The emergence of media tribes

The latest Pew Research Center study on Americans’ views of their news media show falling trust, growing divides, and the emergence of media tribes. There’s much to chew and choke on in this. Here are some of their findings and my musings:

News media continue to lose respect

That’s not surprising news but it’s still quite sobering. Though the majority of Americans still have generally favorable views about news media (from 60% favorable about national newspapers — specifically the New York Times and Washington Post — to, inexplicably, 79% favorable about local TV news), those numbers have fallen since 1985 (when 81% spoke favorably of national newspapers and cable news topped the list at 91%). For comparison: Favorable opinions of the Supreme Court are down 12 points and Congress 20 points since 1985; for the Democratic Party 8 points and the Republicans 12 points (to only 42%) since 1992. Only the military’s rating has risen. So the nation is getting more critical of everyone. I’ll get to a theory on that in a minute (hint: Fox).

But drill down to the specifics and MSM’s grades get worse. Today a majority of Americans says stories are often innacurate (53% now vs. 34% in 1985). I’ll get to why I think there’s a bit of a turn there in a minute (hint: Bush).

A majority say that the media are biased (55% today vs. 45% in 1985). But a plurality has always thought news media are biased. I say it’s time for news media to admit it and I also say that will improve their trust.

A plurality no longer thinks news media are moral (moral?): 46% today vs. 54% in 1985.

Yet 66% today think the news media are highly professional and — take this as good news — 44% think they protect democracy (36% disagree and 20% don’t know).


That’s the foundation. Now we’ll see some intriguing trends and divisons Pew finds. . . .

The emergence of media tribes

Pew was most struck by the growing difference in opinions about media among people who use different media. Bottom line: People who use the internet as their primary source for news — who are also younger and better educated than the rest of the country — are the most critical of mainstream media (and probably the most likely to sneer at it as “MSM”). TV viewers are older and also less critical.

I see the emergence of media tribes.

Different groups use different media and have different views of that media. Perhaps that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, the internet is used to criticize MSM and it attracts people who are critical of MSM and thus it is more critical of MSM. Or not. It could be that younger, better-educated people are already inclined to be critical of MSM and that is why they gravitate to a medium that gives them more choice, comparison, and control. Chicken, meet egg.

This is an inevitable outcome of the end of monolithic media: the death of The Press. Now that we have the means of comparison, we compare — and the old controllers do not compare well. I have long decried the allegedly grand shared experience of media that really lasted only three decades — from the 50s, when network TV killed second and third newspapers locally, to the 80s, when the cable box, VCR, and remote control gave us more choice, to the mid 90s when the internet gave us more control. I say it is a good thing to have more voices, more perspectives, more means to compare.

But I’ll also note that this division of the media tribes means that we are each seeing different Americas. That will have ever greater implications for not only news media but also for politics and public policy as well as any consumer business. Of course, this means you can’t just buy network TV to sell soap or ideas anymore. But it also means you’re never talking to one nation.

Note again that the ratings are generally favorable. But there are clear differences. Some numbers from Pew: 60% of Internet users (that is, and I’ll say this once, those who use the internet as their primary source of news) rate national papers — again, the Times and Post — favorably; that’s the same for the population as a whole. But 68% of internetters rate local TV favorably vs. 78% of the nation; that’s 62% of the internet vs. 75% of the nation favorable of cable news, 61% vs. 71% for network news, and 71% vs. 78% for local daily papers. In every case, TV viewers give these media higher favorable ratings.

Now to get more specific: 64% of internet users say that news organizations are politically biased (vs. 55% for the nation as a whole and 46% for TV viewers). 59% say that the stories are often inaccurate (vs. 53% for the nation). 68% of internet users say media don’t care about the people they report on (vs. 53%, still a majority, of the nation). And — get this — 53% of internauts say the media are too critical of America (vs 43% for the nation). I think we’ll see why that is next. . .

The growing political divide over the media

Pew found a growing partisanship in views of media. In 1985, we were unified with strong favorable opinions of network news: 88% of Republicans and independents and 92% of Democrats rated TV news favorably. Today, that’s only 56% favorable for Republicans, 70% for independents, and 84% for Democrats. Same story for the national papers: Democrats’ favorable ratings fell from 85% to 79%, independents from 80% to 60%, Republicans’ from 79% to a very grumpy 41%.

