If you’re not familiar with Erik Wemple, he’s a media reporter for the Washington Post. I like some of the stuff Wemple has written in the past but over the past year, it has seemed as if he’s become a bit obsessed with going on the attack against Fox News. Last week he traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona to attend a Fox News fan event featuring some of the network’s hosts and opinion commentators. Here’s Wemple:
An hour before Tuesday’s fete, hundreds of Fox News/Fox Nation devotees were bunched in a queue alongside the W Hotel in Scottsdale, awaiting entry to an affair that included the taping of a Fox Nation show, a Pop-a-Shot duel between Fox News’s Pete Hegseth and Fox Nation lifestyle/sports host Abby Hornacek, and lots of sidebar discussions of politics…
During interviews with dozens of Fox Nation “inaugural summit” attendees, the Erik Wemple Blog marveled at just how deeply these fans engage with the product. “You’re the guy on the mug, right?” asked one of the line-standers when we passed through. The man was referring to the so-called Erik Wemple mug, a coffee mug emblazoned with our likeness from a 2017 appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Tucker Carlson distributes these items to the winners of his weekly news quiz.
There’s lots of discussion of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity in the piece even though, from what I can tell, neither opinion host was present. So, basically, Wemple went to a Fox Nation fan event and encountered a bunch of people who were…wait for it…Fox News fans.
Today the Post published a video version of his column about the fan event. It features clips of Wemple talking to people standing in line. You’ll be shocked to learn (once again) that they like Tucker Carlson! It seems like the whole point of this exercise is to get to this line: “News-siders of Fox News, you should know you don’t matter.” He continues, “Fox News is not a conventional news operation if it’s a news operation at all.”
That’s not true. Special Report and Bret Baier have lots of fans who (rightly) consider it one of the best straight news shows on the air. Fox has other straight news reporters who people have heard of and like, though maybe these particular fans are big fans of Shep Smith.
What really gives the game away is that all of what Wemple says here is just as true of MSNBC. I’m not sure if anyone would line up to meet Don Lemon (who hosts an opinion-heavy show which is on against Laura Ingraham at Fox), but I am sure people would line up to meet Rachel Maddow, the very popular opinion host at MSNBC. There is a MaddowFans website which is unofficial but gets a link on her official site. Has Wemple attended one of her book signings? I bet those folks are fans who love Rachel and I bet they don’t like Fox News or other conservative outlets.
But Wemple doesn’t seem terribly interested in criticizing Maddow or whether or not MSNBC is a real news operation. He’s interested in Fox News, as you’ll see in this clip. It would be more convincing if his concern-trolling was spread to a few other outlets and networks.
Addendum: A sample of Wemple’s recent writing on MSNBC and Maddow (from last December). It’s titled “MSNBC is surging.”
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow can speak at length on many topics. The whims and demographics of her cable-news audience, however, are not among them. “I think I may just be lucky that we’re at a time in the news cycle where there is an appetite for that kind of explanatory work,” Maddow told the Erik Wemple Blog back in the early months of the Trump administration, when her eponymous nightly program was posing a ratings threat to the top dogs over at Fox News.
That threat has turned into a full-time menace. Whereas “The Rachel Maddow Show” several years ago finished in the double digits in annual rankings of cable-news programs, it’s now in the tastemaking vanguard. Over the first three quarters of 2018, Maddow sat in between No. 1 Sean Hannity and No. 3 Tucker Carlson in the cable-news elite…
Maddow isn’t a progressive opinion host, she’s a successful tastemaker!
MSNBC has something to crow about. Its news programming is sharp, energetic and relentless. Its anchors are prepared. Its correspondents are on the scene. Many of the names are the same as always: “Morning Joe” early; Chris Matthews early evening, followed by Chris Hayes, Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell in the prime-time block. Starting in 2015, however, NBC News/MSNBC Chairman Andy Lack and MSNBC President Phil Griffin overthrew a cabal of progressive anchors in the daytime and replaced them with talented newsies — Nicolle Wallace, Craig Melvin, Stephanie Ruhle, Katy Tur, Ali Velshi, Hallie Jackson — who resist blanket characterizations, other than to say that they keep on top of the news.
The straight(er) news hosts on during the day at MSNBC do matter, unlike the ones at Fox News who don’t matter. I don’t need to belabor this any more than I have. Watch the clip above and then read his piece on MSNBC at the link above. You’ll notice the tone is very different toward the success of MSNBC opinion hosts who have attracted plenty of fans.