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Sadly, The Middle Has Been Left Behind

For both right and left, the exercise has become about “owning” each other. Cable “news” has become unwatchable…and saturated with outrage porn.

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Recently, I had dinner with a friend whom I’ve known for nearly twenty years.  Due to the pandemic, it had been a while since we’d seen each other in person.

The conversation quickly turned to one topic- outrage. 

Well, let me rephrase that…the FEAR of outrage.

He shared stories with me of colleagues at his new job who constantly preach the gospels of “woke” culture.  How social media has become a graveyard that he barely goes onto anymore

“Even if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I don’t think I’d be going out very much,” he admitted.  “Every time I’m around people I don’t know, I feel like I’m walking on pins and needles.”

I understand exactly how he felt. 

Both of us, as individuals, have always been centrists.  That philosophy seems to have gone the way of the dodo.

“You either have to be in one camp or the other, no matter what the subject is,” he admitted. 

“Truth,” I replied.  “There is no room to stand in the middle.”

This trend has had a disheartening effect on the media. 

A couple of weeks ago, I penned an article on who would replace Rush Limbaugh after the iconic talk-show host passed away.  Usually after an article of mine is published, I post it on all my social media channels.  

Not this time, however.

I did post the article on my Twitter account and my LinkedIn page (mostly followed by former colleagues and broadcast industry professionals). 

I avoided posting the article on my Facebook page…inhabited by mostly friends, friends of friends and family members.  Why?  Because I knew what the reaction would be from many of them, and it wasn’t going to be pretty. The article was not a praise piece on Limbaugh, but simply an assessment of the current landscape of conservative media.  But because RUSH LIMBAUGH was in the headline, I had a feeling I’d have to be disabling the comments section in a very short period.

There are times I’ll listen to Ben Shapiro.  Philosophically, I disagree with most of his stances.  Yet, I find him intriguing because I appreciate my own way of thinking challenged.

I’d never admit that to anyone I didn’t know extremely well.  And even amongst certain friends, I wouldn’t admit it.

This is where we are at.

There is far too much extremism in this country…on BOTH right and left.  Rational discourse has been drowned out by a tidal wave of conspiracy theories on one side and cancel culture on the other.   One talking head will make me feel shame and the other will tell me who is to blame. 

For both right and left, the exercise has become about “owning” each other.  Cable “news” has become unwatchable…and saturated with outrage porn.  I sense a lot of disingenuous content.  Talking heads used to provide entertainment through the prism of the news.  Now all I see is reaching for the low hanging fruit of trolling by way of clickbait. 

None of this is entertaining.  None of it is insightful.  None of it stimulates my intellect. 

As a longtime content curator and media consumer…the landscape has become nauseating.

Many notable figures have begun to say, “no mas”.

Bill Maher of HBO’s Real Time has turned wokeness fatigue into a weekly topic.

“Liberals need a ‘stand your ground’ law for cancel culture,” Maher opined on one recent show. “So, that when the woke mob comes after you for some ridiculous offense, you’ll stand your ground.  Stop apologizing.  Because I can’t keep up anymore with who’s on the shitlist.”

“Andy Warhol was wrong,” he said.  “In the future everyone will not experience fifteen minutes of fame but fifteen minutes of shame.  62% of Americans say they have opinions they’re afraid to share.  80% of Americans; young, old, rich, poor, conservative, liberal, white, minority…all hate the current atmosphere of hypersensitivity.  Yea, everybody hates it, and no one stands up to it.”

Those numbers Maher cited in his monologue grabbed my attention.   If there is validity in them, why is neither side catering to the middle?  

I recently interviewed my friend and conservative talk show host Todd Herman for BNM.  One of the questioned I posed to him was about catering to the middle by having a show with a true left/right dynamic. 

