It’s blue vs. red in TV viewership habits; Brian Williams’ second chance; new religion coverage plan announced

April 25, 2019
Category: Newsletters

How the other half watches

Whether you consider yourself red or blue, you’ve probably got some TV readership habits in common with your fellow party members.


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Blues like to get their news from MSNBC and enjoy watching “Modern Family.” Reds prefer news to entertainment shows, but they do like “NCIS,” “Criminal Minds” and the Hallmark Channel.

Blues and Reds both like “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Bones” and “Mythbusters.” And both list “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “Pawn Stars” and “Grey’s Anatomy” as their least-liked shows.

All this is part of a fascinating study by the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg and futurePerfect Lab.

“Are You What You Watch: Tracking the Political Divide Through TV Preferences” examines the links between our political beliefs, television watching habits and behavior.

The study found that people with different political beliefs watch TV for different reasons and they experience storytelling differently. Most viewers, regardless of politics, look for television that makes them feel good, but different shows do that depending on your political leanings. For the study, Blues are more liberal and Reds are more conservative. And Purples are the swing group. (Purples like CNN, by the way.)

The report tracks TV preferences against views on social justice, details the types of TV people from across the political spectrum are watching, and looks at how we’ve changed over the past 10 years.

A second chance for Brian Williams

The former anchor of ‘NBC Nightly News’ has success on MSNBC.


Brian Williams in 2007. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Is all forgiven with Brian Williams? The former “NBC Nightly News” host, suspended and then pushed out of the anchor chair in 2015 after exaggerating some of his reporting experiences, has had a career rebirth on MSNBC. Politico writes, “Williams seems to have found his footing on MSNBC, having apparently regained the trust of his audience.”

Williams has gone about it the right way. He apologized for his actions and has simply put his head down and gone back to work. With the passing of time, as well as other high-profile TV journalists (Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose) getting into trouble for far more serious matters, Williams is on the comeback trail. One insider told Politico, “He has shown he’s pretty reliable. Reliably available when news has broken and he has paid his dues doing a lot of breaking news coverage.”

Williams was especially prominent on the day the Mueller report was released, as well as during November’s midterm elections.

Not everyone has forgiven Williams. Politico writes that some inside and outside the MSNBC halls question whether Williams’ glaring and deliberate mistake is worthy of a second chance in a profession where credibility is so critical. But it does appear Williams’ career has rebounded nicely and continues to grow.

A new face for weekend ‘Fox & Friends’

Formerly on ‘The View,’ the new commentator starts this weekend.


Jedediah Bila arrives at the 45th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in 2018. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

Jedediah Bila has been named co-host on Fox News’ weekend broadcast of “Fox & Friends.” Starting Saturday, Bila will co-host with Pete Hegseth and a rotating third co-host.

“Jedediah’s thoughtful analysis and endearing personality have cultivated a connection with our audience that has grown exponentially over time,” said Lauren Petterson, senior vice president of morning programming and talent development at Fox Corp. “We are confident that she will make an excellent addition to the ‘Fox & Friends’ family.”

Bila started as a contributor at Fox News in 2013 before moving to “The View” on ABC. She returned to Fox News late last year and has appeared on various shows.

Fighting words

In a piece for Variety, a former longtime CBS executive challenges the network’s commitment to diversity.

“CBS, sadly, does not value a diverse workplace. … The company has a white problem across the board.”

Those words came from Whitney Davis, a longtime CBS executive who left the company in February. In an op-ed for Variety, Davis detailed examples of what she called racial discrimination and workplace misconduct, including comments that were both sexist and racist at the same time. She also criticized CBS’s independent investigation into CBS’s culture after sexual misconduct accusations against former CEO Les Moonves. She said the investigation ignored systemic racism and discrimination.

Davis, who was director of CBS Entertainment Diversity & Inclusion, wrote, “While CBS proudly touts its diversity programs, a close look beneath the surface reveals that the company is unconcerned about creating space for minorities.”

CBS gave TheWrap a lengthy statement, which included, “While we disagree with some statements in Whitney’s story, we take all employee concerns seriously and remain committed to improving the workplace experience for everyone.”

I’ll see you in court

A TV station report that the U.S. government was secretly keeping an eye on journalists and activists has led to a lawsuit.

Last month, NBC San Diego reported that the U.S. government was compiling a secret database of journalists and activists tied to the migrant caravan and, in some cases, placing alerts on their passports. Now the station, one of its reporters (Tom Jones — not me, but another Tom Jones) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are suing federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, under the Freedom of Information Act. They are claiming that records related to the secret database have been unlawfully withheld.

Putting it in context

A new partnership in international religion reporting is announced.


Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

In an effort to expand religion coverage, The Associated Press is teaming up with Religion News Foundation (RNF), Religion News Service (RNS) and The Conversation to create a global religion initiative. It will include a global religion news desk that will cover major world religions in hopes of improving general understanding and analyzing significant developments among those religions. The initiative is funded by an 18-month, $4.9 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to RNF.

In a statement, AP managing editor Brian Carovillano said, “This collaboration significantly expands AP’s capacity to explore issues of faith, ethics, and spirituality as a social and cultural force. We are delighted to be working with these organizations to produce meaningful religion journalism that will help inform audiences across the globe.”

Through the initiative, AP will add eight religion journalists; RNS will add three religion journalists; and The Conversation will add two religion editors. Additional business staff will also be hired across the organizations.

Hot type

A curated list of great journalism and intriguing media.


Jim and Debbie Fallows. (Courtesy)

  • Poynter’s Rick Edmonds talks to journalism couple Jim and Debbie Fallows about the renewal of their cross-country writing treks in a partnership with The Atlantic and Google.
  • I can’t get enough of James Holzhauer, who has now won 15 “Jeopardy!” games in a row and has reached $1 million in prize money faster than anyone in show history. How is he doing it and what will it take to beat him? The Atlantic’s Joe Pinsker explores.
  • Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine, is doing some serious soul-searching after one of its star reporters, Claas Relotius, was discovered to have fabricated much of his work. Anna Altman writes about how it’s going for the Columbia Journalism Review.
  • Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm writes why Sri Lanka’s decision to censor social platforms is indefensible.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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