The Corner

On MSNBC, Opinion Dominates Reporting

The Pew Research Center’s report on The State of the News Media 2013 is out. The first chart in the report’s section about television is the following:

The authors note:

CNN, which has branded itself around reporting resources and reach, cut back between 2007 and 2012 on two areas tied to that brand—in-depth story packages and live event coverage. Even so, CNN is the only one of the three big cable news channels to produce more straight reporting than commentary over all. At the other end of that spectrum lies MSNBC, where opinion fills a full 85% of the channel’s airtime.1

The report finds that, on every channel, there is less reporting and more opinion than in 2007, and that opinion systematically exceeds reporting during prime time for all three channels:

In prime time, opinion exceeds reporting at all three channels. Not so in the daytime. CNN maintains higher levels of straight reporting in both the morning and mid-day.  Fox’s morning programming is a pretty even mix of reporting and opinion, with opinion overtaking reporting in mid-day. At MSNBC, opinion overwhelms reporting in both the morning and at mid-day.

They also write:

Given the current liberal approach at nighttime at MSNBC, it’s hard to remember that back in 2007, the prime-time airwaves were split between liberals (Keith Olbermann and, to a lesser extent, Chris Matthews) and conservatives (Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson). Now, Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz are linchpins in an ideologically reconstructed liberal lineup.

In prime time, the biggest change in programming structure at MSNBC was a significant increase in the time devoted to packaged stories and a corresponding decrease in the newshole allotted to interviews. In 2007, packages accounted for only 13% of the MSNBC evening airtime studied; by 2012 it had risen to 31%. At the same time the once-overwhelming dominance of interviews (75%) in 2007 had fallen to 52% in 2012

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with opinions and ideology — on either side of the spectrum. It’s more problematic when these opinions are packaged as fact, but I’m not sure how many people fall for that.

I should add that my only experience with MSNBC was going on Up with Chris Hayes, where he has always made a point of having different opinions represented on his show. Moreover, as a host, he was incredibly pleasant, and so were his guests. I don’t know of any libertarian or conservative who’s been on Up and didn’t leave the show having had a really great time. 

The whole thing is here. (Thanks to David Freddoso for the pointer.)

Veronique de Rugy — Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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