“The Nation has been divided so completely, and these divisions are being inflamed so brilliantly, that I believe a new radio show with left and right cannot work. You will be losing 50% of the audience every few minutes,” Herman said.   “You and I can find a way to respect one another’s views, because I think you and I enjoy honest debate. You are a guy who likes to think about what people tell you, and I am a person who is fascinated with how people think. My faith calls me to have love for people and your nature, I believe, is to find the good in folks, even dangerous, right-wing lunatics like me. These characteristics make for great conversation, and I imagine it could work well in a podcast where people choose to listen to a Left and Right dynamic and have success. But, not with radio where tune-ins matter.”

Herman may be on to something when he speaks of the digital space.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about The Fifth Column Podcast.  If you aren’t listening to it yet, I challenge you to do so.  The hosts of the program, Kmele Foster, Matt Welch, and Michael Moynihan are independents in every sense of the word.  They take jabs at left and right, young, and old, and even themselves.  It’s a fascinating listen that is unpredictable and goes against the grain of most mass media. 

That article on The Fifth Column garnered more engagement than anything I’ve ever posted in my ten years on Twitter.  I had people from all over the world liking, re-tweeting, and messaging me about it.  It was like I was being welcomed into a brand-new ecosystem of people who were fed up and had found a haven from all the static.  I still get people who slide into my DMs based on that singular article. Perhaps there is a place for those of us in the middle…if someone has the tenacity to create it.

BNM Writers

It’s Not a Vaccine Mandate, It’s a Test Mandate

“Chuck Todd from Meet The Press, the New York Times, CNN, numerous other media outlets and even the White House spokesman have called Biden’s policy a vaccine mandate. It’s not. So, why do they keep reporting it as such?”

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I feel I must disclose my feelings on Covid-19 before my column this week so everyone knows my bias. 

If you want to take the horse dewormer medicine, Ivermectin, for Covid-19, I DON’T CARE.

If you want to wear a mask in a crowd indoors or out, I DON’T CARE

If you don’t want to get a Covid-19 vaccine, again, I DON’T CARE. 

In terms of full disclosure, I have been vaccinated. As far as I know, I haven’t had Covid-19, and only my dog has had some form of Ivermectin. 

With that out of the way, can we talk about how President Biden’s mandate is being discussed and reported on? This is not a liberal or conservative issue, and it’s not a CNN vs FOX News issue. Most everyone has an opinion on it, yet most don’t care to find out what was actually proposed. Even the White House is misleading folks with its own policy. 

This is not a vaccine mandate, it’s a test mandate. 

President Biden’s policy has made two changes. All federal workers must receive a vaccine. You don’t have to work for the federal government, but if you do, you must be vaccinated. Again, not a mandate. No one is forcing you to work for the federal government. That’s your choice.  

Delta Airlines implemented a policy charging employees $200 if they choose not to be vaccinated. As a result, thousands have received the Covid-19 vaccine to avoid the penalty. That is their choice. 

Schools, public and private universities, hospitals, and companies big and small have made similar rules. If you want to work or attend, you must get a vaccine. Not a vaccine mandate, big difference.

Companies make all sorts of rules, some smart, some dumb. I know a radio station that will not let their on-air hosts talk to the media (dumb). My company policy says, I can’t eat food in the studio (smart). You can agree or disagree with a policy, and if you choose not to follow it, that is your choice. Nobody from the government is going to come to your home, hold you down, and jab a needle in your arm. Yet I’ve heard that said a few hundred times in the last few weeks.

Part two of President Biden’s policy says that if you are a company with over 100 employees, your employees will be required to have a vaccine or get tested weekly to see if they are Covid-19 positive. Again, this is not a vaccine mandate. It’s just a test, once a week. A test mandate, if you will.

Chuck Todd from Meet The Press, the New York Times, CNN, numerous other media outlets and even the White House spokesman have called Biden’s policy a vaccine mandate. It’s not. So, why do they keep reporting it as such?   

I talk to neighbors, callers, and friends, and they’re all arguing over something that isn’t happening. Some have gotten really angry and stood defiant. They will not, under any circumstances, be forced to get a vaccine. 

“How about a test?” 

“Wait, what?”  

These are crazy times. We talk past each other, we debate our own set of facts, we get to choose the news we like, and disregard and disqualify the news we don’t. I’m afraid we have crossed some type of rubicon. Everyone is arguing and debating a policy but nobody knows the actual policy.

