Over the past few years—as is customary—the start of a new year often marked the beginning of a promise to one’s self to change something in their life to improve it. These resolutions often involve personal goals meant to test oneself, to lose weight and exercise, spend less time on a smartphone, make new friends, become more involved in the community, and countless others. These resolutions are all noble in their intent and are even encouraged. One of our most famous founding fathers—Benjamin Franklin—encouraged such action, stating that “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” As human beings, we must improve ourselves to move forward on our goals. If you want to challenge yourself and run a marathon, a tough regimen of daily exercises must be undertaken. Or, if you are a student and wish to improve your grades, that student must rigorously study his subjects at school. Although these are all noble goals for the year 2019, there is one that I believe is necessary for all Americans to undertake. Eliminate, as much as possible, the viewing of cable news, and instead switch to as many legitimate news sources as possible.
One of the greatest enablers of our current national division is the three major cable news networks. These include Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, as well as their subsidiary networks and online channels. For those who seek an ideological bent, Fox News offers up the most. Its nightly lineup includes almost entirely opinion shows, from hosts such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson, who all rake in historic ratings every night. In the case of Hannity, he has infamously pushed the false conspiracy theory involving the murder of Seth Rich, while Tucker Carlson is today embroiled in a scandal after saying that continued immigration makes the United States “dirtier” and “poorer” and further alleged in another show that illegal immigrants had voted in massive numbers during the 2016 elections, which are false. Laura Ingraham continued this trend, speaking out against the increasing racial demographic changes in the country, stating that “Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people.” None of this is surprising, especially as all three started their careers in similar ways. Ingraham most infamously in 1984 as editor-in-chief to The Dartmouth Review—a college newspaper—where she outed LGBTQ members of a local college organization. In addition to these three shows and their hosts, countless other figures at Fox News from Todd Starnes to Jesse Watters, who all value opinion over facts, yet broadcast their opinions as facts. One example of this is Todd Starnes advocating for violence against protesters during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and calling the removal of Confederate symbols after the 2015 Charleston Church shooting “cultural cleansing.” He also called public schools indoctrination centers, arguing that increased support for same-sex marriage among the American public was caused by this. It is clear through all these examples that Fox News is lacking in any true or serious reporting, and instead values the opinion of charlatans over facts reported by Shepard Smith and other honest journalists at the network.
The next cable news network that adds to the political landscape of our country and contributes to the ongoing divide in the country is CNN. Although CNN lacks the immediate and clear political bias that Fox News and MSNBC hold, their greatest flaw is in its sensationalism. Perhaps the most famous instances of CNN’s failures as a news network come during an October 15, 2004, episode of Crossfire, where comedian and then-host of The Daily Show Jon Stewart called hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala partisan hacks, and criticized the political theater of the show, which valued political grandstanding over honest debate. Another infamous moment on the network was the disappearance Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, which dominated much of their news cycle throughout 2014. This atrocious coverage included a countdown clock to the black box running out of battery, speculating that a black hole or supernatural occurrences might have been involved in the disappearance, and most importantly, this story took place in a year of many countless and more important issues. That same year, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of parts of Ukraine was one of the most stunning European land-grabs since Adolf Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938. In general, CNN has also failed to properly call out political figures for wrongdoing, often interviewing Senators, Congresspeople, and countless others, often handling them with kid gloves. Although CNN at times does genuine good reporting and is an excellent source for emergency events including wars, natural disasters, and others, their mistakes have made them a deeply flawed news network.
MSNBC is the least-viewed of these three major cable news networks, but it still earns immense criticism for much of its broadcasting. Like Fox News, its nightly lineup includes mostly partisan hosts, including Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell, and once employed Keith Olbermann, and in a much-reduced role still includes Al Sharpton. Whereas Fox News has a political bias from the position of the far-right, MSNBC has its own bias from the position of the center-left to far-left, depending on the show. The difference, however, comes with the social and political impact of each network. Despite criticisms of political bias on both networks, MSNBC does clearly differentiate between opinion and fact, and much of their daytime coverage is mostly legitimate news. In recent months their viewership has skyrocketed, but they lack the vitriol and influence of Fox News, as well as the over- sensationalism of CNN. In addition to MSNBC, other up and coming networks have entered the political sphere. One America News Network (OANN) effectively is lined with opinion shows, lacking any real news, and promoting conspiracy theories and pro-Trump coverage. Fox Nation, a subsidiary of Fox News that launched in November 2018, whose slogan is “Opinion Done Right” which doubles down on their opinion-based coverage of national events, although it lacks the A-listers like Sean Hannity and instead depends on has-beens such as Todd Starnes.
It is my belief that cutting these three cable news networks out of a daily television and streaming regimen can improve the political situation in the United States. Instead, news which is dedicated to facts and not opining to an audience of millions is necessary to our national news diet. Instead of listening to talk radio where the likes of Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh reside, NPR could be a good alternative. Newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, television stations such as Bloomberg, BBC News, PBS, or local news stations, and other sources such as Reuters, CSPAN, the Associated Press, and countless others can provide the stories as they are, with little embellishment. In addition to this, if one is worried that their news is false, sources such as Snopes and FactCheck are useful tools, enough so that there have been repeated attempts to discredit them by networks and sites who frequently value opinion over fact. For me, personally, among my New Years’ resolutions for 2019 is to stop watching cable news and depend on reliable sources for my intake of news. Although I might still peruse some of these sources, as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all make the news as well and in CNN’s case are legitimately good sources for disaster and war coverage, they will not be gracing my television screen for the near future, and it is my hope that others follow this in 2019.