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Ed Driscoll

National News Should Take A Cue From Local TV

January 22nd, 2005 - 12:55 pm

I’m in a south Jersey hotel room watching snow — and lots and lots and lots of it — falling. The Philadelphia TV news shows are telling everyone, in case they couldn’t figure it out for themselves, that snow — and lots and lots and lots of it — is falling. But they’re also busy explaining what role it will play in Philadelphia Eagles’ NFC Championship playoff game tomorrow against the Atlanta Falcons, happily interviewing local Eagles fans in green jerseys, and TV newscasters are frequently cheerfully yelling, “Go Eagles!” as they sign-off.

In other words, they’re happily rooting for the hometown team.

Last August, Glenn Reynolds posted an email from a reader who wondered why newspapers couldn’t cover politics the same way they cover their local sports teams.

He’s got a point — the broadcasters I’m watching aren’t even the sportscasters, just the general TV news reporters sent out to interview the man in street about how the snow is impacting him, and they’re not second-guessing or holding back their hometown bias.

But national TV anchormen wonder why they’re getting the pants beaten off them in the ratings by the Fox News Channel, even as they complain about having to wear American flag pins, or saying on air, as Peter Jennings once did, that he was “raised with anti-Americanism in my blood, or in my mother’s milk at least.”

Jonah Goldberg once wrote that “at least one of the things that has made Fox News successful isn’t that it’s right-wing, it is that it’s populist.” I think he’s got a point. At least you know it’s not anti-American. In other words, it roots for the hometown team–the U.S.–in much the same way that local news broadcasts root for the hometown sports teams.

Jim Geraghty recently wrote that there’s a lot of TV coverage that’s competing for the attention of the 49 percent who voted for Senator Kerry. “Meanwhile, on cable, Fox News pretty much has the 51 percent to itself, unless you want to count Joe Scarborough, Dennis Miller, and about half the Capitol Gang.”

The roots of the rest of the media’s tone can be traced back to the punitive liberalism that began in the early 1970s. Maybe if they took a lead from how the local TV news channels cover sports, and try applying that tone to covering America, they might begin to get their viewers back.