tv After Words Chris Stirewalt Broken News - Why the Media Rage Machine... CSPAN October 20, 2022 8:01am-9:01am EDT
>> middle and high school students it's your time to shine. you're invited to participate in this your cspan's studentcam documentary competition. in light of the tomb elections that yourself as a newly elected member of congress. as this year's competitors what is your top priority and why. make a five to six minute video that shows the importance of your issue from opposing and supporting perspectives. don't be afraid to take risks
with your documentary. be bold. amongst the $100,000 in cash prizes is a $5000 grand prize. videos must be submitted by general 20, 2023. january 20, 2023. visit our website at studentcam.org for competition rules, tips, resources and a step-by-step guide. >> there are a lot of books out there, critical to the performance of the media and tho journalism industry. why do we need another one and what's different about yours? >> guest: well, i guessot joke hopefully it's got some jokes in it.it is hopefully it is an engaging and hope engrossing read. haveink i as a journalist do not have much interest in media criticism.d is not. it is not -- i have a joke abous it, which is it's like asbestos abatement.
it's hazardous.u need scializ you need specialized equipment and is best left to thes. so professionals. i so i think there's lots of goodk media criticism. m i think most media criticism ish trash and most media criticism is indicative of the problem i'm trying to talk about in this thi book which is that it's a refuge for partisans.artisans we don't want to talk about what r side d our side did so let's talk about the coverage of what our siteere did. so this is not my happy place. but i had a weird experience think 'ionally and i think we are also having a weird professy experience professionally or as citizens, which is this stuff is, the changes that have goneor through our industry in the pase 20 years, it's been a lot's be there's been a lot going on and i think we're at a time where people are really hungry for us, for the learning curve to
steepen and for us to get better faster. >> host: you talk about, nothe e at great length in the book whae happened to you at fox news when you were let go after being part of the team that called arizona for joe biden info 2020 earlier than other networks did, but yo. do say it was part of the motivation for you writing the book. i explain what happened there and how that fits into the problem that you are identifying. >> guest: so i went into the 2020 election cycle.ve bee i didn't understand the way that the world had changed.ces that i have been part of calling races that made republicansns unhappy before.unhapp trust me, when fox called ohio for barack obama in 2012 i was not getting any love notes from the romney campaign right?ally.
nobody was like, thanks for that. n the 1990wi i had sort of assumed that weth were persisting and that the consensus that grew out ofof,pa really 1990s, right, the worlde, changed dramatically. the world changed with both then rise of cable news particularly led by fox but also of course al internet and all of that. still whthought we were sort of still. iatn the same space. fai what i failed to apprehend was that after so many years where s viewers, readers, listeners, rea whomever could be so effectivelf cosseted, could be sofectively effectively flattered and protected, right? marketp so in a highly segmented media marketplace there is a lot ofort incentive for outlets to treat these viewers like little berge faberge eggs. you don't want to tell themwantm things they don't want to hear. you don't want to impinge on the sort of climate controlled reality that addicted news
consumers are able to make. t if you want to in america today you can rise in the morning and from that moment until you go to bed you could process information that reinforced your worldview, that said you were good and they were bad, that you we were smart and they were dumb, and that you were virtuous and y patriotic and they were not just theng but there were trying to destroy the country. if i show up in your feed all of the sudden and say hey, the guy who you believe is the onlyand thing standing between the united states and of living is going to be replaced by a puppet of the communist party of china, if i tell you that, if that's,'s what you hear you're going to be upset. that's what made me understand, you know, the quest for a media m a media m a media model that works that is
model that works that is profitable and also responsible, we are in need, right, i doof jy think the events over the pastxi six years, the rise of trump,tsl coverage during the pandemic, coverage of january six, have am generally sticks itself, all of that stuff point to we have amu problem that is, it is a problem of abundance, right? it is a problem related to to'rn much but i think we are in untry. you serious need as journalist and as citizens to do our patriotic duty, which is if you love this country you have to have a journalism that honors the e freedoms that we enjoy here.njoy >> host: that's a fine, brought assessment of thet whato industry and also an y encapsulation of your book.nnedf what happeorned to you? dng havy you got canned doing your work? what happened over at fox news?? >> guest: fox news does notton w owe me a job. i am veryratefu fox news have anybody they want. it's their news. i'm very grateful for the time
