Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Why do people like Fox News? Because they give you the news

Fox News Channel easily beats CNN and MSNBC in the ratings, and usually one hears people saying that's because conservatives like getting their news with a conservative slant, etc. (Personally, I kind of enjoy Fox's unabashedly pro-Israel slant of their coverage--they seem to lead every newscast with a report from Israel and how they're dealing with the rocket attacks, before getting to Lebanon. It's a refreshing change from the general tone of CNN coverage we've seen for years, the "tsk-tsk, here's what Israel did wrong today"-although Anderson Cooper has been OK the couple times I've watched him.)

Anyway, I think people have other reasons why they watch Fox that has nothing to do with its apparent conservative slant (an argument I don't want to get into now). One is the network's seemingly endless supply of attractive female newscasters in short skirts. But the other is that Fox seems to have actual news on more of the time (as opposed to stuff like the medical shows that CNN runs on the weekend) and simply better news judgement. Tonight, the night of the Lieberman-Lamont primary election was a great example.

Sure, I'm a political junkie, but it seems to me that at least for tonight, this race--because of its implications for the Democratic Party, because Lieberman, due to his VP run, is one of the best known politicians in the country--is a huge story. (And Cynthia McKinney going down to defeat in Atlanta is a pretty interesting sidebar). So when I went to look for election coverage on the cable news networks about 9:45 tonight during a commercial of Rock Star: Supernova, what did I find? MSNBC's Joe Scarborough was talking about American Idol (apparently, today was the first day of auditions. I'm a huge American Idol fan and even I don't care. I think the day Fox runs its first commercial in November for the upcoming season is a more important day than the audition, which we won't see for five months.)And amazingly, even though Chris Matthews, since the 2000 election, has hosted the best political coverage on cable news, MSNBC has relegated a live election analysis edition of Hardball to 1 A.M.! That's after two hours of "MSNBC Investigates" documentaries about stuff like Seattle teens on the street or something, and a RERUN of the Keith Olbermann show.

Larry King had former Sen. George Mitchell, Alan Dershowitz and Jim Zogby talking about the Middle East. I would never say that cable news should do less coverage of Israel and the Middle East, but it's been going on for 28 days now. You can't spend some of tonight talking about Connecticut? (Actually, I think Larry King had this same guest panel one night last week--maybe every night last week.)

But lo and behold, I turned on Fox, and not only did they have election returns for the Lieberman race at the bottom of the screen, but they actually had knowledgeable political writers like Robert Novak and Michael Barone discussing the election. And Sean Hannity even provided an brief update on the McKinney race. Now of course, once Greta Van Susteren came on, she only spent a couple minutes on Lieberman before moving on to Israel, but she did return to the race a couple times during the hour and Fox ran a "news alert" on the screen with percentages for most of the show. CNN did have a brief report from Connecticut during the Anderson Cooper show, but nothing consistently on the screen if you missed the three minutes they decided to devote to it.

Now, I know what you're saying: Eric Fingerhut just said there should be less coverage of American Idol and Israel. No, not really--although I really don't need discusssion of AI in August. I'm just saying that if you are a news operation, you might want to treat the Lieberman-Lamont race as just as big a story as the Middle East for a couple hours while election returns are coming in--because people are really interested in it--and unlike the Natalee Holloway case, it does have importance. It seems only Fox recognized that fact tonight. Of course, none of them ran more than a minute or two of Lieberman's concession or Lamont's victory speech--I had to go to C-Span for that. Even Nightline ignored the race and instead led with some story on real estate foreclosures. Somewhere Ted Koppel is shaking his head.

As for the outcome in Connecticut, I hesitate to delve too much into my personal political opinions on this blog, becuase I try to be a fair, unbiased reporter in my non-blog life. But I will say that other than his whining and moralizing about the evils of pop culture, I did tend to generally agree with Lieberman politically and I'm sad to see him lose. Having said that, I do think his decision to now run as an independent has somewhat of a "sore loser" aspect to it--he ran in his party, he lost fair and square, and it now doesn't really seem right that he's going to take a second shot at it in November. And I'd be shocked if any major Democratic officeholder now continues to back Lieberman, nor should they feel guilty about not doing so--if you're a member of a political party, you have to back the winner of the primary in your party. That's just the way it works.

Will Lieberman win? I have the feeling that others will also see Lieberman as a sore loser-type and despite big Republican support, he'll lose again. But we're got a long way to go. And as I watched Lamont give his victory speech tonight, with Al Sharpton standing directly over his right shoulder and Jesse Jackson a few feet to his left, I thought, "There's gotta be a lot of Connecticut voters who aren't real thrilled with that."