This pattern — the growing divide — holds, of course, in specific views of media behavior. Is the press too critical of America? 63% of Republicans say yes vs. only 23% of Democrats. Does the press hurt democracy? 48% of Republicans say yes vs. 28% of Democrats. Are media politically biased in their reporting? 70% of Republicans vote yes vs. 39% of Democrats (and, for comparison, 61% of independents… to me this indicates that “bias” means “disagrees with me”). Is the press liberal? Guess what: 75% of Republican say yes vs. 37% of Democrats. This divide also shows in the parties’ view of press performance. Are stories often inaccurate? 63% of Republicans say yes vs. 43% of Democrats. Note that in all these cases, the split is much greater than in 1985. The Republican-Democrat gap, as Pew calls it, grew from 9 to 40% in their views of whether the press is critical of America, from 6% to 20% over whether the press hurts America, from 6% to 31% over the question of political bias. These tribes are growing farther apart.

Why? Read on. . . .

Fox News, the great negativity machine

The Fox News tribe is markedly more critical of media and I don’t think that’s just because media are criticizing Bush and because Republicans — who, not surprisingly, outnumber Democrats 2-to-1 among Fox viewers — have long thought media to be biased and liberal. I think it’s because Fox News is inherently negative and is effective at spreading that negativity. You’ll find some justification for that view in the Pew numbers.

63% of the Fox tribe — that is, viewers who count Fox as their main source of news — believe that news media’s stories are often inaccurate vs 46% of CNN viewers and 41% of network news viewers. Foxers say that the news media are too critical of America: 52% of Fox viewers say that vs. 36% for CNN viewers and only 29% for network news viewers. Are media unfair to George Bush? 49% of Foxers say yes vs. only 19% of CNNers and 22% of network people. Are media politically biased? 54% of Foxers vote yes vs. 46% of CNNers and 42% of network viewers (note again that this is a widely held view). Now getting to views of specific media, only 39% of Fox viewers think favorably of the national papers vs. 69% of network viewers. That’s 72% vs. 83% for local daily papers, 59% vs. 87% for network TV news, 81% vs. 86% for local TV news.

More evidence for this Fox-negativity theory: CNN viewers are more favorable to Fox than Fox viewers are to CNN. That tells me that CNN viewers are nicer or at least less grumbly. They see the world through rose-colored TV lenses. The numbers: 79% of CNN viewers rate Fox favorably while 55% of Fox viewers say the same thing about CNN.

The divide over cable news carries into other media tribes. Says Pew: “Dislike of both major cable news networks runs notably high among Americans who count newspapers and the internet as tehir main sources of national and international news. One-third of people who count on the internet for most of their news express an unfavorable view of Fox, and roughly the same number (31%) feel negatively toward CNN.” Pew adds that the polarized views of Fox and CNN, not surprisingly, “are most prevalent at the ideological extremes — conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.”

pewfoxified0809.gifNow here’s the interesting bit: Pew looked at “Fox-ified Republicans” — that is, data show that “being a Republican and a Fox viewer are related to negative opinions of the mainstream media. . . . Republicans who count Fox as their main news source are considerably more critical than Republicans who rely on other sources.” Specifically, 71% of Fox-ified Republicans hold unfavorable views of the n national papers vs. 52% of Republicans in other media tribes and 33% of nonRepublicans. Note, by the way, that only 28% of Republicans are Fox-ified. That’s an important political stat. That may be how the Democrats justified snubbing the Fox presidential debates, but I still say that was short-sighted.

The growth of demographic tribes

We know well that media usage varies by age. Some Pew numbers: Comparing 1995 (note the different year) with 2007, it’s clear again how much the internet is affecting other media. Asked how they get their news about national and international newspapers (note that they could give two answers), 26 percent today use the internet vs 6% in 1999; it wasn’t asked in 1995 (which was barely after the creation of the browser). Compare that with TV — 65% now vs. 82% in 1995, newspapers — 63% then vs. 27% now (OUCH), radio — 20% then vs. 15% now, and magazines — 10% then vs. 2% now (and one wonders why the newsmagazines are sputtering).

Now look at the impact age has on opinions of media. Favorable opinions of local TV can cable news rise with age but fall for network news and national and local papers. College education generally lowers opinions of news media. Note also that women and blacks are generally more favorable.