If you think taking a test to find out if you have a life threatening virus that could harm you, a family member, or a coworker is government overreach, I DON’T CARE. Quite frankly, I’m exhausted by the screaming. But if you are going to argue about it, you should do yourself a favor and know what the policy is before you decide you are for it or against it. 

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BNM Writers

Few Media Outlets Were Brave Enough to #NeverForget Both Sides

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Saturday marked 20 years since Sept. 11, 2001.

Everyone has a 9/11 story. Where they were. How they reacted. What they remember about that treacherous day in America.

Consuming media coverage and memorials over the weekend, there was one very common theme.

Unity. Unofficially the word was said 42,365,789 times this weekend.

Listening to the radio, I heard one newstalk host romanticize about how the entire country came together as one, and he didn’t feel we did the same fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the NFL kicked off on Sunday, both Fox and CBS aired extended memorial video montages. The New York Yankees and New York Mets played the Subway Series and on Saturday wore hats representing the Fire and Police Departments of their city.

Netflix, Hulu and Peacock dropped streaming documentaries.

All of this coverage focused on the heroism, the devastation that destroyed 2,996 families, and the unified aftermath. Stats were dropped about the sales of United States flags hitting all-time highs. The patriotic shirt and bumper stickers industry was booming for months.

Let’s be clear – this aforementioned coverage was extremely important.

The following might be controversial, so I unfortunately feel obligated to include the following disclaimer:

I think 9/11 memorial coverage is necessary. #NeverForget is important. I’ve often thought that we don’t talk enough Pearl Harbor where 2,403 Americans also died, maybe that’s a generational coverage thing. So, in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, we should keep these stories prominent and always celebrate the heroes of that harrowing day.

Now that my stance on 9/11 coverage is very very clear…

We should also talk more about the racist hate-crime filled society we created for Muslims, Arabic speaking Americans, Sikhs, and anyone who appeared middle eastern or had dark brown skin. We should also never forget those innocent people whose lives were extremely affected during the aftermath.

Their stories are important. Acknowledging the ugliness can assist in learning from those mistakes.

Although the coverage wasn’t front page, there were news outlets brave enough to hit on those topics over the weekend. I wanted to take time to highlight them, quoting some excerpts that may be tough to read:

Anita Snow and Noreen Nasir of Associated Press for ABC News: “Sikh entrepreneur Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed at his Arizona gas station four days after the Sept. 11 attacks by a man who declared he was “going to go out and shoot some towel-heads” and mistook him for an Arab Muslim.”

Sodhi’s brother spoke with Kimmy Yam of NBC News and reflected on the hate crime.

Kiara Alfonseca for ABC News: “Mosques were burned or destroyed and death threats and harassment followed many Muslims in the weeks following the attacks, according to congressional testimony from the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2011. Some victims were beaten, attacked or held at gunpoint for merely being perceived as Muslim, the organization said.”

Maria Lisignoli of NBC 15 in Madison, WI spoke with a local principal:

“But, you know, as often as you will speak to other Muslim and millennials especially, they feel like we feel like we’ve had to answer for the crimes of other people,” Warsi said.

He says linking the Islamic faith with these attacks was damaging mentally and physically.

“I myself have been discriminated against been a victim to hate crime with physical assault, just because I’m Muslim,” Warsi said.

Dorothy Hastings for PBS: “Since 2001, Muslims have been the second most frequent target for religiously motivated hate crimes, according to the federal hate crime data.”

Newstalk program directors, news directors and journalists should always strive to tell both sides of the story. It’s not the feel-good unified story, but nothing about journalism is easy. The industry isn’t for propaganda.

There are tough truths that need to be told. It’s part of the job.

The stories are important. The coverage is necessary.

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BNM Writers

The Weather Channel Was Go To Outlet for Hurricane Ida Coverage

The three major cable news outlets were surprisingly slow in covering Hurricane Ida, despite most of their offices located in New York City.

