The US elections taught me a great deal…they taught me to look at the math, and to remove emotion from punditry…unfortunately many, many pundits in the US failed to learn that lesson and now they are being treated to ratings downgrades not unlike the so-called fiscal cliff.
You can still show bias…but you should call things as they are despite your bias…calling things as they are doesn’t make you a traitor to your cause. It makes you honest.
In a fitting coda to 2012, we’ve learned that the ratings for rock-ribbed conservative Sean Hannity cratered after Barack Obama won his second term, with viewers tuning out the Fox News Channel talk-show host in droves.
According to Nielsen numbers, Hannity lost around half of his audience in the weeks after the election, while his Fox News colleague Bill O’Reilly — who steadfastly refuses to identify himself politically as a conservative — retained around 70% of his audience.
So what happened to Hannity?
Put simply, he got things so wrong that no one believes a word he says…and they are switching off.
The going wisdom is that viewers who basked in his preelection anti-Obama rhetoric tuned him out when they were stunned to wake up on Nov. 7 and discover that the President had won a second term — a scenario that Hannity had all but promised could never happen.
Before the election, Hannity was riding high in the ratings and topped thought leaders on the right, like Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, Peggy Noonan and talk radio bulldog Mark Levin, who predicted Obama would lose in a landslide.
Those voices — and many others like them — all but drove the political coverage on Fox News, talk radio and conservative blogs.
But as Conor Friedersdorf wrote in The Atlantic just after the election, “Outside the conservative media, the narrative was completely different.”
Because in reality, statistics proved the presidential race was in fact never even close — despite the lopsided picture delivered to faithful viewers by Hannity and those who shared his opinions.
Many people here also believed the echo chamber that Fox News became. Some still do…but many have abandoned the pundits who called it so wrong, especially Hannity.
Wrote Friedersdorf: “The right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh’s show are far more intellectually closed than CNN or public radio. If you’re a rank-and-file conservative, you’re probably ready to acknowledge that ideologically friendly media didn’t accurately inform you about Election 2012. Some pundits engaged in wishful thinking; others feigned confidence in hopes that it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy; still others decided it was smart to keep telling right-leaning audiences what they wanted to hear.”
And when the dust settled, it turns out Hannity’s viewers opted to vote again — with their remotes.
Adding insult to injury, two of Hannity’s rivals on MSNBC, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow, held onto huge chunks of their audiences, while at CNN, far less politically polarizing host Anderson Cooper lost almost none of his viewers postelection.
It got even worse for Hannity in the “money demo” of viewers 25-54, who are prized by advertisers.
With this group, Hannity held onto less than half his preelection audience. O’Reilly, on the other hand, kept almost 70%.
And through the early part of December, Maddow actually beat Hannity in the coveted group — a shocking turn, because until the election, Hannity was unassailable by any of his rivals, at least in terms of ratings.
Fox will recover but they need to get with some reality.