this. First, FOX might just be more likely to focus its news coverage to those things it thinks the audience will watch. Second, the relative Right-ward slant of FOX and Left-ward slant of the other two could explain part of this. Third, the counting methodology is flawed.

My guess is that all three are true.

Given that they’re number one in the ratings, it seems quite plausible that FOX programs soft news over hard news more than the other cable news networks. Frankly, I haven’t watched any of them much the last two or three years but I know, for example, that Greta Van Sustern’s program became the “Natalie Holloway Show” for months on end.

Nor would it surprise me that FOX would underplay a story that would make the administration look bad while CNN and MSNBC would do the opposite. That would be playing to type.

I suspect there’s some coding bias here, too. I’ve sent an email to Think Progress for an explanation, but I can’t imagine that FOX didn’t mention the story dozens of times that day in some shape or form. It may well be that the selection frame unfairly (even if intentionally) skewed the results in favor of CNN.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. atrocious embarrassment for the Bush Administration. Make sure to watch the video at Think Progress, a greatest hits of the “coverage”. ********** For more on this and the scandal, see The Carpetbagger Report, The Mahablog, and, on the right, Outside the Beltway. You can find WaPo’s excellent coverage of the scandal here, including photos of Walter Reed here.

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  2. Archives December 2006 August 2006 June 2006 May 2006 April 2006 March 2006 February 2006 [IMG Outside The Beltway | OTB] Beltway Traffic Jam Fox News Coverage of Anna Nicole and Walter Reed Well So Much For That Notion Scooter Libby Judge Responds to Jury’s Questions Do Carbon Offsets Work for Travel? A Sensible Idea on Greenhouse Gases Teens Accused of Making Ostrich Impotent Bloomberg for President Fantasies

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  3. Tano says:

    And porn sites probably get much more traffic than gossip sites.

    Rupert Murdoch has made billions playing to the lowest common denominator within the broad field of what is considered “respectable”. Of course, Fox is a business, and has a right to do what it is doing. It is also important for that to be pointed out.

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  4. Wayne says:

    Comparing data for a single day sounds suspicious as well. I would agree that Fox News go way overboard on some of these personal interest stories but the other networks often do the same thing. Also the MSM will harp on anything bad for this administration. The VA hospitals have had problems for decades now.

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  5. Derrick says:

    Way to support those troops Wayne. I mean all they did was put there lives on the line for you, and its just about “problems”. Remember your flippant dismissal the next time you jump at someone for “not supporting the troops”. It’s much easier sending men and women to war than it is to make sure that they get the proper care when they get back.

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  6. Wayne says:

    Derrick
    I have been sending letters to my congressman as far back as the 80’s about the VA hospital situation. It has improved some. Why didn’t the MSM scream about it then? It was because no one in congress many whom are serving and complaining today didn’t wanted to spend the money needed. What is the difference today? It is because the MSM is blaming Bush for political gains instead of congress, which deserve the blame. Derrick if you want to support the troops, support us all of the time and not just when it is to your political convenience.

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  7. Timmer says:

    Meanwhile we in the miltary are laughing our asses off: Really, health care in the military sucks? Who knew?

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  8. Timmer says:

    For the record, it sucked under Clinton too…although we did have MORE sucky doctors back then.

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  9. This is a sadder reflection on the public than on the media. The media is just giving people what they want.

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  10. just me says:

    #1 I think Fox news is very susceptable to the “pretty white girl” stories. Just look at the girl that went missing-I thought for a while there Fox News had turned into the Natalie Halloway channel. Other news organizations cover the pretty white girl stories, but in general I think Fox dedicates more time, especially its “special” type shows (Greta gets her hands in a Pretty white girl story, and doesn’t let go until the next one comes a long). Also, this past Sunday (I think-I admit I didn’t watch it but saw a commercial during the Fox News Hour with Brit-pretty much the only Fox show I watch) Fox did an hour long show on the whole military hospital/VA story.

    #2 While the news wants to harp on the condition of military hospitals and the VA system, the reality is that these have both been crap for years. I delivered my oldest daughter at a Naval Hospital, and it was a horrid experience. My husband is disabled, because he didn’t get adequate care in the 1990’s for his torn miniscus, and I won’t go into detail when his lung spontaneously collapsed or when he was having an anaphalactic reaction. The list could go on. Then there is the time in 1995 when I called for an appointment for my daughter who was sick-they gave me an appointment time three days away.

    VA care also hasn’t been very good. And the more rural areas have horrible VA care-mostly it is hard to get appointments and the facilities aren’t in great repair, and the quality of doctor varies a lot both in the military system and VA system.

    These really aren’t new problems, they are old ones, but if the argument is that they are intolerable and we could and should do better-I would agree, but I think these problems are more of a systemic problem within the beauracracy than in the administration itself.

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  11. stevesh says:

    Breaking:

    Nico at ThinkProgress devotes 12 times more ellipses to Brit Hume transcripts than to Wesley Clark talking points.

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  12. DL says:

    Let’s be honest. FOX and its operatives have been playing the titillation game for viewers attention for a while now. They have more good looking babes than Baywatch used to display. They love the not so subtle game of pretending that sex is news -whether its Gibson or Cavuto showing near porno while they do a item over and over about Internet porn or again show the latest Victoria Secret or Anna Nicole pics ad nauseum.

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  13. Michael says:

    As Ive noted numerous times before, the business of the media is business.

    There is also that “public good” thing. May not apply to cable news, but it should.

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