Cable News’ ‘Crossfire Culture’ Gets Analyzed

By Alex Weprin 

The Washington Post‘s Howard Kurtz writes about the “Crossfire Culture” of cable news, and journalism in general. While ostensibly it is about the current state of journalism, it is hard to ignore the focus on cable news pundits:

Cable news channels were pioneers in vituperation, as politicians learned they were more likely to get invited back by breathing fire. The rise of highly opinionated hosts at Fox and MSNBC helped fuel the trend, as has the invasion of pols-turned-pundits — Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, James Carville, Eliot Spitzer — who have blurred the distinction between us (the journalists) and them (those we cover).

And later:

[Bill] O’Reilly regularly portrays his network as the antidote to hopelessly biased rivals: “If you want to know what’s really happening in America, you have to come here because you will not get it in much of the mainstream media.” His chief antagonist, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, said Sherrod’s reputation had been “assassinated by Fox News” and “that scum Breitbart,” but he did not spare what he called “the cowering media, this network included.”

The article seems to draw from a discussion Kurtz had on his Sunday CNN program, “Reliable Sources:”

On the show, Kurtz spoke to CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid, Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik, Former CNN exec Frank Sesno and Lauren Ashburn of Ashburn Media.

Following a clip package, comprised largely of Fox news and MSNBC personalities, Reid and Sesno got into it, from the transcript:

REID: Not to be a Pollyanna again, I do believe that we can and probably are overstating this, though, because if you did not have Fox News, you could not have made that clip you just made. The average American doesn’t watch Fox News. Yes, they make money in the world of cable TV —

KURTZ: Many viewers watch Fox News —


SESNO: When CNN first went on the air, the average American didn’t watch CNN. But CNN had a disproportionate impact even in those early days because it was on where it was on and it influenced the influences.

REID: We repeat it and repeat it in the media echo chamber here in Washington, D.C.