And now for some good news?

Pew finds encouragement in the enduring positive view of the press’ watchdog role. Well, yes, except that view is declining and it is now a minority view among Republicans. In 1985, during the Reagan years, 67% of Americans — 65% of Republicans, 71% of Democrats — supported the watchdog view. Today that’s 58% for the nation, 71% still for Democrats, but only 44% for Republicans (who fell below the majority line in 2003).

What is it about local TV news?

Finally, I remain befuddled by the continued high ratings for local TV news, which comes out only slightly behind local newspapers. Local TV news sucks. It’s all fires, press releases, weather teases, and time-shifting (‘Police this morning are searching for the criminals who allegedly performed a crime right here where I’m standing last night but in fact no one who’s involved in the story is here right now and I could read this same script to you from the studio after I cadge it from the newspaper but standing here it seem so real and current, doesn’t it? Back to the you, Sally Ann…’). There’s no reporting. The faces we see are all transient as they head from market to market; they don’t know our towns. They’re often not too bright. But yet, they seem friendly. And I fear that the reason people like them is because they don’t report. What’s not to like about pap and predictability?

: RELATED (somewhat): Stowe Boyd writes about social networks and tribalism, inspired by Blonde2.0 on a survey of tribe members.

  • Jeff,

    I have a tough time buying your Fox=negativity argument. I don’t think one can make that assertion based on their programming. [at least not in my limited experience in watching FoxNews]

    Fox is the only cable/TV outlet that is right of center. The remainder are all left of center; some markedly so.

    In keeping with your media tribe theory, perhaps the divide is better explained by the fact that FoxNews is a solitary flag to rally around. If there were more conservative news channels/programs, then those in those media tribes would have an easier time seeing alternatives with different political perspectives as “one of many” and less of a threat to their home tribe.

    Very interesting stuff, otherwise.


  • Whew… lot of data to digest in one post!

    Local TV news in the Atlanta market covers primarily road-kill. They have no discernable interest in “new media” or citizen journalism. I joke that some of us bloggers should stage a roadside accident site and live blog/broadcast, the non-news situation when the local TV vans and choppers come roaring up, or down, with their cameras a’blazing.

  • Dann,

    Then I’d suggest you give yourself a week’s diet of Fox News and you’ll hear constant hammering on the failings and biases of MSM. In this context, I’m not judging that judgment. I’m looking at the Pew stats and saying that messaging is working. And how.

  • Jeff,
    Was finding the article interesting until your personal opinions started to cloud your message. I’m especially not buying into the Fox/negativity argument and am disappointed that the piece took that bent at that time.

    I’m part of that “tribe” that gets its news from the ‘net because I want all pieces of the information about the topic. I don’t get my news from any cable/broadcast entity, and really don’t care which is “better”. They all have the same problems enharent in MSM.

    As for this article, I stopped reading at the fox/negativity part – you completely lost me when you injected your evaluation of the Pew results. If you are reporting the poll results, let them speak for themselves – you don’t need to color them with your commentary. It simply didn’t add value to me – so I ended up wasting several minutes here that I could have spent elsewhere.


  • Jimmy

    I find two things disturbing about this overly long post. One, that nearly half of Republicans say the press hurts America. I bet they didn’t think that way when their bogeyman Clinton was in office. Two, that Republicans seems to be becoming a once-source-of-news group; that is, they are only viewing Fox News, or only going to websites that are known to present a Republican/Conservative/right wing viewpoint. Exposure to differing views is what allows us to make intelligent decisions; otherwise, we just become automatons believing and doing what we’re told. A lack of curiosity has too quickly become the hallmark of late 20th and early 21st century Republicanism.

  • Well, Rick, you seem to prove the point: You stopped reading when you hit something you didn’t like. It’s a blog. I have a opinions. Get used to it. Express yours back without acting like a wounded deer. Watch Fox and tell me they aren’t slamming media all the time. It’s working. View this as a congratulations for a strategy that is cleary paying off. And stop trying the victim shtick. It’s unbecoming.

    Jimmy, So sorry it’s too long for you. Skip the parts you don’t like. Go write your own post, then. Jeesh. Sorry I went to so much work.

