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Within Pew’s State of the News Media 2013 report, the topic of opinion versus reporting on cable news came up. As we noted earlier, since 2007 opinion programming has risen dramatically while reporting has declined, but it is worth breaking it down by network.
According to Pew’s analysis, MSNBC had by far the most opinion programming of the “big three” cable news channels, with 85% of segments opinion, versus 15% reporting. By comparison Fox News had 55% of segments opinion to 45% reporting, with CNN the only channel to offer more reporting than opinion, with 54% reporting and 46% opinion. Opinion is not just hosts sharing their views, but also pundits spouting on about their thoughts on matters.
On the whole, 63% of all segments on cable news feature opinion, compared to 37% for reporting.
Not surprisingly, primetime skewed heavily toward opinion, with a broader mix during the day, and a slight skew toward opinion in the morning hours.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Jake Tapper, whose new show debuts today at 4 PM, was asked why he would jump to CNN, with the interviewer comparing the channel to the Titanic.
“That’s not how I see it,” he replies, his tone one of consternation blended with bewilderment. “CNN is a vital place. More people watched the election results on CNN than any other channel. More people watched the inauguration on CNN than any other channel. … MSNBC and Fox News are great at what they do, but that’s very different from what we do. So I just reject your characterization.”
According to Pew, Tapper is correct: CNN is the only channel to air more reporting than opinion (though as we saw yesterday, editorial decisions made by anchors can still draw strong rebukes). That said, Nearly 50% of CNN segments feature opinion over reporting, largely in the form of segments featuring vapid pundits. Whether that changes under Jeff Zucker or with the new programming remains to be seen.