that i had at fox.news washingto in the building where i am recording this is the same asast fox news washington bureau and spent a very happy most of, mostly happy decade in thisthish building with my dear my greaeagues, people like the great bill sammon, my boss, chs wall chris wallace, bret baier, a great group of journalists ininu the washington bureau was a wonderful place to be because we were substantially left alone to bu our thing and it was great t. be part of the decision desk and all of that. i've heard a bunch about why i t nobo owes me i can tell you i a definitely w, but that's okay because i knower that nobody owes me a job, one.is is number one. and number two, this is not, i know this business. busin i have been esworking in this business since i was 17. it is remarkable to me that i'vi righ able to persist these many years since i started as a sinc full-time professional
journalist in 1997, 1998. in all of those years i have managed to make a living and support man children, right, to be a dad and to be a working journalist for all of those years.to me, to me it feels like i've gotten away with the greatest caper,coa you ta that people would pay me for what i write in my analysis is f totally awesome so i'm not complaining. sense >> host: you talk about kindm what of an accelerating sense of people of news outlets kind ofy cosseting of their consumers and telling them what they want toia hear.stillle can you explain briefly as weres still talking about cable news aspect of it which i think we probably all over pay attentiona to because it's kind of wherest the most active consumers of certain types of political newse most gather, even though it's at its
height it is 3.5, 4 million viewers the most popular show.ho but can youw. talk about what ud to be something of a division between a news desk at fox and even a separation between the ig dayside as they call it, programming with the evening wih opinion mongers? there used to be a division,ng r that divisition seems to be disappearing over time.businesso what can you, like for people who are not familiar with thelib businness, can you spell that ot a little bit? >> guest: so the way it workedst when i started at fox, and i foi think this was the concept across cable news, was that you dision andews division and you've got the opinion division and that there are two separatee things in the same way but the p news pages of the newspaper andc editorial section, so maybe you can detect a slant in the but 's suof this outlet versus that outlet but it's supposed to
be basically usda minimum standards for journalism.standa it's always been a little different for msnbc because then have nbc news, and nbc news doesn't arrange itself around de arouc or at least it hasn't in my experience. of cable news. and that. so it's always worked a little differently for nbc that's been to their advantage in terms of the resources they have. but it also has been a sort of a reagent on some of opinion mongering, leaking in or watching cnn. now go through a dramatic remaking of itself because cnn had tried to own the of just the news and for a long time could track in the ratings when there was national or international news, cnn would boom because everybody who doesn't normally
watch news, 24 hour news would turn it on a reliable source. but then as soon as the crisis or whatever would be, cnn's ratings would plummet. so in the trump era, they really in on real, really obsessive trump coverage, right? it got thick over it got really over there and they all the way in. well, now they have a new president in chris licht and they have new ownership. and the objective is to get back balance, right? to get back to aspirational. so they're trying to unwind a commercial decision that they made i quote in the book the moonves the former head of viacom and cbs who said of donald trump, you know, may be bad for the country, but it's great for viacomcbs. so keep going donald. ha ha, ha. i think lot of networks and i think fox is included, that trump was a ratings bonanza and
people were so terrified either or terrified he the the either it was a limbic response from american -- consumers of either delight or real fear and anger and those forces created incentives for these networks to go really heavy on trump from the beginning and we see sort of the wreckage the after you know after the party. it's sort of time to clean up. you quote on a couple of occasions, some of journalistic essay writing of george orwell from the 1930s and 1940s, which was period of time when people had kind of lost faith in liberalism ocracy in things like truth seeking for its own sake. and as against a backdrop of insipid fascism. there are a lot of people in the media who see the rise of trump as being incipient fascist or
authoritarian and they think that what the media needs to do is to abandon what they call both sides ism. right. and to call out as margaret sullivan, who's the former public editor of the new york times and washingtonpost.com on this several years in her final column in august in the washington, she said that it's journalists to tell their readers that electing donald trump is a threat to democracy itself since they at least some of your foreboding about the authoritarian winds. do you think they're wrong in their approach about how to respond in the media? well, i will let. margaret sullivan in on a little something. the readership of the washington post agrees with her on the readership. she's art. she's already got them right. she's she is already the the the loyal subscribers.