    Pissed off on good merlot,


  • Jeff thanks for this. I found your take on it interesting and was grateful for the link so I could read the report “clean” as well (Duh). Btw I didnt find it too long although I admit to skimming a couple of pars towards the end ;-)

    It strikes me that Fox in the US is like the Daily Mail in the UK. I sometimes advise people to stop reading it and they’ll find the world improves overnight.

  • Don

    From my perspective as a new media devotee news product offered up by the mass media establishments known as News Corp (eg Fox) and Time Warner (eg CNN) seems equally suspicious. Demonizing Fox only serves as a red herring to mask mass media’s accelerating incredibility caused by mass media’s own deceptions. Yesterday mass media got busted yet again.

    News agency Reuters has been forced to admit that footage it released last week purportedly showing Russian submersibles on the seabed of the North Pole actually came from the movie Titanic.

    The 2006 Lebanon War thoroughly decimated mass media credibility. As Marvin Kalb observes:

    The upshot is a new kind of populist journalism, which strongly influences the story that is being covered. Indeed, the journalist or, in this new age, the commentator, often becomes part of the story.

    During the Lebanon War, for example, the bloggers had more influence over the flow of the story than they had had during any other war. Ravi Nessman, the senior Jerusalem correspondent of the Associated Press, thought the influence of the bloggers, especially in the United States, was “unprecedented.” When the bloggers [in the U.S.] discovered that photographs had been doctored, “the credibility of the bloggers … skyrocketed and our credibility plummeted.” Nessman added, “After that everything that we did was suspect. And that makes it very difficult to cover a war, to have honest people who are trying, who are not doctoring photographs, who are not taking one side or the other, but who are trying to present the truth of what is going on there, and have everything we say be examined, which is fair, but basically be questioned as a lie, and starting with that premise that the media is lying.”

  • Jeff,

    Thanks for the explanation. So it’s behavior that Fox is cultivating. I think including that explanation of “FoxNews=negativity” would go a long way towards strengthening the entire piece. I think “negativity” represents poor word selection…..but it ain’t my blog. [grin]


    Speaking as a libertarian with occasional conservative tendencies, I can tell you that conservative attitudes towards the media were no different when Mr. Clinton was in office. The media bent over backwards to explain away all of Mr. Clinton’s obvious deficiencies throughout his term in office.


  • I don’t know why this has to be so hard. The mainstream press is uniformly center-left and the public is not so stupid that they cannot figure this out for themselves without a conspiracy by Fox News, talk radio, or any other boogeyman. There are reasons this happened, and a lot has to do with the way news outlets cooperate with each other through the AP network, where the big national stories emanate from the liberal national centers of money (NY) and power (DC). Republicans are going to like this type of news less than Democrats. Local news is more popular because it has less bias, and that’s because the stories they cover are less partisan. They also have more favorable ratings because, unlike most papers, they are engaged in heavy competition, trying to give the public what it wants. If the public wants to see car crashes and murders and lost kids, so be it. This is America where the customer is always right. Also, it is virtually impossible for news to be objective, and it is not healthy either. It certainly was not what Thomas Jefferson had in mind. We will soon have a more honest, and more partisan press with many more ideological voices represented. It will replace something that obviously the public does not like. (Steve Boriss, The Future of News)

  • I think Fox is the only major news provider that consistently covers other media in its routine coverage, and in large part they do this because their target audience sees the media as part of the story.

    To not cover the coverage is like suspending disbelief while watching a movie: let’s pretend there’s no camera there. But as we saw in the 2006 Lebanon war, the coverage is often a major part of the story itself. Any news provider that just covered the fighting and national leaders was missing the story. I think this is true of the Iraq war today too. All those terrorist attacks are aimed at the media, but I don’t think the MSM is getting the sense of that across, for example.

    You can call this Fox-negativity if you want. I call it news. In any case, blogs cover the media far more than Fox does. From the poll, the Fox viewer numbers on media appear similar to the internet user numbers.

    And one much broader point that will be obvious to many: the typical cycle of industrialization starts off with one-size-fits-all products. It’s only when the market gets saturated and a bit more capital and technology enters the picture a little later that you get market segmentation and product differentiation. So what’s happening in the media now is an old story. It’s the same for Model-Ts as NBCs.

