By Dick Morris
August 21, 2003
I am sure we were all surprised to learn in the Aug. 11 issue of The New York Times that people are " burned out on serious news." How else could the bastion of establishment journalism account for the falloff in network news viewership and, unnoted in the article, the newspaper's own decreasing circulation?
Yet the evidence is all there. People don't care anymore. That must be why The Times' circulation has fallen 5 percent and 1.1 million fewer households are watching network television news compared to last year at this time!
Jim Murphy, executive producer of the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," attempting to spin why his show has lost 600,000 viewers, notes patronizingly that we poor dears have been through " two years of very heavy-duty, stressful news, from Sept. 11 through the war with Iraq." In his opinion the loss of one-tenth of his show's audience is part of "a little bit of a break-taking going on across the spectrum."
Shaking their heads in sympathy, cable news networks CNN (down 22 percent) and MSNBC (down 25 percent) bemoan the lack of compelling news to cover. Jack Wakshlag, head of research for the Turner Broadcasting System, which manages CNN for AOL Time Warner, said that the falloff was because none of this year's news had sufficiently " broad appeal" or " emotional tug."
Don't these folks realize that it is their coverage, their bias, and their slanted news that is leading viewers to turn them off! Fox News, during the same period that caused such clucking by the establishment, had no difficulty adding 200,000 viewers during the news period and many more during prime time.
The Iraq War marked the beginning of the end of network news coverage. Viewers saw the juxtaposition of the embedded correspondents reporting the war as it was actually unfolding and the jaundiced, biased, negative coverage of these same events in the network newsrooms.
While U.S. and British troops advanced without serious opposition and with a minimum of casualties, the media worried loudly about disaster scenarios that never came to pass. The Turks weren't letting our troops through. There would be no two front war! Our supply lines were over-extended! Guerrilla attacks would leave our troops without food or ammo! Saddam would blow up the oil wells and trigger an eco-disaster from which it would take decades to recover! We were being sucked into house-by-house, street-by-street fighting in the capital! We didn't have enough troops! And, when the war was won, the networks and the newspapers fixated on the priceless artifacts that had been looted from the Baghdad Museum!
None of it happened. Now with the embedded correspondents withdrawn, these same networks and news sources tell us we face a quagmire in which we will lose dozens of soldiers each month for years and assure us that President Bush lied when he said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. When the weapons are found and the killing slows or stops, the networks will have moved on to other stories.
The reason people aren't watching network news and are canceling their subscriptions to establishment press organs is that they are fed up with the manipulation and deliberate juggling of the news they see and read each day. An increasingly educated electorate can spot bias with greater acumen and astuteness than ever before.
Nor is the bias just tilting toward the left. The failure of news organs to cover the concerns of the left wing of the Democratic Party has triggered disenchantment among those voters every bit as deep as on the right. The ability of leftists like Bill Maher and Michael Moore to attract an audience attests to the alienation of the left from the establishment.
Americans are refusing to be
spoon fed anyone's idea of the news. They no longer care to dine
on the meal served by Rather or Peter Jennings (Tom Brokaw seems
to fare better) or by CNN or MSNBC. They want to make their own
choices in the marketplace. The Internet lets them do just that
and they are voting with their remote controls to turn off the
party line they get on the networks.
Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Morris is a political consultant, commentator and best selling author. Look for his newest book, "Power Plays" available now and look for Dick's new book, "Off With Their Heads - Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists In American Politics".
Distributed by Cagle Cartoons, Inc. to subscribers for publication.