By EVAN SIEGEL
News consumption since Donald Trump became president has dramatically changed. The era of basic reporting followed up by limited commentary and consistent cable news debates is over. Now in the age of Trump and social media, the vast majority of news is ruled by a select few at the end of the day in prime time.
Over three million people watch Sean Hannity every day at nine p.m. Eastern time when he broadcasts his show from New York City. The reliably conservative host has dominated news ratings for almost decade, and is rivaled only by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, who’s program airs at the same time each weekday. One evening of watching the notably liberal MSNBC, or the stunningly conservative Fox News, will leaver a viewer feeling almost overwhelmed at the content being shown.
A common evening on Fox News features Tucker Carlson, the former CNN and MSNBC host who was lured away to Rupert Murdoch’s network to be one of the nation’s most prominent conservative mouthpieces. His hour-long show is then immediately followed up with Sean Hannity’s hour-long bonanza. The Long Island native is a former radio host who night after night breaks down conspiracy theories, counter-narratives, and substantially right-leaning content that dates back to the early days of the network.
Hannity is the only member of Fox News who remains there from the network’s inception in the late 1990s. Roger Ailes built a ratings empire in part due to the infamous Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton scandal that was used by the network during the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Laura Ingraham, author of several books slamming liberal elites for gun control measures, closes out the night with a nightcap of sorts. Ingraham herself is not the firebrand personality that Hannity is, but her content still puts a heavy thumb on the scale.
This contrasts sharply with MSNBC. Lawrence O’Donnell, Rachel Maddow, and Brian Williams headline an evening that does lean to the left, but is far less inflamed than Fox News. Panels are more civilized, where a conversation is more likely to take place. However, the network has lost several stars to Fox News over the years, notably the aforementioned Tucker Carlson and Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs.
Both networks have become the nation’s leading news sources.