the washington post probably skew and i don't know this is not research the book but let's guess and say that it's at least 70% democratic. right. you it's hometown paper for a democratic i don't know what do we call washington a big city? i would say a medium a medium city, but the washington post readership is skews liberal and democratic. the histrionic. i think the post is a good example of this when there was a i forget i'm i apologize can't remember the name of the media scholar journalism scholar who said that the post was optimizing for anger or better after failing cash in on this trump bonanza. so that's when the post goes to democracy, dies in darkness, and that's when the clickbait ness of these headlines for online consumption go crazy. i chronicle the book how on the day of the fall of kabul right,
which to that point was the biggest foreign policy story in a long, long time, right on that day, the number one story at the washington post was a sneering slap together from press releases and archives story about roman catholic cardinal who was in the hospital with coronavirus and he had been against the vaccines, which is a ha ha ha of trashy story. and that is what look, the journalists who believe that we have the power to tell people what think should remember that it is more likely that our audience will tell us what to think than we to them right? we don't have the power. look, republicans spend a lot a lot of time complaining about the media. oh, my gosh. and we often hear because we like it part of us. right. it may be condemnatory, at least
it says we have power. at least says we have this enormous power to these things. we don't. and what many journalists sacrificed in the era of trump i hearken back a great speech chris wallace gave. i forget, well-deserved honor. he was what award for excellent journalism he was receiving. but he he gave a stern talking to to a group of very how do we say now legacy or elite media outlets gave them a stern talking to about the fact that what have to do our work is objectivity our remove and we know that we won't be objective and we know that fairness is aspirational and a it's something we're not really going to obtain but it is our remove from the game that gives us the whatever power we do have and it could it can be true that donald trump represented a unique
threat to the first amendment and free press in the united states that be true and at the same time it can be true that the press badly, badly botched its response to it because instead of elevating and going back to first principles and basics, many got down in the mud with him to wrestle. and that was a big mistake. the response back a lot of people in the media criticism established print if we can call it that for brian stelter, who's a reliable source, this program was so canceled by cnn in in august. is we are living through an asymmetry right now between the two major parties between the people who support them and one side is uniquely hostile to truth. you know the republican guys are out there electing people who flat disagree your call of the arizona even today and they're campaigning on it and winning in
arizona among other places and so because of that the normal kind of both sides republican this democrat says that is actually a way to allow people who are wrong who are illiberal in the classical sense, who are wrong about the truth and who have authoritarian aims, giving them kind of equal weight to the side of truth. what's your response to that? an approach. david leonhardt, who is a good writer, whose work on economics i have brought a lot from over the years, writes a newsletter for the new york times and a while back he wrote one. it was after the dobbs decision overturning roe v wade, and he said this supreme court is out of hand. this supreme court is superseding the appropriate of congress and this supreme court that it added up. and i had to laugh because it was like, oh, now, you know,
conservatives felt or previous 50 years, a lot of what's going on around the things that you describe is, again, it's true that authoritarian bent inside republican party is scary, intense, right. the the yearning for a strongman for authoritarian among many a disconcertingly large number of republicans is something that should concerning to everybody. right. so that piece and it's true but i think part of the problem tom is that in the media world, the existence of this thing. i don't think that most conservatives and here i'm talking not just these authoritarian yearnings but of real conservatives. right. people of the of the mainstream
seem traditional. calvin coolidge reagan variety of conservatism in america. those people don't think that those people thought that the left was authoritarian. those people thought that the left and still thinks that the left, that progressivism authoritarian and that progressivism crushing to the hopes and dreams of humanity and that it is the rise. a socialist, authoritarian state. they believe that people the left seeing sort of the dystopian nightmare that they had been of for a long time. take, for example, this, who would have had on their bingo card left venerates cheney family right who would have said who would have said boy you liberals are really going to dig the cheneys you would say, no, they want to put the cheneys in prison? what you talking about? but because of the donald trump represents what many liberals or
many progressives, 20 or 15 years ago thought was underneath bushism or neoconservatism or whatever else. so i think we have some category errors are going on in people's thinking, how this stuff works. you have a quote near end of the book saying the percentage news coverage that is either explicitly or implicitly political is unhelpful, in large part because creates a false impression. the polity itself is a worthwhile passion. take it from a man who devoted his professional life to politics elections. it is not so. did you the lead and is this a hostage slash suicide note? i know. i think political coverage is awesome. i think it's. but i'm to be the weatherman. i'm not supposed to be the lead
of the news except for when it's election time. right. i'm supposed to be the thing like. well, chris, let's in with chris and see what goofy stuff is going on in the world of politics. that's good. what the polls say. what is all stuff? that's fine. what happened? over the past 20 years is, in my experience, is that politics a shortcut to intensity strong emotional connection. polity x is is the shortest way, especially in national media, right? partisanship of the kind this this intense toxic negative partisanship that we're experience in america is partly a function that there's not enough national news that really affects all americans to about all day. right. there just isn't. if you in and think about how of the national news narrative is about really kind of dragging or not picking right so it if you are a conservative and you live
in alabama or let's say florida, if you're a conservative or a republican and live in florida, you are being told about drag queen story hours taking place in washington state as far away from you as possible that has no consequence on your child's school or anything. but it can be a big, big story. conversely, if you live in washington, you can hear endlessly. ron desantis is don't say what they called the don't gay bill in florida it will have no effect on your life. it doesn't affect your kids or their education but you can hear about it and be outraged it if you want if you choose and news providers who are trying to provide too much national. look i think a big big of all of this is local is should come first. right local should come first. we should think about news in consent circles around us and. there just isn't that much national news that a person needs to consume in a day.
