MSNBC vs Fox News Comparison

So in my new place, I’ve got a TV at hand and I’ve often had it on during the day the past several weeks. In that time, I’ve tended to watch Fox News cause, well, I’m a capitalist and I’m for limited government, so it reflects my leanings. But I’m keen to hear all sides, so I’ve made a point to watch PBS Newshour, CNN, and MSNBC, too.

But as a result of a heated debate on another thread here, I wanted to spend more time on MSNBC to see whether Fox or MSNBC was the more objective source of news and information. So tonight, I’ve watched MSNBC from 5pm to 8pm. During that time, Chris Matthews show played twice and Al Sharpton’s show was on at 6pm.

Here are my observations after watching these MSNBC shows:

  • they spent a remarkable amount of time talking about the GOP and how the GOP perceives and handles various Dem personalities, esp. the Pres. – comes across as quite obsessive
  • they did not spend very much time talking about Democrats, Dem policies, or Dem plans – only as necessary to get the tee up the criticism of the GOP
  • they did not respond well to data that disagreed with their conceptions. on sharpton, they had a pollster on who was reporting how shitty obama’s ratings are. as he started reading the negative stats, both Sharpton and the other guest and Sharpton started talking over him almost immediately so he couldn’t be heard. then they switched the subject to some other stats that were more favorable. the pollster kept trying to restate the data in the quiet moments, each time the other guys would leap all over him. he never was able to speak his mind. it was so absurd that the pollster couldn’t keep himself from laughing.
  • they don’t use a lot of data. no charts, no stats, no nothing
  • on a day when the market dropped over 500 pts, neither program spent more than 5 mins discussing the implications. i think they may be filmed some other time of the day and just aired in these time slots (which is sort of weird since this is prime news time)
  • they distort all aspects of GOP ideas and concerns – they basically take the worst version of every policy and assign it to the entire body of GOP politicians. they delight in pointing out small frailties or peccadilloes. they show very little actual footage of GOP pols and the clips they do show are of their gaffes
  • aside from 30 second snippets at the half hour, they provided absolutely no coverage of the news of the day during the entire 5-8pm time frame. i found this very strange and in sharp contrast to Fox
  • the tone and emotional pitch of the hosts is ratcheted much higher than the hosts on Fox – even Bill O’Reilly rarely gets as heated as these hosts were the entire show.

Frankly, I found it a bit shocking – MSNBC is pouring fuel on the fire of the left’s rage. I don’t see how that helps anything – a real disservice is being done to frame the issues, concerns, and positions of the GOP so poorly. But it’s a nice, simple formula and I’m sure there’s an audience for it.

My take on Fox is that it does a decent job to at least articulate the actual positions that Dems hold. Sure, they are rightward leaning and go over the top sometimes, but overall, the tone is more balanced and the amount of information content is much higher. Fox questioning of guests and panelists is more rigorous. They use more data and charts. They also do an excellent job covering the news of the day – they are on top of everything that’s going on, not just the political stories. In this way, their audience is better educated and informed about the events that are shaping policy whereas the MSNBC audience must get their news somewhere else.

So my take is that between the 2 channels, Fox does a better job of recounting what the other side actually says and does. In comparison to MSNBC, the Fox slogan ‘fair and balanced’ feels like a reasonable statement.

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