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Editorial: An opportunity for cable news


It’s been a rough few weeks for cable news.

First, on April 18, Fox News settled its defamation case with Dominion Voting Systems for a staggering $787 million, providing a stark precedent to all media outlets about the financial and reputational repercussions for deliberately spreading false information.

On top of this, Fox is still embroiled in another lawsuit from the company Smartmatic due to similar claims of election fraud.

Though this outcome is historic and serves as an update to a previous editorial about the case itself, we are not here to talk about Dominion.

On April 24, Fox and CNN, completely separate from one another, announced they each fired one of their most prominent on-air personalities, Tucker Carlson and Don Lemon, respectively.

Carlson has been surrounded by controversy throughout his tenure at Fox. Whether he’s giving credence to the right-wing Great Replacement conspiracy theory (that contends Democrats are intentionally bringing in immigrants to dilute the power of white voters) or he’s claiming the Jan. 6 insurrection was a peaceful protest, it’s rare that one of Carlson’s shows goes by without some inflammatory remark.

Though these statements are both untrue and harmful, they are likely not the reason Carlson was let go.

Fox has not released any official reason for Carlson’s firing, and it is not our place to speculate on the nature of the termination. Still, though, the compounding headaches of released text messages from the Dominion case, Carlson’s bombastic style and a separate lawsuit from a former “Tucker Carlson Tonight” producer who claims Carlson created a hostile work environment all probably contributed to the decision to let him go.

Over at CNN, Lemon has recently been in hot water for some of his controversial statements. Most recently, he said Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was “past her prime,” insinuating that physical appearance is a significant factor in women’s political careers. 

Lemon has also been in a series of skirmishes with his colleagues and was previously charged with sexual assault, though the charges were later dropped.

Just like that, the landscape of cable media changed drastically.

Calson’s primetime spot at Fox was the most watched on cable news and, on some nights, was the most watched show on television.

Lemon, though not as individually successful as Carlson, was a familiar face that many CNN viewers trusted and, as a gay Black man in a heteronormative and white-dominated field, could relate to.

To many, this may seem like a wholly negative situation. Fans of Lemon and Carlson will tune into other shows to get their news, and younger audiences will be even less likely to begin watching such a contentious medium of journalism.

However, we want to paint this media shakeup as an opportunity for cable news to evolve. Hopefully, it can increase its longevity by capturing new and younger audiences — not to mention audiences that truly represent the party affiliations of the U.S.

It’s no secret that younger Americans are not apt to get their news from flagship cable shows. Even we, a board consisting of journalism and political science majors who are openly news-nuts, do not often go to live viewings of CNN, MSNBC or Fox to get our news.

New media is a broad term that defines and encompasses all sources of news that rely on the internet or other digital communications. It’s a medium of mass communication that — we don’t have to tell you — has exploded in the past decade. Chances are, you’re using the internet to read this right now.

Beyond online publications of newspapers, new media encompasses podcasts, long-form informative videos hosted on sites like YouTube and Twitch, and traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Both CNN and Fox have begun to embrace these new mediums with mobile apps, Spotify podcasts and prominent online publications, but these are usually seen as a supplement to their main televised news programming.

In the wake of these massive personnel changes in the network, it may be time for the companies to lean into these new sectors of journalism more heavily.

However, no matter the medium from which this programming is emanated, substantive changes to the content of the shows themselves may be warranted.

Due to our bias, the following discussion will be focused on Fox News, but it is important to note that many of these changes would apply just as easily to CNN.

Now that the right-wing rhetorical barrage from Carlson is absent — although it could be replaced with another inflammatory conservative personality — Fox is primed to begin reshaping and repairing their reputations with centrist and liberal Americans.

In addition to shielding them from future defamation lawsuits, a less opinion-oriented Fox may serve to fit a new niche for conservative Americans who are not fans of other cable news companies, yet do not want to engage in the culture-war antics Fox has pushed for years.

It is important to note, however, that repairing Fox’s reputation among liberals would be a long and not-very-profitable endeavor, so we aren’t going to hold our breath.

In fact, we may not see any of these changes we’ve proposed happen, but no matter what, cable news will never again look like it did two weeks ago.

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