(NewsNation) — As we approach what’s sure to be a contentious midterm election, the role of the news media is at the center of a new book examining how our country got so divided.
NewsNation political editor Chris Stirewalt’s book, “Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America & How to Fight Back,” examines how what’s best for the country isn’t always what’s best for the media.
Stirewalt was Fox News’ political editor before being fired in 2021. He was criticized by some in conservative media because Fox called Arizona for Joe Biden before all the votes had been counted. It was the correct call, but it angered some who claimed, without evidence, that there was voter fraud in the state. Stirewalt testified in front of the Jan. 6 committee that Donald Trump used the delay in ballot counting to fuel his false election claims.
“The reality is, the shortest distance between a news organization and profits is anger, fear, hatred,” Stirewalt said on “On Balance With Leland Vittert.”
Though Stirewalt does criticize his former employer in the book, he also points out how the needs of the network and the needs of the Republican Party can be at odds.
Early in an election cycle, crafty partisans want to play up their side’s chances. It helps their candidate recruitment and fundraising and may lead vulnerable incumbents on the other side to just go ahead and retire. But at the end of a cycle, the preferred message whenever possible should be that the race is
tight-tight-tight—every vote could be the winning vote, so don’t forget to cast your ballot. Ask Hillary Clinton how overconfidence can depress turnout as marginal voters opt to stay home. It occurred to me in 2010 and was confirmed to me in 2012 that despite all that Fox’s detractors said about the network being a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, the two organizations had fundamentally different aims.
Good politics is often bad TV. As much as we rightly lament the decline of the American electorate’s aspirations and expectations, at least a plurality of voters still clearly prefer competency, cooperation, and decency. And what could be more boring than that?
I don’t mean that it isn’t helpful for politicians and their teams to be gifted at doing television and understanding its power. Donald Trump was a better producer than some professionals I have seen. I once watched him on a feed telling a crew how to set the lights for an interview like he had worked as a“Broken news: why the media rage machine divides america & how to fight back” – newsnation political editor chris stirewalt
director for decades. He may have run his presidency like a reality show, but no one could say the man did not understand the medium of television.
After his testimony in Washington, he told NewsNation’s Leland Vittert there are several people to blame for the current state of politics.
“I watched both parties fail us and both parties refused to do the necessary thing. Because the necessary thing at times like this is to say: ‘I don’t care whether it hurts me or helps me, I don’t care whether this was good for me, good for the other side — this is the right thing to do,’” Stirewalt said.
“Broken News” is available now. Stirewalt will talk to Vittert tonight for a live interview at 7e/6c p.m.