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Why the Cable News Crisis is Good for Us All

The “news-as-entertainment” formula is failing – and cable news is floundering as a result.

Credit: Nate Hovee, monticello, FellowNeko/Shutterstock

Cable news ratings are falling off a cliff in the post-Trump era. This is true of all the major news networks, including Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. According to a recent Axios article, these three networks showed an average drop in viewership of 19% since last year.

The numbers suggest that Americans are tuning out the news. But why? One reason could be that the news-as-entertainment model is not working anymore. The 24-hour news cycle seems to have run its course – which is something to celebrate, in all honesty.

News isn’t meant to be fun. Leave that to Netflix and Disney. Also, there really isn’t that much stuff happening on a daily basis to justify 24-hour coverage.

New CNN CEO, Chris Licht, even admitted that his network sensationalizes the news way too much. To win back audience trust, he has promised to scale down the use of CNN’s cringeworthy “Breaking News’ banner.

Rise of YouTube Political Pundits

So are Americans, especially younger people, just not interested in things like politics? Quite the opposite. Independent political commentators on both the right and the left are flourishing on YouTube and other online platforms.

People like Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, Jimmy Dore, and Cenk Uygur have all built massive followings online. Free from corporate control, these independent content creators can speak their minds about what’s happening in the real world. And people are listening, that’s for sure.

This points to a desire amongst the public for news and opinion pieces that speak to their everyday reality. The truth is that cable news has become way out of touch with what’s happening in the lives of ordinary Americans.

This gap is now being filled by online content creators who speak directly to their audiences. Feedback happens in real-time, allowing the hosts to shape their content according to the needs of their viewers and subscribers.

More Substance, Less Fluff

This new breed of political content creator is covering topics that corporate outlets are ignoring. And that’s their appeal. Take Jordan Chariton, for example, owner and founder of Status Coup. Jordan does independent on-the-ground reporting about things like the #FlintWaterCrisis and the Starbucks union movement.

When last did any of the major cable news networks give an update about the ongoing crisis in Flint? Have any of them said a word about what’s happening at Starbucks, except to platform anti-union voices?

Or what about the case of human rights lawyer Steven Donziger? Donziger won a $9.5bn class-action judgement against Chevron for polluting the Ecuadorian Amazon. He was then privately prosecuted on bogus charges by a law firm that had represented Chevron in the past. Conflict of interest much?

This resulted in Donziger spending over 600 days under house arrest and finally being sent to federal prison. Yet, this massive human rights abuse didn’t get a shred of airtime on any major network.

This all suggests that America will be better off when cable news finally goes the way of the dinosaur. Let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later.

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