Breaking news: your friend who watches nothing but Fox News is scientifically-proven to be less informed than a friend who listens to nothing but NPR. In fact, avid FOX viewers would be better informed by not watching any news at all or tuning into their arch nemesis Jon Stewart every once in awhile.
And on second thought, why do you have a friend who watches nothing but Fox News?
As reported by The Daily Beast, Farleigh Dickson University produced a follow-up survey to their controversial release from last year, arguing that Fox News viewers were the least well-informed about current events than audiences of other news sources. Shockingly, Fox viewers nationwide threw up their hands in a fit of rage, everyone else silently nodded, and Bill O’Reilly bit the head off of a kitten (source?).
The study involved 1,185 participants from around the country chosen randomly and split evenly by gender. Each person was asked to identify their sources of news consumption from a given list, followed by several current events questions, both domestic and international. According to the FDU press release, where the entire contents of the survey can be studied, “On average, people were able to answer correctly 1.8 of 4 questions about international news, and 1.6 of 5 questions about domestic affairs.” People who don’t watch any news at all are expected to answer 1.22 questions about domestic issues correctly, according to the results.
When all was said and done, Fox News came in an abysmal last place, clocking only 1.04 correct answers about domestic issues on average. Knowledge of international affairs wasn’t much better, as no-news watchers were expected to answer 1.28 questions correctly. NPR, The Daily Show and Sunday morning talk shows all surpassed the average. Fox News viewers fell to 1.08 correct answers.
Although Fox seems to have a negative sway on the truthful knowledge of its viewers, a closer look should silence the immediate finger-pointers. Only liberals and moderates who attest to watching Fox News were affected negatively by their consumption; “Conservatives who watch Fox do no worse than people who watch no news at all.”
The results of the study served more to highlight the growing partisan talking point stance that a few cable news networks have latched onto, along with its effect on a willingly participatory audience. Dan Cassino, political scientist and poll analyst, astutely summarized the study’s findings by mentioning the ineffectiveness of partisan news sources.
“Ideological news sources, like Fox and MSNBC, are really just talking to one audience,” said Cassino. “The most popular of the national media sources—Fox, CNN, MSNBC—seem to be the least informative.”
Comedians and satirists like Jon Stewart have often ridiculed the absurdity of recycled talking points that churn through a 24-hour network on any given day. After spending 6 hours and 15 different news segments talking about the cost of President Obama’s most recent vacation, for example, a news network will then turn around and claim they’re only reporting the story because “it’s what everyone is talking about.”
Unfortunately, they fail to realize that the only ones vehemently discussing the topic are the various talking heads on the network. Everyone gets further steeped into their original stance, including the part of the audience that agrees, no debate or real discussion takes place, and nothing, including “journalism,” is actually achieved.
Even though we can’t necessarily chalk it up as a loss to Fox News, we can tally one for The Daily Show. That’s always a win.