The current issue of TV Guide asks the question "Is TV Starting a New Civil War? With their verbal bomb-throwing, cable news' [sic] partisan talkers are polarizing the American public." Reporter Ileane Randolph brought in liberal professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson to channel the usual nostalgic lament for the good old days before the 1996 arrival of Fox and MSNBC: "What's been lost is a coherent common understanding." (Read: a unanimous liberal media narrative.) Countering that is MRC's Dan Gainor:
Don’t blame the talkers, counters Dan Gainor, director of the Culture and Media Institute, which monitors perceived liberal bias. “The American people tend to choose teams—us and them. It especially happens when one party is completely in power. We saw that when the Republicans were in control with the rise of MSNBC. I don’t think it’s harmful that Glenn Beck has helped mobilize opposition to the government. People want to watch Olbermann split the atom with his scream and watch Beck make fun of the Obama administration. It’s the free market system.”
Gainor is countered by a spokesman for "the conservative website Frumforum," trashing right-wing talkers:
But words can hurt. “The effect of extreme commentary on the public agenda is to tie the hands of legislators,” suggests Tim Mak of the conservative website FrumForum, created by former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum. “If conservative commentators say that liberals want to kill our grandmothers and they’re Marxist, Fascist tyrants, like Beck often does, how can there be meaningful cooperation between Republicans and Democrats on legislation? It’s much harder to act in a moderating, bipartisan way.”
Rudolph's story leans in the direction of spokesmen who endorse her thesis of unfortunately polarizing cable talk. There is one Tea Party activist in the story, and MSNBC boss Phil Griffin:
Tea Party activist Pam Stout is one of those FNC converts. She was a lifelong “loyal” NBC News viewer until just before the 2008 election. “I realized how biased NBC was toward the liberals,” says Stout, who credits Beck for opening her eyes to “how the country is moving toward socialism.” Now, Fox—which heavily promotes the anti-Obama Tea Party rallies—“is on pretty much all day,” she says.
MSNBC president Phil Griffin welcomes the chance to be part of the political discourse. “Our viewers get their news from a lot of different places, then come to us because they connect with one of our hosts,” he says. “They trust their analysis. Much of what’s out there is used like that. It gets a lot of attention, but the people who [complain] want the world to be like 1960, when we had three networks and you didn’t hear what people felt.”
But what happens when these hosts go rogue, as Olbermann admitted he did with his ad hominem attack on now senator Scott Brown? “Mistakes are made and corrections are made,” Griffin insists. “There might be provocative stuff out there, and that’s good, but it has to be based on the facts. When you hear Obama’s a racist, I don’t think that’s doing anybody any good. But to blame cynicism against government on a couple of voices in cable news—that’s absurd.”