Fox News and MSNBC’s Partisan Bickering a ‘Return to the Normal State of Affairs’

By Alex Weprin 

The New America Foundation held an event this week chronicling the 2012 campaign, and one of the panels focused on the cable news channels, Fox News and MSNBC. Reason magazine editor Matt Welch and The New Republic editor Frank Foer were joined by New York contributor Gabriel Sherman, who is also writing a book about Fox News.

Welch argued that the partisan bickering we see on cable news is a “return to the normal state of affairs.”

After World War II, the journalism industry decided to scrap the sensationalism of Hearst’s era, Welch recounted. “They suppressed everything tabloid-y about American media for a long time,” forgetting that “people want to talk smack about politics the same way they want to about sports.” The resulting media environment felt artificial, Welch said. Outlets like Fox and MSNBC “make it more interesting and competitive, a richer ecosystem.”

Sherman meanwhile argued that Fox News had cracked the code when it comes to cable news:

“Fox is better,” said the reporter, who is currently writing a book about Roger Ailes and Fox.

“In what way?” New America Schwartz Fellow and Editor of The New Republic Frank Foer asked Sherman.

“Every way,” he responded. “It’s faster, funnier, brighter and bolder…”

“This is a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome,” Foer joked.

Really, Sherman’s perspective is the outcome of his investigation into the organization as a business model – rather than as an ideological mouthpiece.

“From a free market perspective, what Ailes and Fox have created is an amazing story,” Sherman said. “It’s a free market, they identified it, they reached it, they sell it every day.”

You can read a full recap of the event here.