  • Walter Abbott

    Interesting commentary on the Pew poll, Jeff. Your blog is one of my must reads every day – and I’m as unashamedly conservative as you are liberal.

    One thing that I noticed about the poll is the dearth of reporting about it in the MSM. None of the ‘name’ newspapers (NY Times, LA Times, WaPo, etc) did a story about it. Maybe they think by not reporting on bad news about their own industry it will just go away. That, in my opinion, is a story in itself.

  • Is “emergence” the best term? Wouldn´t “consolidation of media tribes” be a better description of a situation which has been evolving for at least 10 years now?

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  • I don’t disagree with the data or Jeff’s hypothesis, I would just like to inject a bit of a historical note. I think this “tribe” concept has always existed.

    For example there was a strong correlation between the cold-war warriors and readers of “Reader’s Digest”. As that demographic has died out so has the circulation of the magazine. Before that there were the “Saturday Evening Post” readers – commonly viewed as Main Street Republicans from the Middle West. A new generation with other opinions killed the Post too.

    Around the turn of the 20th Century NYC had about 100 newspapers. Many were foreign language and appealed to recent immigrants, but there were many that were distinguished by their ideological positions. The “Daily Worker” is usually held up as the prototypical ideological example.

    Even “mainstream” news organizations were recognized as being the mouthpieces of their owners: McCormick, Luce, Hearst, etc.

    What seems new is that people can now go to a variety of sources to form their “tribes”. So we have ethnic, class-based, ideological and age-based tribes and they tend to follow different forms of media as well as different outlets within each.

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  • Fascinating stuff. Thanks, Jeff. I tumbled over this post of yours just after istening to a repeat program on CBC Radio called “Spin Cycle” that covered a lot of the same territory. The particular episode was the last in the series of 6. The consensus (despite infuriating neolithic perspectives from representatives of “old media”) was that we are in for a rocky road but one which leads to a brighter future. Here’s the link to the shows, which can be downloaded as MP3’s.

    They interviewed Richard Edelman and I was hoping they would have talked with you as well – maybe they did, I missed the very beginning of the show. Your counterpoint to the jurassic journalism views would have been refreshing.

    Thanks again for the great post.

  • Les L Baisi

    Fox negativity? Really? Fox news is really the only news that is actually factual and unbiased and that requires the viewer to have an IQ higher than that of a house plant.

    Why don’t you look at statistics of who the viewers are? I think you would probably find a disproportionate number of fox viewers to be highly intelligent people and highly accomplished people versus a disproportionate number of intellectual wana be’s and much music groupies for most other news outlets.

  • Dave_Violence

    What’s all this mean? People don’t trust the news? People don’t trust their government? This is news?

    C.S. Lewis summed it all up in “That Hideous Strength.” Basically, the most objective, truthful reporting is on yesterday’s weather. After that, it’s the sports. From there, it’s all made up. The newsmedia exists to sell advertising and nothing more.

    The only intellectual television out there is Jeopardy!

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  • The figures for how the rest of the world view US media would be somewhat different. The internet is after all a global medium.

  • Everything you’d want to know about media priorities is in Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Consent.”

  • Chris C.

    The Fox supporters commenting here seem to prove your point.

    The erros of Faux News’ ways have been well documented elsewhere, but the kool aid drinkers on the right continue to gulp down all the “left-wing media bias” sauce they can consume.

    The fact that many Fox viewers are also likely listeners to right wing talk radio like Rush and Hannity also is a likely factor in their distrust of the media.

    Bottom line: If the voices in your head constantly bash the media, your conclusion is likely to be that it is. No facts to the contrary are going to change your mind.

  • Chris,

    Why do you place “left-wing media bias” in scare quotes? The only way to believe that the MSM has no bias is to move the goal posts so that the 30 yard line is mid-field.

    Or to believe that California, New York City, and Washington D.C. opinions matter more than those in the grand expanse that lies in between.


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  • Jake

    Here’s a lifetime Republican who thought the “MSM” provided low quality, biased reporting well before Fox News was but a distant dream. And now that Fox has pealed of the right side of the media market, the traditional media is self segmenting and focusing more on their new core (liberal) market. So I agree with the tribal theory, just not that “Fox negativity” is the reason. (Such a convenient bogey man.) Rather, it’s just basic market segmentation… a long practiced strategy in markets with declining margins. Jeff… remember the old watch word… KISS!

