Information has never been as available as it is today. If you are curious about a subject, a quick Google search is all you need and any number of sources will tell you just what you want to know. Another form of constant information has been the 24-hour cable news network. Whether you prefer Fox, MSNBC or the techy-gadget nonsense of CNN, news is merely a remote click away. So I started to examine these networks to figure out how they work, why they are popular, and do they really provide us with anything. FOXNews has been the leader of this industry for sometime now so I used them to provide me with an answer how to be successful with a news network.
Their are two important parts of cable news; the ideology, and the talent. News is supposed to be impartial. The basis of journalism is objectivity. Reporters show the facts and just the facts. Unfortunately, the facts are kinda boring, and often too complicated. So, the first step in building a successful cable news network is to make “news” only a fraction of your programming. You have to fill the rest in with opinion programming. Opinion programming presents information, but only the information which fits your network’s ideological slant. You see, being reasonable or middle of the road isn’t interesting. You need partisans to drum up your viewership. Once you have your ideology firmly in place, it’s just a matter of hiring the right people to drive it home.
The Morning Show
The morning show is very important. People see it before they go to work. This makes it equal to some of your evening programming. A viewer who watches in the morning will probably watch later. All you really need is what I call the “doofus sandwich.” The doofus sandwich is easy. You just find a couple of average seeming guys, not to smart, but also not to dumb, who will plug the slant you have chosen. In the middle you put a woman. This woman needs to reflect the “aw, shucks, this news can be confusing” mentality that reminds people, that women are a bit less qualified for the tough news stuff. Don’t shy away from smart women, just make sure she can play the part.
The Midday News
Midday is when you put in some of what you call “news coverage.” The timing is important. First, most people are at work at can’t watch it. This allows you to claim objectivity, but not really follow through. It is the perfect slot for the “Hot Woman Anchor.” You just find an attractive woman and set her to reporting the news, or what you call the news. No one really sees it, but you will draw a few men on their lunch break who just like looking at the pretty lady. Your ideological slant can remain because most people don’t watch, but you can still say you provided “news.”
Primetime is the bread and butter of cable news. Like all TV, the evening is when the majority of people have a chance to relax and watch. It is important to pull your viewers in. So, you need the essential “Trinity” of primetime cable news: The Blowhard, The Conspiracy Theorist, and the Hyper-Partisan.
The Blowhard is the easiest to find. He is simply a person who says whatever he thinks and tells the people who disagree with him that they are idiots. Name-calling is common with The Blowhard. You can find people like this of all ideologies (I will be glad to be one if you pay me. I’m doing it for free right now.) Because they don’t necessarily follow any a strict script and just say whatever they think, they can be unpredictable. For the most part you should easily find one who will bring you some viewers.
The Conspiracy Theorist is harder to find, but you will know a good one when you do. They see evil behind every door, underneath every floorboard. One of the major tactics of the Conspiracy Theorist is asking questions; horribly misleading questions. An example of this strategy would be saying, “Is the President a Muslim? I don’t know.” The point is to leave the idea in your viewer’s minds, while being able to deny that you actually said the question was true. It’s a rare skill. In fact, not all cable stations have one, but if you find one, they’re a gold mine.
The Hyper-Partisan can be difficult to find. This is mostly because they have absolutely no ethics at all. While the Conspiracy Theorist may seem crazy, they believe what they say. The Hyper-Partisan does not. The Hyper-Partisan believes that everything his party does is right, and what the other party does is wrong. Even if they are doing the exact same thing. This is a host that speaks directly to the ideological base of your network. They are very important, but it is also somewhat difficult to find journalists who are willing to forsake ethical behavior for a paycheck. If you get a good one, hang on to them.
Follow this model and I think you could build a cable news network that is successful. The question is, “Does your network make this country better or just make you money?”