My Fox News Addiction
How I ended up on air.
Every day starts the same. After the stretches and groans that seem to have increased substantially since my 30th birthday, I stumble to the couch and grab the remote. Comcast HD channel 950 – known worldwide as the Fox News Channel – is my destination. If I was particularly gluttonous the night before I don’t even have to enter the numbers because reruns of the Big Ones – O’Reilly, Hannity, Kelly – will have preceded my slumber. Three less buttons to push for me. For my girlfriend, the sight of Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck on the Fox and Friends couch is too much to take first thing in the morning. On the days when she makes it to the remote before me, I feel a slight panic and a tinge of guilt because I know what’s coming next: “Really, Justin?” And my response:
“I can’t help it.”
“I know it’s bad for me.”
“But it’s so good!”
Blank stare. Channel flip. She holds the remote like a disappointed mother who has just found a needle and spoon behind the toilet. Her indignation is well-deserved. When pressed by her, and by my friends and family, I consistently fail to come up with a reason for myviewing habits.
I don’t consider myself too invested in the politics of the left, but my opinions on current events cause most people to put me in the liberal camp. I bristle at calls to build fences to keep people who are fleeing South American countries out of our own. Even though I’m a product of white privilege I also acknowledge its existence, something you won’t find in most conservatives. I’ve spent a significant portion of my career reporting on crime and the lives of the marginalized. What I’ve seen and heard while working on those stories has only reinforced my belief that capitalism is a system that serves the powerful and afflicts the weak. This worldview permeates my work. I have been accused of advocacy journalism (for this series) and did not shy away from the charge. For these reasons and others, my friends and family have every right to wonder why I watch Fox. At least one has floated the idea that I’m a closet conservative, but most just consider it an especially crazy quirk of my personality. I have never been able to provide an answer, but I know this: they have a word for people who can’t explain why they do things they know are bad for them – addicts. My name is Justin, and I’m addicted to Fox News.
On October 7, the channel celebrated its 18th birthday. I know this because throughout the day each show in Fox’s daytime stable ran a segment marking the occasion. Here was a wide shot of the Times Square studio, the one they fade into each morning as Fox and Friends comes on the air, with the red-lettered news ticker running around the side of the building. Inside, via grainy, pre-HD images, barely recognizable newsmen in the wide-shouldered suit jackets of the mid-90s sat on a couch, ready to share the morning news with the world. This, and the ensuing 18 years of success, were made possible by “two great men,” Gretchen Carlson said that day, “Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.” She smiled wide as she said this and I couldn’t help but agree. Whatever your opinion of Murdoch and Ailes, you can’t deny their contribution to American politics and broadcast journalism. Many consider the pair and their network modern-day yellow journalism, but for me Fox News is an experience that begins as entertainment and background noise, and ends with incredulity and anger. It’s so bad it’s good, and I couldn’t quit it if I tried.
My Fox News addiction began in earnest in 2009 with the Glenn Beck Program. But, like my work as a reporter, can probably be traced back to my news-centered childhood.