Final Written Assignment
For my final written assignment, I have decided to analyze the Sean Hannity Show on Fox News and a website run by Isthmus, a Wisconsin newspaper, www.thedailypage.com. The story covered in both news sources is the Wisconsin budget feud. Isthmus belongs to the national Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and its mission is to “inform, not persuade” (Isthmus). Isthmus is owned by Isthmus Publishing Company, Inc and was founded in 1976. On the other hand, Fox News Channel is owned by News Corporation and was launched in 1996. It is a conservative political commentary show although there are claims that its “political commentary and news reporting operate independently of each other and denies any bias in its news reporting” (Fox).
Isthmus is a weekly newspaper that was founded in 1976 that prints 60,000 copies every Thursday (Isthmus). It also has a local website www.thedailypage.com. Isthmus was founded by Vincent P. O’Hern and Fred Milverstedt. A fun fact about Isthmus it the name comes from the “land mass that forms the heart of Madison’s downtown and houses the twin engines of the city’s economy, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin State Capitol” (Wikipedia). It has won many awards for excellence over the years; some include two Golden Quills, the top honor from International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, and many first place prizes from Milwaukee Press Club. As stated in chapter 4 in Pavlik’s book, “Local newspapers tend to provide coverage of the local communities they serve, monitoring the activities of local government, law enforcement, business, religion, education, the arts, and other area institutions…tend to serve as the legal record of public communications in their communities…also provide an important part of the local community’s economic infrastructure by carrying extensive advertising for local products.” (Pavlik 112)
Announced in 1985, Rupert Murdoch and Marvin Davis wanted to develop “ a network of independent stations as a fourth marketing force to compete with CBS, NBC, and ABC. In January 1996, Murdoch announced News Corporation would be launching a 24 hour news channel to air on both satellite and cable” (Wikipedia). A former US Republican political strategist, Roger Ailes, and Murdoch worked together to rehearse the show and eventually launched Fox News on October 7, 1996. Because the show was not readily available, only 10 million households were able to watch the first show, which left many media reviewers watched it inside the studio. The Sean Hannity show is a talk radio show hosted by Mr. Hannity on Citadel Media and Premiere Radio Networks. Broadcasted live every weekday from 3-6 pm EST. Its primary focus is politics and contains interviews of liberal commentators as well as conservatives. “According to Talkers Magazine, the Sean Hannity Show is the second most-listened to commercial radio show in the US with 13.25 million listeners weekly” (Wikipedia). Hannity had his first radio show in the late 1980s as a volunteer for UC: Santa Barbara’s radio station. He has since won many awards and in 2004 signed a $25 million contract for the next five years with ABC radio. “At least 99 percent of all U.S. households have at least one radio receiver…it is also the most heavily used medium in the United States, where people listen to radio on average over 2.5 hours per day” (Pavlik 146). Since Mr. Hannity’s popularity in the radio business has soared, he now has a show that airs on Fox News.
In the past years there have been nearly 3.3 million viewers daily watching Fox News. In January 2010, Public Policy Polling reported Fox News was the most trusted television news channel in the country with 49% of respondents stating they trust FOX (Fox). According to newscorpse.com, the average viewer watching Fox is a 65-year-old Republican. The demographic for Isthmus is the reader being from the state of Wisconsin but more concentrated in the areas of Madison and Dane County. 40% of adults read the newspaper (Wikipedia).
Both sites have addressed the ongoing debate in Wisconsin about the questionable budget proposals by Republican Governor Walker. They have both used the words vitriol and bogeyman to describe those on the other side. However, in each news source there have been different topics covered in order to sway an audience. For example, there are pieces of evidence that help formulate the news story Fox is portraying that Isthmus just happens to leave out. The first mentioned by Sean Hannity that one of Obama’s own groups, Organizing for America, and the Democratic National Convention, are behind organizing this protests. This questions if there is a bigger message being sent to the entire nation and not just Wisconsin. The second example that Fox mentions and not Isthmus, is that the previous democratic Governor, Jim Doyle, left this large mess to Governor Walker to deal with and clean up. The final commentary that Sean Hannity mentions is an actual effect on the union members of an increasing cost of $200/month. By giving quantitative research, it gives Mr. Hannity more credibility for his story. It seems as Fox has inserted some commentary that are primarily meant to bash the democrats. For example, Sean Hannity opens the show with saying the democrats have had “their last free lunch” implying the benefits they are getting daily. On the other hand, just as Fox included pieces of evidences that Isthmus left out, Isthmus included information that Fox decided to leave out. The first is the mention of firefighters walking into the state capitol to show support even when the bill does not affect them. The second is Isthmus included all types of people who were attending the rally; all age, religion, and ethnicities, showed up to support. The final news piece mentioned only in Isthmus is the redundancy of the quote, “it isn’t about the money, it’s about the right of everyday America” (Mills). These six examples show the viewer a great example of framing. To frame is defined as “The notion that every story is told in a particular way that influences how readers think of the story” (Pavlik 292). Each news source has framed facts gathered in Wisconsin in order to influence how their readers or viewers think.
The Sean Hannity show on Fox legitimizes its position by bringing in two people to interview, Brian Scheming Vice Chairmen of Wisconsin Republican Party and Scott Fitzgerald Republican Senate Leader in Wisconsin. By bringing in two outside sources, Sean Hannity show has legitimized its story and gained credibility. Another example within the show that makes it legitimize is the video footage of the protestors and riots outside of the state capitol. At Isthmus, Emily’s Post: Wisconsin union protests against Walker are history in the making, legitimizes its position by embedding video of firefighters entering the state capitol in the middle of her article as well as showing a picture of protestors at rally holding signs. These examples provide credibility for the reader in both stories.
In order to verify claim that were being made in the two news sources about the Wisconsin proposals, I turned to CNN to get evidence that this is a legitimate news story. The CNN clip differed in numerous ways from FOX news. Both of these news sources are known to be conservative or liberal. In the CNN video, it focused more of the actual event and protest, interviewing protestors, rather than FOX news that focused on what was going on as well as the implications to come with the actions from both sides (CNN).
In conclusion, Fox News is more convincing than Isthmus because it has provided more information for the story and brought in outside sources to legitimize its story. Because Fox News (The Sean Hannity Show) has been more “mainstream” than a local newspaper’s online webpage, it is easier for the viewer to gather accurate information about a news story. It also helps that Fox is a nation-wide news source that has been trusted over the years.
This photo is at the top of thedalilypage.com on Emily’s article on the Wisconsin budget issues. http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=32344
CNN Wire Staff. “Wisconsin Governor Blasts Public-sector Unions as Wasteful – CNN.com.” CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/02/21/wisconsin.budget/index.html?iref=allsearch>.
Mills, Emily. “Emily’s Post: Wisconsin Union Protests against Walker Are History in the Making – Isthmus | The Daily Page.” Madison, Wisconsin’s Source for Events, News, Movies, Music, Restaurants and More: Isthmus The Daily Page. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=32344>.
Pavlik, John V., and Shawn McIntosh. Converging Media: a New Introduction to Mass Communication. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
Southerners:, Republicans And. “News Corpse » Fox News Propped Up By Republicans And Southerners.” News Corpse » The Internet’s Chronicle of Media Decay:. Web. 22 Feb. 2011. <http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/?p=1368>.
“Wisconsin Budget Battle Reaches Boiling Point.” Home – The Sean Hannity Show. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://www.hannity.com/videos>.