and politics news is one of the only places where national news know that they can reliably go where it will have meaning and relevance across country. so and also, by the way it's cheap it's real to do the saying tv news is talk is cheap it's real expensive to send crews to go interview people and get the story. investigative journalism is really hard because most of your leads don't deliver the blockbuster stories that you want. it's expensive. it's time consuming. it's hard to do well, need top notch people to do it. you know it's not hard put in to head's in a studio and having them yak at each other you've already bought the you already have the crew. so you know, why not do that? and so much of what is on tv and and also its versions online is that and that's that's a low nutritive quality that's junk food as opposed to the kind of
journalism that we should be doing. you talk a lot in the book. it's if i could characterize it, about half of it is aimed the media itself and half of it is aimed towards the consumers. there's a demand side problem issue here as well, often does not get fully explored. can you talk a little bit about what are the mechanics why do we get to this kind of national versus local conception of politics and delivery of of political coverage? and also just you know covering policy as politics. i will get i will get these numbers a little wrong, but just to give you the the. the newspaper industry did not reach its peak profits. until 2005. oh. and by the way, interestingly, the peak viewership for television on average per american household, we've heard a lot about cord cutting and all of that.
yes. it didn't hit its peak until 2011 at something like almost 9 hours a day, wolf. but anyway, the those industries were rare rarely making tons of money well into not well. but in the beginning of the 21st century. and when newspaper industry started to collapse in 2005, it fell totally apart. and it's something. like $50 billion is $55 billion or something in lost revenue. and it was a 90% or something decline. when you look at the chart, you just see it's peaking and the ad revenue for newspapers is doubling pretty reliably every ten or 15 years. going back to the second world war that, you know, is working and then it falls the cliff. it fell off the cliff not because of social media. it fell off the cliff because it started with there's great
survey on this or there's great there's great market research on this when do you remember oh, what's the name of the where you could post something that you were trying to sell or buy craigslist when craigslist. so they documented when craigslist came to town newspapers took a beating. right. they were losing these classified ads, living off of legal ads. and the newspaper industry was badly because you could always borrow money to buy a newspaper because in those days were making joke, you know, 30% profits. but it was profits in the low 20% range were expected. and so you had all of this conglomeration, you had all of these big newspaper chains that bought up newspaper after newspaper after newspaper, but they were heavily leveraged. so when the profit stream started. shift what did the newspaper industry do? they did exactly the wrong,
which is they cut content. they cut the content at a time when they should have muscled up and they couldn't because of some of the overleveraging. but also it was just dumb kind of corporate thinking, which is, okay, revenues down, we've got to cut. where are we going to cut? we're going to cut in the newsroom. we're going to get rid of reporters. and we i documented in the book that the bloodbath of newspaper and news reporters, a category in the american over this period. it is it is i my heart aches for so many friends i mean i had a newspaper basically closed out from underneath me in west virginia i have part of the reason i'm so sanguine. you know, the disruptions to my career in the past few is this is an industry where you know people get fired a lot things but newspapers closed stations change whatever but the newspaper industry responded to these pressures by stupidly content. the thing actually gives them a
competitive advantage right. they had the newsrooms they had local knowledge to do that, but they didn't the right thing and they slashed and so this giant void opens up and the consequence is for communities across the country have been dire there's a very persuasive that says that in communities a newspaper closed that the cost of borrowing money a bond issuance goes up dramatically and they can document the rise because nobody's watching. right. if there's nobody at your county commission meeting boring, sitting there listening to you prattle on, then you're not going to as good at running your county right and corruption might sneak in a little bit. it's like the ring of guy. geez, maybe, you know, if nobody's watching, i'm going to try to do. good. and i'm going to try to help my friends. and pretty soon your brother in law's gonna got the contract to issue the bonds, or you're just not running the county as well, and the prices go up, so this hollowing out and and the
devastation that rolled the local news industry, what came in to fill that? well, dom political national blabbermouth. right. that came in and the we turn the telescope around instead being focused on what's around us and. the news that actually matters in our lives. the as would happen in the 1990s in the aughts. what else was going on right as the local industry is sinking to the bottom the ocean what's happening nationally in cable news segmentation and of course the rise of social media. so what filled the void was not healthy and i think we are only sort of just now coming out of the stupor there's a lot of good news on the local news front. there's a lot of good things that are happening. but this is a long, painful rebuilding process. speaking of mouths and raises to the bottom, i think it's a it's it's a stiff competition between
the journalism industry and congress having the lowest public approval rating of any sector in the country. it might be counterintuitive to some people watching to hear that you think that there is a relationship between the abdication, the self, the willing abdication of responsibility by congress and the blabber mouth ization of our politics. can you talk about that a little bit? lord yes, the i did not ever expect that i would be quoting florida congressman matt gaetz in a book, but i did because he said in his book and he wrote a book he said in book that the real people who run country are the bookers on cable news networks and that they're the ones who decide and they really pick the presidents and they really do this stuff. and he was both he was sneering them, saying that these were you theater nerds from high school.
