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US News Coverage on Three Major Networks: CNN, FOX and MSNBC

I consistently view news programs on three networks: CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. The one I use most often is MSNBC because I like two of the political shows and one news show on that network: Countdown with Keith Oberman, the Rachel Maddow Show and Morning Joe. I do not often get up in time for Morning Joe, so I usually watch MSNBC Live, MSNBC is reliable as far as truth is concerned, but it is decidedly left-wing slanted, liberal and slanted for the North American audience. On the other hand, I do not often watch FOX as it is decidedly conservative right-wing and I consider it more as entertainment, since I do not consider it to be reliable as the slant is far too extreme. Of all three networks I consider CNN to be the most reliable and middle of the road. They try to maintain objectivity and they do include all sides in their questioning, as does MSNBC, but their slant is pro-American and somewhat left of center even so.

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On MSNBC Friday morning, June 4, 2010, the report on the gulf disaster included interviews with Thad Allen, some tapes of interviews with President Obama, some live and recorded footage of Obamaès visit to the gulf, and taped segments with others, including politicians from the gulf states, economist Lakshmann Achusann, the CEO of British Petroleum and short interviews with professionals in environmental science and engineering. They also televised relevant segments from the evening shows of Thursday night with Keith Oberman and Rachel Maddow. CNN broadcast much of the same content, but the inset windows with the pictures of the live webcams on the breached oil well and the cleanup attempts on the coast were larger than on MSNBC but not as constant. MSNBC broke away a few times for other news, especially political news and news about the incident concerning Israel and Turkey, but soon returned to the main news. FOX News also broadcast the same content and used even larger insets of the breach and cleanup activities and kept them on longer. Fox cut the live interviews short to show other, more sensational content, such as the murder story in South America.

I have recently been watching this news, because I believe this will impact all of us, even foreign countries beyond the UK. The three networks tend to broadcast the same content, but the arrangement of the various windows is different. However, FOX news tends to cut live feeds short if there is more sensational content otherwise available or they go to analysis. CNN and MSNBC include small blurbs of analysis or quotes they consider to be important on the screen but broadcast entire live feeds. Both CNN and MSNBC include feeds of current news at the bottom of the screen but the feed bar is larger on MSNBC. Both networks include diagrams as useful in separate windows, but MSNBC seems to use these more, just as they keep other content on the main story visible more. All three networks include analysis, but FOX blends it in with the news and does not always label it as such. FOX also tends to present a larger variety of news, mostly the more sensational, giving more time to the minor sensational stories and less to the in-depth coverage of major stories. Of the three networks FOX includes more coverage of loud or angry demonstrations, and more coverage to the right-wing fringe, while MSNBC does include more of the left. CNN is the most balanced of the three. FOX included right wings questions of government actions while MSNBC included more criticism of the same. FOX and MSNBC tend to include more content from the political shows of each other than does CNN in order to criticize each others coverage and political analysis. CNN seldom includes content from these networks commentary shows.

As for the coverage on Friday, June 4, 2010 there was more political commentary on both FOX and MSNBC than on CNN, FOX included comments from more Republicans and did not report on any of the faux pas of conservative politicians, while MSNBC reports more from the left and included the faux pas from the right with strong criticism. It would seem that MSNBC presents more balanced coverage, but peppers it with criticism. For example, there were comments that the president should try to take over BP oil by certain right-wing politicians and these were aired on MSNBC with criticism, but not aired at all on FOX, and got minimal coverage on CNN.

As for the characterization of people, CNN presents the most balanced coverage there also. They have criticized influential people and interviewed ordinary people with respect. MSNBC tends to present the power structure, especially conservatives as less intelligent and more self-interested than might be assumed by viewers, while they tend to minimize criticism of the middle class, and they take care to explain how the grassroots actions are often orchestrated by political groups and business influences, plus they emphasize that much of the public is victimized by misinformation from people they tend to trust.

MSNBC is very critical of the people in power, regardless of their political leanings, but they criticize from a left-wing liberal perspective. FOX is more critical of the liberal segment and is less critical of the conservative power structure. They tend to soft-pedal anything which might be damaging to business or republican interests, while MSNBC considers anyone fair game, even though they always criticize from a liberal viewpoint. CNN is broader in its coverage and their reporting includes more balanced analysis and criticism, CNN also covers more technology than the other two networks.

