Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Walter Where Art Thou?

I have thought much about this topic during the past few days. Sadly, I must admit that I am part of the generation that did not see Walter Cronkite's tearfully declare a president dead or follow Dan Rather, Ted Koppel, and Peter Jennings from the jungles of Southeast Asia to the nighly anchor desk. I have been left recalling a childhood that was personally, most enlightening. For example, I remembered ABC nightly news discussing the 1988 presidential election, PBS news hour and the first time I watched CNN for breaking news (the Challenger shuttle disaster). The news for me has been informational not personal as to what anchor I prefer nor has it been partisan. During the 2004 presidential election I watched coverage on all major cable news channels. However, as Fox News Channel celebrates its ten years on air I would feel remiss if I did not mention a few things:

1. Fox News Channel marks its 10th anniversary this week in an unusual position: knocked back on its heels. The network is in the midst of its first-ever ratings slump. The years of explosive growth have ended at Fox. Viewership over the first eight months of the year was down 5 percent compared to 2005, with a steeper 13 percent decline in prime time, according to Nielsen Media Research.

2. Loved by some, loathed by others, Fox News Channel has been the biggest success in the cable industry and profoundly changed television news since its signal turned on Oct. 7, 1996. Fox News beat by a year his plan for overtaking CNN and grew to more than double its rivals in viewership. It made stars of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and put "fair and balanced" into news history textbooks.

3. Opinionated talk is now a staple on the TV dial, with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, Lou Dobbs on CNN and Nancy Grace on CNN Headline News. Fox was first. Though Fox's critics consider "fair and balanced" camouflage for an agenda, whatever the truth, news watching became increasingly partisan as more Democrats watched CNN, more Republicans watched Fox, according to a 2004 study by the Pew Research Center for the People in the Press. The year Fox started, CNN had more Republican viewers than Democrats.

It is true that as the times have changed so has news coverage, how the news is gathered and reported as well as what the public, at large, is willing to watch. Fox News is apart of the media and they are not leaving. It is hoped though that with age comes maturity.

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