11 June 2010

Where We Get Our News Matters

This has sat as a saved topic for several weeks as a draft for a future post: talking heads directing conservative news vs. liberals looking towards other sources.  Finally, I am going to take this on.

The idea has been settling within me for awhile as I have been looking for a delicate way to approach this topic.  To begin, I should do a little bit of self identification.  I consider myself to be Social Libertarian (or Libertarian Socialist, can’t decide which sounds better).  In short, I think that small scale socialism can effectively create communities where prices and labor costs are set and agreed upon.  Small scale is vital to this idea.  Because of this, the only concern will be economics and personal freedoms will not be tampered with.  Transgressions are dealt with on the basis of infringing on the liberties of each individual.  Essentially, allow people to maintain individualism without neglecting to remember the whole.  I will get into this another time, but I wanted to be up front with my personal views since they can and will color my opinions.

With that said, I am an avid fan of conservative radio.  I find it to be entertaining, appalling, funny and infuriating all at the same time.  The crazier the better.  I am lucky to get my fix of this via my Sirius subscription.  I could listen to the line up of Church, Beck, Wilkow, Hannity and Levin (in order) every day.  Sometimes I have to step away because the crazy becomes too much to handle.

Most of all, I listen because I think it is important to have an understanding of your opposition.  In baseball, a pitcher studies tape of batters and reviews pitching charts from previous match ups before a start.  The same applies to other sports and professional fields, but does not seem to be the case when it comes to politics.  Conservatives happily start their day with Fox and Friends, then listen to Sean Hannity, read the Drudge Report and then watch Beck every evening.  Liberals, especially young ones, will frequent the Huffington Post, watch MSNBC and laugh along with Jon Stewart.  Sadly, the majority of Americans also use outlets like CNN.com where the majority of stories are about celebrities and animals.

As I thought about the differing news sources between the two ideologies, something stuck out.  There is no reasonable liberal voice on the radio.  I turned my radio to the Liberal Sirius channel and quickly realized why.  Liberal talk radio is boring and lacks firebrand opinions.  Turning back, Hannity was in the middle of his usual rant on Obama turning the US into a Socialist state (I wish!) and likening him to Mao and Lennin.  He then claimed that the administration is out to get everyone and will ruin the nation.  Back on on the Liberal channel, the host is talking about the stupidity of Conservatives.  Hannity does his fair share of general liberal bashing (Levin, Wilkow and Church are the worst when it comes to that), but he takes on Obama and just makes things up.

I reconsidered my thought on why Conservative radio was successful.  To me, they make up whatever they want in order to scare people.  What is more surprising is that these opinions are what seemingly feed the Tea Party movement.  There is something to be said for fiscal restraint, but calling the weak healthcare bill a Socialist program is way off base.

Yet, the rhetoric coming from the mouths of Conservative talk radio seems to be reaching the ears of a lot of Americans.  On the other hand, Liberals really only have Jon Stewart.  He has 30 min of air time late at night on Comedy Central.  Hannity and Beck are both on the radio for 3 hours and then do 1 hour tv shows on Fox News.  Their audiences are massive.  That is neglecting to mention Savage and Limbaugh, who are have strong followings as well.

To me, it seems as if the current gap can be attributed to the ways that people get their news.  In my estimation, most people casually read either cnn.com or something like Yahoo.  The next largest portion are Fox News watchers.  They fall under those who do watch Fox News and those who likely would but get the same kind of news via talk radio.  A much smaller group is part of the Stewart/Huffington Post crowd (anyone notice how much celebrity news has taken over the Huff Po?).  Last, is a small minority who consult a variety of news sources.  They might be an all of the above type, but they follow differing opinions.  They will read Ann Coulter and Bill Mahar in succession.

I place a large portion of blame on the current media.  They cater too much to what people think they want to hear rather than what they should be hearing.  I engage in the celebrity gossip game happily, but when I go to a news source I think that more important things can take up the majority (not necessarily all) of the front page.

With print media suffering, quick hitting news delivered on television and the internet must be more responsible.  However, it is one of the oldest forms of media, radio, that seems to continue to wield a large amount of influence.


What do you think about the current media?  Should we be blamed more for this?  Is radio really that influential?