It All Depends Upon Who Says It

As a follow up to my recent interview with Stella Morabito I thought that this clip illustrates some important realities that we discussed. Joe Klein and Jeff Greenfield have impeccable mainstream media credentials. Klein writes for Time. Greenfield is perhaps best known for his work on ABC’s Nightline and has reported for CBS and other mainstream media outlets.

What’s interesting about this clip is that though both lamented the state of broadcast news, which has become a national pastime, Klein was particularly harsh in his criticism of CNN, which used to be regarded as the home of “serious” cable news. For many, the next stop for “serious” cable TV is thought to be C-SPAN. Ostensibly, the last stop on that rail line is Fox News. Except that Klein and Greenfield dissent from the received wisdom. They actually watch and recommend the 6:00 PM (Eastern) Fox News program, Special Report, which features so-called “straight news” (i.e., reporting without analysis) followed by a panel discussion. The panel now includes the likes of George Will, Britt Hume, Charles Krauthammer, and a rotating group of journalists from the AP, NPR, and other non-Fox outlets. Listen to the reaction of the audience as they gasp audibly and yet, because this shocking (to them) opinion is delivered by trusted mainstream media figures we can almost sense their internal struggle. The audience likely includes few regular Fox News viewers and we may assume that most know a priori  that Fox News is nothing but a bastion of right-wing ranters. Nevertheless, because what is arguably a quite reasonable opinion even if contrary to expectation, is delivered by the “correct” (approved) people the audience is almost forced not to reject it out of hand.

Had the very same opinion, been delivered to the same audience by someone else, someone with less mainstream media experience, with less accumulated cultural credibility and capital (earned by articulating the “correct” opinions on TV over a number of years) the reaction would likely have been quite different. Same truth. Same context. Different messenger = (likely) different reaction.

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