i don't know what kind of nerd matt gaetz was in high school but the theater but the theater department was cool, bro. it was cool. v that these people are really running the well, they ain't right. they're 27 years old and trying to afford their apartment in a slightly sketchy part. hoboken, right. they're not running anything for the people who are running things. my my friend and colleague, jonah goldberg uses the phrase parliament pundits and have a congress that wants my job. i don't want to do their job. i am interested in being a member of congress here. my prayer for the for my own good and for the good of the nation, i am not interested in being in politics. i am in analyzing politics, talking about political trends and voting trends, how this stuff goes. i'm fascinated by it, but they don't want to do their work they want to get reelected in the way that they want to get reelected is by being famous, being viral
and being on television and do those things. you can't do your job well the way it used to work in congress long ago is my old daddy would have said when the chips were made of wood and men were made of iron long ago in the before times, the way that congress was that people weren't paying that much attention to congress right. it was boring and was boring and the coverage was and every every every major newspaper had a bureau in washington. and the newspaper chains had bureaus here that would provide coverage. and what they would say is, you know, senator hornswoggle gave an exclusive interview us here at the austin american-statesman, whatever, to talk about how what's in the bill will bring a new dam or a road or what it's going to do. this military base is going to be shut down, but that one's going to be reopened. and a lot of that news about congress had a locally facing
feeling because they were the press was the way to communicate to the folks at home but that's not necessary anymore and the way to get fame. look at ron desantis. ron desantis broke every rule for running in a republican primary in florida when he was running against. adam putnam. adam putnam had done everything right. he had paid all of his dues. he served in congress. then he got elected statewide as agriculture commissioner. he had all the correct supporters, jeb bush, everybody, everything up for adam putnam to be the governor of florida in 2018. what did ron desantis do? he went on fox news, he went fox news every day. it seemed he was there and shows were booking him and he just went on fox and under old thinking this is a big mistake right because people want to be in their community. they want to see you at, you
know, the gator wrestling or whatever do whatever, whatever, whatever florida is version of of a west virginia ramp dinner or a being dinner is. that's where they want to see you. and it's about being local and it's all that stuff. well, ron desantis didn't do any of that and he it right. he crushed that primary and he was right. the high stature ratio of fox among the republican base, particularly in florida, where fox does well and you know beats the local right. fox beats the local news and national news in some of the markets. florida. so that saturation that desantis went for paid off. now that's a different thing, right? that's a different of thing. people talk about the fox primary on republican side and you i don't think it's what it is cracked up to be. don't think it's as powerful as
supporters and the tractor say. but you can't deny the potency and you can't deny how much of a part of republican strategy fox has to be. all right. i want you to bite the hand is currently feeding you chris alt tell us why you think it's a bad idea for c-span to put its cameras in and further, it would be bad for the supreme court. and if you want to dodge all of that, just get into the difference between. transparency, accountability. well, first, let me say that i admire brian and i love his project. i love what he what? what c-span set out to do. and by the way, i love the other content on c-span, right? this is such a privilege for me to get to be on this broadcast because i watch it. i think it's cool. so this is a this is a nice
treat for me. brian lamb is an american. let's just say that for the record. go stipulate and cool socks. so that's stipulated. now i think we can say and you can read this steve kornacki is great book the red in the blue talks about how the the newt gingrich and the one minute speeches in the house where no one is listening and they go down to the floor now. r.i.p., jim traficant. and and his one minute speeches. but you go down to give a a a thunder press denunciation of whatever and because of the rules that congress set for c-span. it looks like you don't you can't tell that alone, right? you can't tell that it's an empty chamber and they're not talking to anybody it looks like they're saying something must be important. they're there on the floor of the house. it must be important, but it's not. and there is social psychology.
