news coverage

news coverage is influenced by audiance expectations

How a news organization perceives its audience affects news coverage. The National

Enquirer lavishes attention on unproven cancer cures that the New York Times treats briefly if at all. The Wall Street Journal sees its purpose as news for readers who have special interests in finance, the economy, and business. The Bloomberg cable network was established to serve an audience more interested in quick market updates, brief analysis, and trendy consumer news than the kind of depth offered by the Journal.

The perception that a news organization has of its audience is evident in a comparison of stories on different networks’ newscasts. CNN may lead newscasts with a coup d’état in another country, while Bloomberg leads with a new government economic forecast and Comedy Central with the announcement of a comedian’s tour. In addition, most consumers know that Fox News is more politically conservative, and MSNBC is more liberal. This knowledge often drives which station a consumer elects to watch.

Media People Clever, Smart, Dorky?

Rachel Maddow was no ordinary kid. At 4, her mother remembers, little Rachel would perch on a kitchen stool as her mom fixed breakfast and, still in pajamas, read the newspaper. At 7, during the 1980 presidential campaign, Maddow remembers an intense repulsion to Ronald Reagan on television.

Maddow, now a leading political commentator on the left, can’t explain her Reagan- loathing as a grade-schooler. Noting Reagan’s political conservatism, Maddow quips that some kind of “reverse engineering” must have set in. It’s a self-deprecating line typical of Maddow’s quick humor that draws audience chuckles and then double takes as the irony settles in.

Rachel Maddow. Rachel Maddow broke into the old boys’ club of cable television, dominated by Bill O’Reilly at Fox, Anderson Cooper at CNN, and Keith Olbermann formerly at MSNBC, with a distinctive take on political news.

The fact is that Maddow is hardly a slouch intellectually. She roots what she says on premises, not on whatever instinctive gut reactions may have been playing on her when she was 7. Maddow holds a degree from Stanford University in public policy. She later won a Rhodes scholarship for an Oxford doctorate in political science.

Maddow has a common touch that goes beyond her trademark 501 baggy jeans and sneakers. Yes, that’s how Maddow showed up for work at the radio network Air America, where she started a talk show in 2004. Maddow didn’t change her style when, at age 35, the MSNBC television network gave her a show during the 2008 heated presidential campaign. The button-down MSNBC culture in Manhattan hasn’t affected Maddow. She says she’s still comfortable dressing like a 13-year-old boy. Before going on the air nightly at MSNBC, however, she pulls a pantsuit from a closet of identical suits. She calls her style “butch dyke.”

The common touch is more than wardrobe. Maddow earned money in college heavy- lifting. For a while she unloaded trucks. She also did yard-clearing for a landscaper. Then, there was a job putting stamps on coffee packets. For reading, she’s just as at home with Malthus and Machiavelli as with graphic novels.

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