Which cable news channel covers other cable news channels the most?
Television news is built to scare.
At its most impactful, television brought reality into our homes at a fidelity never seen before. Emotion broadcast at a scale never before conceived of. The reactions ginned up from such sensations are undeniably powerful. Vietnam would have likely gone on longer if the only access the American public had to the war was Pentagon-approved briefs in print and the occasional photo spread in monthly magazines.
No matter how much the cult of the written word, of which I include myself despite making most of my money blathering, wants to admit: television is hard to ignore.
At least, they were. Everything television news was best at, the internet now does better. The scale and reach which once defined the medium is now quaint.
So if television news can’t reliably scare you with reality, it had to find a new never-ending source of content designed to unnerve it’s viewership. And they did just that. Television news can now scare you with… television news.
I first became fascinated with how much cable news created content from the content of other cable news channels when I noticed that the most shared clips I’d see from MSNBC or CNN were about Fox News. Why would organizations with hundreds of talented journalists on staff want to display rival content with barely more than a dismissive raised eyebrow from the host to differentiate it?
It didn’t take long to realize the purpose it served: clear and present danger.
If the viewer takes television news seriously it stands to reason they understand others do too. So when you see examples of the medium you don’t agree with, it’s an undeniable sign the world is sick. The others are being programmed by a devious media and I know it because a friendly media showed me.
But which of the three dominant cable news channels (Fox News, MSBNC and CNN) make the most hay from their rivals?
I conducted the following experiment. Using their official YouTube channels I surveyed four weeks worth of uploads. The hope here was that clips uploaded are the content each channel finds most likely to be shared. I then counted all the clips labeled with some kind of media context, noting which outlets they were attacking.
Here are the results:
677 videos uploaded
20 about other media outlets
2.9% of total output
Fox News was founded on the belief that the media is liberal and conservatives watch television news as well. “We report, you decide” only makes sense as a motto if the target audience believes those that came before were “deciding” before “reporting” after all. Therefore it should be no surprise that they continue to demonstrate their reason for existing to this very day.
Fox is unique in that they just post segments headlined “worst media offender of the week” which is a regular feature of Laura Ingram’s show. The liberal media is not a premise that needs to be proven but rather a phenomenon to be observed.
Fox News also features, by far, the widest range of targets. Sure, CNN and MSNBC get mentioned often but this month The BBC, ABC and PBS got raked across the coals. And it doesn’t stop at television, The New York Times, The Intercept, Washington Post, USA Today and The Washingtonian got some.
This does shed some light on how indispensable Fox News is to conservative viewers. They are not picking on one outlet, they stand apart from the entire media ecosystem including television, print and blogs. They are the lone beacon that isn’t actively lying to you to advance a liberal agenda… and if they don’t keep showing you examples then you might forget it.
238 videos uploaded
6 about other media outlets
2.5% of total output
What I found most interesting about CNN’s output was how little of it there was. They have the most YouTube subscribers of the three (12.5 million for CNN, 7.31 million for Fox, 4.34 for MSNBC) and yet according to Social Blade they generate roughly the same average daily views of their smaller rival MSNBC (4.5 million) and are dwarfed by Fox News (7.5 million).
But even amongst a more selective output on YouTube they roughly have the same percentage of videos that mock other media outlets as Fox News. What’s different is their range of targets… well… target which is exclusively Fox News.
Brian Stelter and Jim Acosta are the men with sharble videos of Fox mockery. Stelter makes sense as he is a media analyst although based on the output maybe he needs batteries in his remote as his television seems stuck on one channel. Acosta is a natural enemy to Fox since his star turn as a Trump enemy made him a celebrity on that network as an example of liberal media run amok.
However there is one man who is the main star of both CNN and MSNBC’s video uploads.
1024 total uploads
4 about other media outlets
.3% of total output
MSNBC puts out the most videos and they are very committed to building their own universe of stars. Their videos are almost all about liberal issues spoken by boldface name guests or their own talking heads. However, when they venture outside of their wheelhouse they have one target. Beyond Fox News the channel, there is one man in their crosshairs: Tucker Carlson.
One way to explain it is “follow the leader.” Carlson is the biggest draw in cable primetime both in total viewers and the coveted “demo” which attracts advertisers. If you attack him, then he attacks back and the rub benefits the lesser brand? Maybe, but based on the tenor of the videos I suspect it’s something more narrative driven.
In a (for the moment) Trump-less universe, MSNBC needs someone else to cast in the role of “dangerous demagogue ruining America.” Tucker fits that bill just as Bill O’Reilly filled it for MSNBC when Keith Olbermann was nightly calling him the Worst. Person. In the Wooooooorlllld.
If you are scared, you are watching. Tucker is the reason you should be scared today.
Without a more substantial review of hours of live content, there is no way of knowing exactly how much airtime is devoted to talking about each other. But I feel this is a good representation of how each network wants itself to be seen and how they want to generate that chill down your spine.
The larger lesson as always is to be suspicious when the media covers the media. It’s almost always empty calories and does little to advance much of anything worthwhile.
Unless you are supporting independent media outlets covering how much media covers the media.
That’s very valuable.
And you can trust me because I’m telling you.
Last week on Px3
I tried something new and interviewed my mom about every president she ever voted for and why. If I do say so myself it was a pretty fascinating trip through American presidential politics and the issues that animated them. My favorite part? My mom feeling terrible for Jimmy Carter and how the Iranian Hostage Crisis shook out, so much so that she wrote a letter to Carter and got a signed response in return. And then admitting she voted for Reagan because interest rates were too high. As always: it’s the economy, stupid.
We also started a new segment wherein I break down a famous presidential attack ad beginning with 1988’s “Weekend Passes” also known as “Willie Horton.” Think of it as a mini-Raise The Dead nugget digging into the context and strategy of these ads that ring through history. Among the bits I found interesting about this one: the ad wasn’t made by Bush ‘88 but rather a PAC before we even invented the name PAC.
Reminder: our $3 Patreon level now includes an enhanced Monday episode wherein I analyze what was discussed during the Sunday shows and predict the issues that will dominate the week to come.
Thanks gang! Hope you have a great week! I will see you on the podcast and Twitch streams.