And a damn site more popular than you or PBS, Bill

And a damn site more popular than you or PBS, Bill
: Bill Moyers is talking media on NOW right now and he coughs up this dollop of snot: Fox News, he says, “proves that jingoism is more popular than journalism.”

What a pompous poodle he is.

I just returned from speaking with the first class of new media graduate students at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and we talked a lot about the popularity of FoxNews.

I said that we should listen to what the public is telling us by making FoxNews the No. 1 cable network:

: The audience is telling us that the competition is dull. CNN is dull. Much of journalism is dull. Moyers’ brand of journalism is the dullest. Fox is simply more compelling. The audience wants to be compelled, not bored; the audience always has.

: The audience is telling us that perspective and opinion are OK — no, welcome. In America, journalism became dull in part because it worked so hard to become objective. That, I believe, is a result of the growth of one-newspaper towns; it is an effort to be a responsible voice when you are the only voice in town. But look at Britain, where national media rules and where media admit their leanings. You can read the left Mirror or right Sun, the left Guardian or right Times. They still give you the news. But, like Fox, they also give you their perspective.

: The audience is telling us that news is a commodity. Fox shows you the same events its competitors do; the difference is that Fox does not concentrate its resources on that commodity with too many correspondents sitting in the same press conferences with everybody else and too many fancy, produced pieces. Instead, Fox differentiates itself with attitude. It’s smarter — and it’s cheaper.

: The audience is telling us that conservatives are fun to watch — more fun than liberals. (Was Phil Donahue really the best the left could produce for TV?)

You don’t have to like Fox or agree with Fox to find it entertaining. It’s the Howard Stern rule from “Private Parts:” Those who like him listen for a few hours to see what he’ll say next; those who don’t like him listen even longer — and why? — to see what he’ll say next.

Of course, I don’t agree with lots of what Fox says. I find O’Reilly’s hectoring unfair and irritating. A couple of their personalities are as dumb as my TV. But in general, I’ve found their war coverage to be as effective as anyone else’s.

And it’s still important to stand back and look at the ratings and see that the audience — the people we in media are all trying to serve — and flocking to Fox. There must be a reason for that.

I think we are inevitably moving to a media world where opinion and perspective wrap news. FoxNews is not the only harbinger of that. Weblogs are, too.

Like Fox, weblogs recognize that news is usually a commodity; we all link to the same news. What we then add is perspective, opinion, argument. We, like Fox, make news more compelling.

One student in Syracuse complained about Fox’s particular slant — not surprisingly — and its impact on the audience. The professor said she was condescending to the audience. I said that you have to have faith in the audience; I launched into my populist screed (I’ll spare you) and said that you have to have the faith that the audience can tell fact from opinion, slant from straight. You have to give the audience that much respect. And if you respect the audience, you should listen to them.

I say that in the ratings for Fox, the audience is telling us something. Listen.