All three networks have good reporters and they try to present the news objectively. However, FOX and MSNBC have decidedly slanted political shows while CNN has more balanced analytical content, like Larry King. All three networks try to make their news more entertaining, but they use different methods for accomplishing this end. They are all interested in ratings, so they aim at their target audiences. Of the three, the FOX network appeals to the less educated and more conse3rvaive element, so they use more visuals and less intellectually challenging content. MSNBC and CNN both aim at the more educated middle class, so their content is likely to include more challenging material. CNN and MSNBC both present the live feed of the oil disaster in a small window often while other reports or programming are being aired. FOX and MSNBC present more political content and the coverage of the middle class is based upon their political agendas, while CNN gives a more balanced view.

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The news events on all three networks are somewhat sensationalized to attract an audience. However, they all present fairly full content. I do find that I make a more emotional connection to the news when the graphic video and photos are presented, even charts help to connect me to the news event. I find the non-news analysis sometimes quite helpful and sometimes merely entertaining. I sometimes disagree with the analyses. However, I find that evidence-supported analysis is more convincing and may tend to make me reconsider my position, If the analysis is different from my own I will look for competing views either on the other networks or online.

Judging from the news reports on political action, tea party rallies and other alleged spontaneous demonstrations, not all viewers discriminate among the sources and many actually believe everything they see on their favorite news show. This is most amusing and a little bit scary. It bothers me that so much money is spent persuading the public to hold certain opinions. I recall the political campaigns concerning establishment of a national the health plan over the past 18 months and I have really changed my opinion of many things, because of this. I used to think most elected officials were, at least, nominally honest and sincere about their jobs. Well, considering the events of the past 18 months and the fact that the opposing forces mean that half of the people involved were lying, my opinion of elected representatives has really gone down a lot. I also used to think most people had average intelligence. However, my idea of what “average” is was, apparently, somewhat higher than the reality. Some of these people I have seen on television are really either quite brainwashed, gullible or just plain stupid.

I also thought businessmen were smarter than they are. Yes, many are getting quite rich, but at what cost? Either they do not believe that their tactics damage society and the planet or they simply do not care a whit about their children and grandchildren. The insurance and drug companies have spent enormous amounts of money to protect a private health system that would, eventually, bankrupt the country. I guess they have solid assets elsewhere and they plan to move out of the country. Oil companies would, evidently, pump every ounce of oil out of the ground, regardless of the damage to the environment, and they expect to diversify before we run out of oil. Everything seems to have become about profit. Even those who claim to be good Christians do not balk at raping the environment and devastating the middle class. I guess they figure the rapture will come before the damage destroys them too, but I wonder how they expect to be among the elect. Perhaps they plan to be sorry and penitent later.

The highly emotional events of the past 18 months have opened my eyes. I suppose that without these very emotional political struggles I would have remained somewhat in the dark. I remember deciding that the insurance companies owned the government and some older person in my family said she realized this fifty years ago. However, I never gave socialist democracy much shrift until I began to see how totally out of control our capitalist democracy has become. I suspect that further study will show me how uncontrolled capitalism is bound to become so dangerous as it has, and how ethics can be so easily distorted or discarded.

I think, because of these very controversial and emotional struggles in the news, the American public may wake up. Well, I hope so. I really do not know what I can do to make a change, but I shall find out. Mass media has not been good for us, since it allows mass brainwashing, but it may have reached a point of critical mass now with the massive amounts of television networks, plus the Internet. I sometimes wonder if enough people are paying attention. I do have some evidence that they are in that classes like this one are becoming quite popular and the various networks, including those I like, are drawing huge audiences. People on the Internet are voicing their opinions and sharing their views. People are also voting, and that is the most important. I do not know where this is going, but I shall be paying attention.


  1. The Daily Rundown Live 9 AM EDT and MSNBC LIve 10 AM EDT and MSN Evening News. 2010. MSNBC
  2. FOX News 11 AM EDT. 2010. FOX TV.
  3. CNN Newsroom , 11 AM EDT to 2 PM EDT. 2010. CNNTV.

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