there is something that's like the social psychologic version of the heisenberg principle from the hard sciences, the observing something, we change it or that stuff in the social psychology we talk about the hawthorne effect, which came from a i think it was a mccormick electric. the hawthorne works. and they were doing a study for efficiency i think this is the twenties they're doing an efficiency study about how does lighting affect worker productivity and what they found was regardless of the change in light productivity up everywhere. and then they realized what it was the workers knew they were being observed and simply because they were being observed, they changed their behavior and worked harder and were more efficient because they knew the bosses were watching that had the same the c-span, the similar effect in congress i don't want to take the cameras
out of congress. i'm not saying that but but the committees please get the cameras out. these committee rooms it there's a reason that the intel senate intelligence committee is widely regarded the best one. right. that it's the most bipartisan, most effective. yes, the stakes are high, but also there's no camera. there's nobody to perform for and, you know, these apes, when they get up there, you put that red light on, they see that camera out. they know that they get caught being an effective legislator. and what is, by the way we heard a lot about how the 2022 republican primaries were a referendum trump and no denying that, but it was also a referendum on do you want a legislator or? do you want a entertainer? do want somebody who will get things done or and help your district or your state? or do you want somebody who's
going to be a celebrity kind of politician and perform. junk one out in my home district, the first district of west virginia, they pitted two republican members of congress each other, david mckinley and alex mooney. now, alex mooney couldn't get post office name that guy to. my knowledge has never had any single serious legislative accomplishment, but he is a fire breathing maga trumpster. whereas david, who has been a very effective legislator for his district and is quite conservative, but because he had voted for it and think about this david mckinley vote for a transportation infrastructure bill that, i guarantee you would would be popular in west virginia to, 70%, right? west virginia in memory of robert c byrd west virginians cool with pork spending. they really like it. but in that primary that thing that would have been popular, the general electorate was
unpopular republican voters and they they went with mooney over mckinley and the the in those committee rooms guarantee and by the way i want to give special acknowledgment here to the discipline that the january six committee was able to muster. right. i was expecting an adam schiff disaster. right. performative histrionic because know these guys are mugging for the camera. they don't care. the hearing is good. they just they want to create the clip that they can fundraise off of. right. they want the story so that it can say ted cruz destroys so-and-so. you know, whoever it is, is, is he ends mazie hirono. they want the clickbait they want that stuff and they don't care whether not the hearing is effective. so we deprived of the ability of these individuals to reason together and we want them to reason together. we want committees to do their
work. but instead what we get is no regular order hearings and markups are performances not actually reasoning together and we this and so have a congress that won't be congress. there have been periods in american politics where we've seen a surge of populism that has been associated with new media technologies. you write in the book, kind of the dawn of the republic, the mudslinging back and forth of this great video. my employer had reason about the election of hundred and this nasty, nasty was. but you also talk a good length about the 1930s and the rise of radio and huey long and father coughlin. coughlin allowed to pronounce his name. tell us how those fevers were. is there anything that we can glean from the way that those popular ists, media fueled moments pass out that might give us some succour here in 2022
when we're still smack dab the middle of a populist political moment? so radio the rise radio was really good for bad people. adolf hitler was aided enormously by the rise of radio so that his speeches could be broadcast around germany, the world radio was great for dirt. like huey long and crazy lunatic racists like charles coughlin. the this it really effective because it allowed them huey long had claimed to have 7 million members in his our wealth societies and. nbc was giving him a platform and every week to go on the radio and basically say we're going to confiscate these fortunes. huey long, a guy who said and people accuse him of being a dictator he darn near was the
dictator of louisiana. he here's a guy who tried to hold both the governorship and the senate seat of the same state at the same time. but huey long he said, you know, somebody said, call you a dictator. he said, well, if i perfectly the wishes of the people wouldn't that look an awful lot like a dictatorship and at a time in the 1930s where a lot of americans. joseph kennedy the future president's father and ambassador to the court of saint james charles lindbergh, henry ford, a lot of people were of a mind that the american concept, american was finished right. was an it was an archaic system would not work anymore. we needed modern, effective, efficient progressivism promised these things in the united states at the time. but there was also a rise the right about hey let's you know let's get over these niceties
and let's go for strong men and in that time radio was hugely disruptive because it it created a space for demagoguery in a emotionally connected way that just wasn't possible before. you could read a william jennings bryan. right. and you might find it thrilling. right. the people who read that he would not be crucified. a cross of gold in the newspaper. i mean, clearly it had a magnetic effect at that convention because the democrats nominated him by acclamation based on one speech. he wasn't even in the running. but its effect would have been minimized around the country by the 1930s. you know, you from basically zero radio in america in 1924 when kdka broadcast the first radio station broadcast. it's the result of the 1924 election go coolidge. there was no one in the radius of the broadcast to hear it because. nobody would have had a set.