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Hurricane Ida continued to wreak havoc on Wednesday, Sep. 1, as the storm that rocked Louisiana the previous weekend unleashed its fury upon the northeast.

The Weather Channel was the primary outlet for Ida coverage. Here was their ratings track as the storm reached New Jersey and New York that evening, according to Nielsen Media Research:

  • 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET: 0.391 million viewers; 158,000 adults 25-54
  • 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET: 0.461 million viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54
  • 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET: 0.348 million viewers; 111,000 adults 25-54
  • 11:00 p.m.-midnight ET: 0.269 million viewers; 100,000 adults 25-54
  • midnight-1:00 a.m. ET: 0.230 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
  • 1:00-2:00 a.m. ET: 0.198 million viewers; 63,000 adults 25-54

3.15 inches of rain fell in Central Park from 8:51-9:51 p.m. ET — the largest amount of rainfall there within a one-hour period on record, a mark previously set just eleven days prior (Aug. 21) by the effects of Hurricane Henri’s storm (1.94 inches). 8.4 inches fell in Newark, New Jersey throughout the entire evening. Over 50 people in the northeast perished due to Ida.

The three major cable news outlets were surprisingly slow in covering Hurricane Ida, despite most of their offices located in New York City. Fox News Channel provided 10-minute special reports in the overnight of late Sep. 1/early Sep. 2:

  • 1:00-1:10 a.m. ET: 0.875 million viewers; 213,000 adults 25-54
  • 2:00-2:11 a.m. ET: 0.692 million viewers; 166,000 adults 25-54
  • 3:00-3:08 a.m. ET: 0.526 million viewers; 129,000 adults 25-54

CNN’s “Newsroom Live” began at 2 a.m. ET, reporting on Hurricane Ida. It averaged 411,000 viewers and 128,000 adults 25-54 for the hour.

On the following morning of Thursday, Sep. 2, the governors of New Jersey (Phil Murphy) and New York (Kathy Hochul) held separate press conferences addressing the aftermath of Ida. Fox News, averaging 1.6 million total viewers and 265,000 in the 25-54 demo from 10-11 a.m. ET, aired most of these conferences until bailing on them when the topic of climate change was mentioned.

CNN (967,000 viewers/228,000 adults 25-54 from 10-11 a.m. ET) and MSNBC (Murphy: 843,000 viewers/90,000 adults 25-54 from 10:19-10:38 a.m. ET; Hochul: 778,000 viewers/86,000 adults 25-54 from 10:38-11:12 a.m. ET) both aired the Murphy and Hochul press conferences in full.

Here are the cable news averages for August 30-September 5, 2021.

Total Day (August 30-September 5 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.548 million viewers; 259,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.744 million viewers; 84,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.653 million viewers; 145,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.247 million viewers; 57,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.201 million viewers; 61,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.145 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.140 million viewers; 20,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.096 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (August 30-September 4 @ 8-11 p.m.; September 5 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.642 million viewers; 434,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.260 million viewers; 145,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.876 million viewers; 202,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.259 million viewers; 72,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.218 million viewers; 62,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.199 million viewers; 60,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.163 million viewers; 33,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.054 million viewers; 6,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and The Weather Channel programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.312 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.130 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.846 million viewers

4. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.841 million viewers

5. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.620 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.519 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.506 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.489 million viewers

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.393 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.317 million viewers

19. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.763 million viewers

125. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 1.199 million viewers

190. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.909 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  MSNBC, CNN and The Weather Channel programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.778 million adults 25-54

2. Hannity (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.667 million adults 25-54

3. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.667 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.654 million adults 25-54

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.634 million adults 25-54

6. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.613 million adults 25-54

7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 9/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.574 million adults 25-54

8. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.569 million adults 25-54

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 8/31/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.564 million adults 25-54

10. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 9/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.552 million adults 25-54

32. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 8/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.367 million adults 25-54

71. Don Lemon Tonight (CNN, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.282 million adults 25-54

87. America’s Morning Headquarters (TWC, Mon. 8/30/2021 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.253 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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