Fox News Is Number One… So Was Jerry Springer

Recently, Fox News has been aggressively and with a strut touting its position as the top dog of the cable news universe. It’s number one show host, Bill O’Reilly even used their standing as part of his, and I would guess,  the networks defense of the photo-shopped photos that “Fox and Friends” aired of two New York Times reporters. Apparently, the reporter’s noses were widened, ears enlarged and teeth yellowed. The network nor the show mentioned that these photos were altered and therefore by omission passed them off as real. It was not until the uproar that there was even an acknowledgement on the part of Fox News, that the computer shenanigans took place. Mr. O’Reilly, even pointed out that the NY Times was guilty of parodying his photo after the release of his book. “You can do it to us, but we can’t do it to you”, is what Mr. O’Reilly repeatedly said to the camera. But when he showed the NY Times’ version of the parody on him, it was obvious that it was a parody. In fact, the parody on O’Reilly looked more like a cartoon rendering. There was no gray area with regard to whether it was a true depiction of Mr. O’Reilly or not. The New York Times did not have to come out later and state that, yes they did a parody. It wasn’t even a photo. So, even as they defend their actions, Fox News leaves one scratching their head and wondering, in the same manner we scratched our heads in the early days of the Jerry Springer Show. Even though Jerry Springer was the number one talk show, was it really a talk show or merely entertainment dressed in talk show clothing? The question now goes to Fox News: Is Fox News really the news or is it merely entertainment in newsroom clothing?

Now one may say, “Hey! Every news show has its own form of entertaining segments”. That is true, however, what does it mean when the news is defined by those segments. Just as early Springer knew, Fox knows what sells. Springer, like Fox, began closer to tradition in their selected show formats. Springer was a new talk show that competed with Oprah. Fox was a news channel that competed with CNN. However, down the road, one discovered the more fights there were, clothes being ripped off, sons sleeping with stepmothers, the higher the ratings. On the other hand, the other discovered the more polarizing the conversation, with regard to race, religion, sex and politics, the more eye balls would hit the screen. So successful were they that their competitors found themselves, against their better judgement, moving in the the same direction as a means to keep up. Oprah, began surprising her guest with former or current acquaintances that were sure to bring controversy and today the CNN and MSNBCs find themselves choosing stories for their controversy rather than relevance. 



There comes, however, a tipping point.  It became abundantly clear that Jerry Springer was not a talk show but a carnival for social voyerisim. It became a show that would run in the background while working in your garage, at least until the kids came in to ask a question and they forgot what they were asking because some woman’s top was just yanked off and even though it was blurred out the kid wanted to know what happened and why was the television beeping so much. Eventually, like most viewers, the remote went “click”, never to click on Springer again. Not even as background noise.  


It is true, people are watching Fox News and they are the current big Kahuna of cable news. But why? Is it because of the fair and balanced coverage? Is it because they report and let you decide? Or is it the spectacle of it all? Are people watching because of Fox’s uncanny ability to turn everything into an entertaining spectacle. After all, don’t they report the same news that everyone else is reporting? Why the disparity? Though no one can definitively give an answer to these questions, one can say this: Fox News is Number One… So Was Jerry Springer. 




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