they could have tuned to listen, but they were still broadcasting it. by the time you get to 1930, you have and like 80, 90% of homes, the disrupt and of we we these hand computers we carry around with more power than the apollo. the computers that sent the apollo astronauts to the moon. we carry these things around and we are rightly aware now of the huge disruptions that have followed. but we have to remember that radio itself was probably an even disruption because from time immemorial, from, you know, from the dawn of history, the word, our language, the way that we understood one another, primarily and the written word was how we organized ourselves and societies. that was how we could understand here, especially a big continental republic like ours.
it it had to words, written words to get it done. the arrival of possibility that you could hear adolf hitler screaming in and the screaming throngs around and these incredible passions, or huey long's thunderous denunciation actions or i mean, when you listen to the old tapes that you can find of long and colin it's scary because there effective right you get goose because they are effective in that way and no one in the world said this totally new and the disruptions from television were just an intensified portion of that but the real comes with radio and it took us a time think about this by time i forget which year orson did war of the worlds 3839. i forget. but when orson welles did war the world and you know the folks stuffing damp towels under under
the cracks in there under their door so that the martian death gas does not get into their house even more than a decade in we were still not super sophisticated consumers of radio it is taking us a long time to get good at these hand computers we're hearing around and this new way of consuming news and media. but i do believe that we are, at least through the first part and the first part is acknowledging that we're all screwed up here and that things need that that corrections are necessary. a lot of people have different ideas about what corrections are necessary and are the right steps to take, but at least i feel that we've gotten to a point of acknowledgment, the depth of the disruption and some the consequences. you don't really into it much in your book, but i'm curious to get your reaction. there's been a defection. you do talk about how like post trump, at least post-election, a lot a ratings and audience
cratered at a lot of institutions because people thank god got back to other other pursuits in eir lives there has been a also a defection a talent to brain drain away a lot of legacy media institutions not everyone got pushed out the door chris but a lot of people, you know, felt like were about to and they started their own banks. you see a rise in, particularly in podcasts, the kind joe rogan ization of life and on substack do you see something that is in there, or at least analytically interesting, as people go away from our childhood of like you subscribe to the newspaper, if not two or three, because that's part of your civic, it's your eat your wheaties subscription has now wither away and we have much more of a i like an affiliate with this i trust this person even if i disagree with him or her i would be happy.
give them ten bucks a month on patreon substack or something. well you know the media scholar, andre miller calls it post journalism. um, and in journalism it's about a strong emotional connection with. your audience, right? that it is, they feel a in the old days it's top we have information we're going to deliver it to you and we're either going to sell the attention that you're paying us to advertisers or you're going to pay us a subscription. and then we will give you access to the information that we have now, the energy goes the other direction, which is the audience has feelings. oh, do people have so many feelings? oh my gosh. and they have strong feelings and they want to see their feelings reflected back at them from the outlets or providers that they choose. and in these podcasts and i have a podcast in substack and i work
for the dispatch, which is on substack. so i'm certainly not exempt from. this, this is even narrower where it's sort of like you when you when you get together a group of let's say libertarians you said, okay, we're to get a group of libertarians together and. this guy's like, oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. i'm in a narco capitalist libertarian. oh, well, i'm actually like a social welfare libertarian who's. okay, a universal basic and like, wait, what? i thought you guys were, libertarians, it's like, no, is is. this is the meat of the leash. of the leash that i'm in politically. and you say that for progressives and you could say it for anybody, because we define down very narrowly when. we are highly engaged in news politics. and one of the book, i think in the long run, we'll all be dead. no, in the long run, things go
through periods of consolidation and then go through periods of atomization. we were in a long term, highly and consolidated news business from basically the end of second world war to pick your date, let's say 1996 or 1997. so the world that the baby boomers grew up in was gate kept in highly highly consolidated. and then it all fell apart and been going on now for, you know, 25 years or so. this falling apart, what will come out on the other side will be another can, right. the and you're seeing it already in news. if you look at what's going on in the local news, people are buying up the the refuge house right there. they're purchasing the shattered remains of newspapers. sometimes investing and doing good journalism. other times.