  • One’s view of the news media gets affected when the media reports on something you know about. As a Christian, I have read a log regarding apologetics. evidences for the Christian faith, and church history. Every Easter some news magazine is giving a cover story on something Jesus-related. And I’m not too impressed.

    As a pro-lifer, I notice when “anti-abortion” is used instead of “pro-life.”

    Here is a weird example: as someone in the Philadelphia area, I see stories which involve negative portrayals of Philadelphia fans. There is a template. It is easier to follow it. It appears, to me, that reporters can be lazy. It takes effort to get away from an assumed template.

    Last one: I’ve heard Rush Limbaugh say that there was an incorrect description about where he works from an early newspaper report about him (or something similar). Once it was in Lexus-Nexus, it will appear from time to time.

  • FOX is negative?

    Boy, your world really is upside down.

    It’s never been about “agreeing” with news. It’s about acknowledging facts, you buffoon.

    I’ll be sure to check back in a couple of weeks for another laugh.

  • eric

    A quick note about “high” marks for local TV. I think it goes to the classic results you find in polling. The nation’s schools are awful, my state’s schools are bad but not as bad a the nation’s. My local school is excellent. As the experiences get closer to the user they feel it is socially more appropriate to not ding their local people as much. maybe they are afraid they will meet them in the supermarket.

    Bottom line, I would’ve expected that response between local and national media.

  • Jeff – Given your title, I was surprised that you didn’t reference this recent essay from the London Times, which uses the word “tribal” in reference to the bBBC and other UK institutions.

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  • robertdfeinman’s take on the pre-existence of media ‘tribes’ is well-taken: I would go a step beyond that to cite that what we’re seeing nowadays is the evolution of electronic sub-cultures – areas of population demographic where not just the news, but what KINDS of news are taken in and which formulate decision-making factors and emphases in the behavior of each sub-culture’s denizens.

    It would be interesting to see what Pew has to say about PBS’s “The News Hour,” which I’ve never been able to reconcile with the MSM. Liberals hate it when Jeff Sessions appears on it, and Conservatives roar every time they see Nancy Pelosi being interviewed.

    My daily news intake generally comes from online sources CNN, BBC, International Herald-Times, Al Jazeera, and, of course, your blog, here, Jeff. From there, once home, I tune in PBS. Occasionally I tune in to local news, but more often than not I get all the local news I need from the local newspapers. Local television is weather and sports….as, I think, Dave Violence cited C.S. Lewis as discussing… and LanceThruster is likely right-on with his reference to Chomsky’s ‘Manufacturing Consent’ – it’s bread and circuses, folks…

    I don’t actually think of FOX as ‘negative,’ per se … more along the lines, perhaps, of the kind of biasing once promulgated by W.H. Hearst, to suit his particular agendas at the time. Citizen Murdoch, let us remember, is in this really ONLY for the money, and the party of the monied class is, after all, the Republicans. Perhaps ‘mercenary’ might be a closer description…

  • – correction, one of my online news sources was misnamed by me – the correct name is the International Herald-TRIBUNE.

  • Guy Love

    Media tribes sounds very confrontational, I like the idea of a news smorgasbord, where variety and competition is very healthly for all parties involved, especially the news consumer. The traditional media which held a monopoly on news for decades will continue to erode as the older generation that grew up with them is replaced by the younger generation that loves variety. Anyone watching the big 3 networks in their prime, couldn’t help but notice their uniformity on what was presented as news. Talk radio, cable channels, and the internet broke that monopoly and will continue to fragment the audience and create new niche news markets. The Pew Research poll appears to be tracking this ongoing transformation.

  • Tansley–electronic sub-cultures have been around for awhile (I used to be part of one way before the www as we see it today…) so, I kind of like Jeff’s idea of media tribes–which I think is different from those subcultures in some ways. The Fox tribe is the most obvious and probably easiest to get some numbers on–yet there are other, smaller tribes that focus around particular bloggers or blog networks as well as message boards and forums (still big wtih some folks.) Most MSM, I think, seems to have a difficult time with the whole “tribe” thing–but they also have trouble understanding social networks. Fox has some very savvy people working for it, who get all of this, and know how to use it. creepily.

