Fox News has recently encountered criticism for devoting relatively little coverage to the Haiti earthquake and even choosing not to air the benefit concert shown by most other networks. Fox’s decision to keep its focus on domestic politics, however, may be paying off in the ratings.
For the week of January 18-24, during which the top stories were Haiti relief efforts and the special election in Massachusetts won by Republican Scott Brown, Fox was the top cable network in primetime. In the course of that week, according to an analysis reported by the Los Angeles Times, Fox devoted about 44% of its airtime to the election and only 16% to Haiti relief efforts.
Fox News executives are crowing over the results. According to Think Progress, “Fox News Executive Vice President for Programming Bill Shine responded by attacking other networks, especially CNN.”
“What happened in Haiti was just horrific,” Shine told the LA Times. “But there are also some big stories in America that we chose not to ignore the way that other networks seemed to.” He added that Fox hopes to take the top slot regularly because “people trust us, and when news happens, they come to us.”
Shine’s words appeared to echo a controversial newspaper ad run by Fox last September under the headline “How Did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN Miss This Story?” The ad falsely implied that the other networks had completely failed to cover that month’s tea party protest in Washington.
CNN has been widely praised for its on-the-ground coverage in Haiti, during which “CNN’s Sanjay Gupta performed surgery on a 12-year-old Haitian and CNN’s Anderson Cooper pulled a child away from violent looters.”
At the same time, Fox’s Haiti coverage might charitably be described as “sloppy.” Raw Story reported earlier this week that Fox has so far failed to correct a January 13 story erroneously stating that Cuba was “absent” from Haiti relief efforts.
Fox, however, appears to have a keen sense of its own viewers’ preferences, as indicated by a new poll which finds that Fox is trusted by more Americans than any of the other news networks. Overall, 49% of those polled said they trusted Fox, including 74% of Republicans, while all the other major networks had a higher level of distrust than of trust.
“The media landscape has really changed,” the president of Public Policy Polling explained. “Now they’re turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear.”