they're just using it for a url to pump pay to play junk. but the consolidation is happening nonetheless. and you can see it and you will see it on substack and things like that i heard the guy from, i read an with one of the substack founders who was talking about how, you know, we're looking at having bundles where you can have you pay one rate and then you'll get multiple you'll get subscribe to multiple different sub stacks for different points of view, for different points of view and for different coverage. and i said, oh, you mean like a news paper? is that what you mean? that you will curate and, collect a group of worthwhile information for me to consume? how so? i do think there's a apart coming together, falling apart, coming phenomenon. let me take one of your quotes terribly out of context from the book. oh, and have a response to it. you say we have become nation of moral. what are you talking about? how does morality fit into the
way that we parties consume politics and news about politics? the most important moral judgments that we make are about our enemies. most important moral that we make or about our friends the most important moral that we make are not about like, how about this? i'm pretty comfortable about what i think about putin, right? i, i have i have strong and feelings about vladimir putin's character. got it. where it's important, though, is to police yourself and your your organization, the people who you agree with, what we have because of the siloed. so if you let's say you only fox or you only watched the events. donald trump's florida home and club are two are happening in
two totally different worlds. on one side it is a raid by a lawless justice bent on destroying donald trump and it's the scandal, the century. if you're watching the other feed, you're being told that the virtuous heroic justice department and the eminently good merrick garland, his middle name fair is is there to do only the work of the people. and by the way, guys, it's really much bigger than this. s been inter my friend and one of my idols charles krauthammer as he said about the allegations offreferec collusion with russian into the
reference to the trump tower meeting with a russian operative for the express purpose ofting getting dirt on hillary clinton, as charles k said, botched collusion is still collusion. it was evident and obvious on its face for trump's seconddid e impeachment, or second, sorry, i get them all mixed up. it was there on its face. there was no probe that was necessary. we had the transcript of donald trump using his office and using the power of the president to g get dirt on his rivals.now you d he was using his office. now, you could say if you are a republican i sit and minorally d republicans did see this and it. is it morally defensiblei disa t position, i see it, i disapprove of it but it don't think ites tf rises to level of impeachment. i'm going to say i'm going to g pass.
that's fine but a lot wouldn't even to get to that point back because we don't get the correcg inputs. we are not -- too many of us are not hearing views that respectfully disagree with our own. the two is tr we have a lot of -- the two sides, and this is true, like how preposterous for cnn and foi to have media criticism showsris where they substantially criticize each other, right? and cnn has canceled their shows but the idea thatt in you're gog to have these two cable networks and rivals, like this just in, t we think the other guys stink. okay, fine. so what cnn says about fox and what fox says about cnn has no affect on the other side because and weave hearing it. and we have become morally bmorl imbecilic for a lot of reasons,s and part of it has to do with the mob mentality that social media connectedness allows and the power of that, but it's also
because in our media diet we are not hearing respectful, earnest criticism in a way that weortabp ifould. we should be hearing from voicee that make us a littlee uncomfortable. as i tell people, if the newss'k that you consume and the news that you consume in your life doesn't make you a little uncomfortable from time to time, of prior then you need to varys your die. because you shouldn't be, you shouldn't ever walk away every day and say yes, all of mywe' priors are correct, everything that if it is true, i'm good an. they are bad.ok is bren >> host: we will leave it there.ews why me the book is "broken news: why the media rage machine divides america and how to fight back." by chris stirewalt. bstirewal chris, thank you so much. thank you, everyone for watching, for c-span. wat i am mchatt welch. >> if you are enjoying booktv then sign up for our newsletter using the qr code on the screen to receive the schedule upcoming programs, other discussion, book
festivals and more. booktv every sunday on c-span2 or anytime online at booktv.org. television for serious readers. >> we are going to break away here and take you live to the senate. part of our commitment for more than 40 years to bring you live coverage of congress. we were returned to booktv following what is expected to be a short pro forma session here on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the parliamentarian will read a communication to the senate. the parliamentarian: washington, d.c., october 20, 2022. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable timothy michael kaine, a senator from the commonwealth of virginia, to perform the duties of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore.
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