  • Case in point: NBC’s struggle to incorporate the iVillage tribe…

    it might not be a heavily political “tribe” but iVillage is its own kind of media tribe–which NBC’s misunderstood in many ways…

  • Don

    Bread and circuses seems best suited to mass media, which originated during the industrial revolution. New media creatively destroys old school UK mass media shtick.

  • Sue

    Creating cynicism is Fox’s chief purpose. When people are cynical, they aren’t engaged. The fewer engaged citizens, the easier it is for the powerful few to maintain control.

  • It seems to me that people probably rate local news highly because they like news that feels closer to them (and the people that give them that news since they also feel closer than the national broadcasters).

    More and more hyperlocal content is appearing on the web these days and, while it isn’t as stimulating as the larger issues in the news, people really enjoy it since it directly affects them.

  • Okay tish – good point, and I agree….right down to that ‘hair on the back of the neck’ feeling with watching FOX…

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  • J

    It’s interesting that you criticize local TV news and express amazement at the public’s respect for it. I hate to throw out accusations like ‘you don’t get it”, but think about it – local TV news is almost entirely fact based, with a majority of the air time going to things like sports or weather that are hard to screw up.

    By contrast, much press and cable news channel reporting goes into issues that are either matters of opinion or deal with subjects most reporters, particularly those with journalism/liberal arts degrees, consistently demonstrate they simply don’t know anything about, such as technical, statistical, or military issues – I once read an hilarious article mocking a pilot’s “obvious error” in a discussion of aircraft noise levels by a reporter who was evidently unaware of the existence of logarithmic scales.

    “Watch Fox and tell me they aren’t slamming media all the time. It’s working.”

    Is it working because of the effectiveness of some nefarious plot, or because the “slams” are valid, legitimate criticism? I see glaring errors in reports on issues I have expertise in all the time.

  • I’m very late to the party on this one, but… uhmm.. am I the ONLY one who read the graphic at the top of Jeff’s post, perhaps we’d all just rather read Jeff’s theories and hate or love him, without writing much new and introspective.. although perhaps one should be respectful and do that on their own blog… (don’t worry, i will, and i’ll trackback)

    But first… look at the numbers, except for “Protect Democracy” the seemingly “positivie” side of the stats have all RISEN steadily since rising and then dropping swiftly in the post-September 11th period.

    Yes, you could look at the graph and say “woe is me, the ‘Persistent Criticisms of the Press’ are so much worse than they were in 1985!” OR you could look at the graph and say “Wow! Why is it that in the last 5 years the Persistent Criticisms are becoming LESS and LESS??”

    Well.. one could sugget that it’s interesting that this corresponds not only to the post-September 11th world, but also to the general rise of blogging, and this same “fragmentation” of the media that we hear so much about. Perhaps we are breaking into tribes, and perhaps it is the ability to access what our niche particularly prefers that is improving our overall view of the media???

    More on my own blog! But next time, read the post and the graphs, and lets try to have a dialogue sparked by Jeff’s controversial and, in my opinion, not quite the right angle to examine, lets not just sound off in agreement or anger in traditional blog-tastic fashion…


  • Don

    “What is this morbid obsession that liberals have with Fox? It’s as if Democrats, pampered and spoiled by so many decades of the mainstream media trumpeting the liberal agenda, are so shaky in their convictions that they cannot risk an encounter with opposing views. Democrats have ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the New York Times, Newsweek, Time and 98 percent of American humanities professors to do their bidding. But no, that’s not enough — every spark of dissent has to be extinguished with buckets of bile.”
    — Democrat Camille Paglia

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  • Cooler Heads

    Jeff, I see a big missing piece from the survey.

    Pew asked about unfavorable views of MSM outlets, but did not (at least according to your post) ask about unfavorable view of ‘net news.

    I’d be curious to see if there is some ideological tribe–as opposed to age, gender, etc, tribe–that is critical of internet news.

    That might help explain what you characterize as the Fox theory.

  • Hi Jeff, interesting analysis.
    The tribes – to me – are self-determining communities who create their version of ‘news’ – focused on the things that are important to them.

    How they decide what source or individual to trust is collective – it’s a wiki version if you will.

    I think news is now: real time information gathered by and distributed to communities of shared interest.

    I’ve posted more on this as part of a white paper which is available to download on my blog: and would welcome your contribution.

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