There is nothing the Fourth Estate likes to talk about more than itself. It is an industry with decidedly narcissistic tendencies. With the fascination of a vain woman who cannot resist the lure of the mirror, members of the media love to examine themselves. They worship the ratings competition, which is meticulously measured for each network, program, and demographic. The first quarter of this year brought forth the unsurprising result of a massive drop in viewers for left-leaning networks like CNN and MSNBC. Many are calling it the “Trump Slump.” However, the dirty little secret regarding the loss of Orange Man Bad is that every media outlet is suffering under the stiflingly dull administration of Joe Biden.
The Pot and the Kettle
Fox News could not resist crowing: “CNN hemorrhaging viewers since Trump left office, down nearly 50% in key measurables.” Noticeably absent from its swaggering is that Fox hit the skids too. Since November, the network that has nicknamed itself “fair and balanced” has experienced a bloodletting of its own. The Nielsen numbers revealed what many on the right already knew: Rivals OANN and Newsmax picked up a good-sized chunk of Fox’s audience when the network capitulated to the mainstream media on election night.
In February, Tom Jones wrote at Poynter.org that Fox came in third “among the cable news bigwigs.” He boasted, “This was a big deal. A very big deal.” Then went on to ask: “Will it last?” The answer to that is quite apparent now, isn’t it?
The fact that CNN and MSNBC ratings have cratered since President Trump left office is only part of the story. The untold tale is that media outlets, both left and right, are slumping across the board.
So, it seems the ratings roller coaster has now leveled off. Recent Nielsen numbers demonstrate that just about every news media outlet is stuck in a valley of despair, the self-made “Slough of Despond” John Bunyan wrote about so brilliantly in his allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress. It is not hard to figure out how they landed there and why: Going from a man who slept four to five hours a day to another who is seemingly awake only four to five hours makes for a dearth of news. The scarcity of relevant, absorbing articles and TV programs is so palpable that Americans are swarming to hear more about a royal spat.
Will the Monotony Ever End?
Another fact about the media is that it thrives on controversy. It prospers by ramping up bitter battles with venomous soundbites. Digging for dirt is its stock in trade. It feeds off the vile and struggles to subsist without it. The simple truth is that Donald Trump provided the perfect protagonist for this narrative. He said what he meant – a rarity in politics – and reveled in the fact that the beast needed his comments to live. It could be said that Trump was the media’s sustenance, the very food that made them fat and happy.
But they gored and disemboweled the very hand that fed them. It’s far beyond the famous quote that the media won’t have “Nixon to kick around anymore.” Losing Nixon was an appetizer; losing Trump was like missing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Without the boisterous billionaire, a famine of news is sweeping the land – and the beast is getting very hungry.
Bogged down in the Slough of Despond and drowning under the weight of its many iniquities, one wonders how the beast will survive four years without Donald Trump? For as John Bunyan so eloquently wrote, “This miry Slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run …”
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.