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’Ãªtre 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|
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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