SHOULD DEMS BOYCOTT FOX NEWS?

SHOULD DEMS BOYCOTT FOX NEWS? In today�s Los Angeles Times, the wise and measured Ron Brownstein is the latest to weigh in on the should-Democrats-go-on-Fox question (he doesn�t really take a position). There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this question -- you can argue that Democrats should fight everywhere they can, or you can argue that they wouldn�t go on Rush Limbaugh�s show, so why should they go on Fox -- but either way, there�s one common argument we can dispense with easily.

As Brownstein says, �the network has a large audience, at least some of whom may be open to Democratic arguments.� But what are we really talking about here?

People sometimes forget that cable news actually has a pretty small audience. For instance, the highest rated show on cable, �The O�Reilly Factor,� gets about 2.5 million viewers. That�s compared to around 4.5 million for �Meet the Press,� and around 10 million for each of the top-rated nightly news programs (currently NBC and ABC are locked in a tight battle for first).

Yes, Fox�s total viewership is higher than just those who watch their top show. But the number of people who get their news from Fox and only from Fox is extremely small. And after all, if Democrats were to boycott Fox, it is only those viewers whom to whom they would have no access. How many people could that be? A million? Maybe, at most. That would leave only 199 million voting-age adults for Democrats to persuade.

And who, exactly, are the people who watch Fox News but not any other channel, don�t read newspapers, and don�t get news from the internet? (OK, I know of one person who definitely falls into that category, but he�ll be going back to Crawford before long.) Something tells me not too many of them are open to voting for Democrats. There may be plenty of reasonable arguments against Democrats boycotting Fox, but doing so is not going to shut them off from anyone whose votes they need.

--Paul Waldman

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