by Caleb Talley
I try to make a habit out of going to the gym. Am I succeeding at that? Not quite. Am I doing better? Definitely maybe.
Going to a large chain gym here in Little Rock provides me with the opportunity for a little mental workout in addition to the glutes. Hanging from the ceiling at my local Planet Fitness are nearly a dozen televisions, all turned to different channels, allowing me to compare coverage from the country’s two largest cable news networks: Fox News and CNN.
They were both hung up on the same subject – the media. On the screen to my left, CNN analysts discussed an incident earlier in the day Thursday where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say the press was not the enemy of the state, despite being given several opportunities. Sanders, instead, lambasted the media, CNN especially, for its coverage of Trump and his administration.
On the screen to my right, Fox News analysts talked media credibility. They were touting a new poll released by Research Intelligencer, via Brand Keys, that placed the network at second place among the nation’s most trusted new sources. (The country’s most trusted news source – BBC – isn’t even in this country.)
I won’t lie; that floored me. Fox News, the most credible new source in America? And then, I discovered how they were ranked.
According to the study, 4,012 TV news consumers were asked which network they considered to be most trustworthy, and 87 percent of them said Fox News. Comparatively, CNN sat close to the bottom with 69 percent. Trump? The cellar – 29 percent.
It’s important we not confuse this poll, which measures how a handful of people perceive these networks, with whether or not these networks are actually disseminating truth. If you’re measuring with public opinion rather than evidence, you’re bound to get a-whole-lot of hogwash. Let’s be honest; over half of America is more familiar with Kim Kardashian’s bowel movement schedule than they are with what’s happening on Capitol Hill.
During the last presidential election, a Public Policy poll found that 30 percent of those polled thought Barack Obama was born outside the United States (he wasn’t), and 32 percent believed he was Muslim (he’s not). In another poll, nearly 20 percent of voters questioned supported bombing Agrabah.
Agrabah is the fictional city from Disney’s Aladdin. So, there’s that.
In summary, our opinions mean zilch if we can’t back it up with anything more than a hunch.
So, who can you trust? Let’s look for some surveys that carry a little more weight than a handful of opinions.
In 2012, Fairleigh Dickson University conducted a survey by asking 1,185 random, nationwide respondents which new sources they consumed most, and then they asked questions about events in the U.S. and abroad.
According to the survey, Fox News viewers were less informed on issues than respondents who didn’t even follow the news. Fox News viewers, on average, were less likely to know the capital of Canada, the religion of the Dalai Lama or the size of the Federal budget. They also couldn’t find South Carolina on a map or name the second digit of pi.
But that was six years ago. Three days ago, Fox News, according to Fox News, was America’s most credible news source. Right?
Give me a break. Fox News does nothing more than engage in counterprogramming against the unflattering news of the day about Trump and his administration. The network offers the president and his flunkies a platform to say whatever they wish, without question for fact or fiction.
Fox News followed its Thursday evening segment on credibility by streaming Trump’s Pennsylvania rally in its entirety, allowing the president to blather out lies to rabid fanatics about immigration, highways and even Beyoncé.
If you were to take Trump at his word, while watching his rally on Fox News, you would incorrectly believe that NATO defense funding was decreasing (it’s not), that he passed the Veterans Choice Act (it passed in 2014), that his tax cut was the largest in history (not even close) and that he draws bigger crowds than Bruce Springsteen (wrong, again).
And when they’re not allowing the president to lie unrestrained, Fox News’ own anchors or tossing out their own whoppers. According to PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking organization, more than half of recent statements made by Fox News pundits were false. Only 10 percent were deemed “true,” and 20 percent were considered “mostly true.” Compare that to the 16 percent of statements that were voted “pants of fire.” You get the picture.
So, in summary, if you’re making a list of new sources you can trust, might be a good idea to leave Fox News off of it.
If you really want to know who’s fact and who’s crap, visit All Generalizations are False. This independent reference, created in 2016 by Vanessa Otera – a patent attorney from Denver. Otera spent a ridiculous amount of time analyzing a number of national news sources and sorting them into categories based on media bias and trustworthiness.
It would take me a dozen articles to fully explain her methodology, so I’ll let her explain it to you.
Here it is…
As you’ll see, Fox News sits right on the edge of “Nonsense damaging to public discourse” and “unfair interpretations of the news.” Go figure.
Before I go, check out this interesting painting of Donald Trump and Co., floating down the D.C. swamp:
In Cash & Candor, Arkansas Money & Politics / AY Magazine Editor Caleb Talley aims to shoot it straight when it comes to business and politics in and around the Natural State. Talley comes to AMP by way of the Arkansas Delta, where he called balls and strikes at the Forrest City Times-Herald. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Cash & Candor here.