Acton Institute Powerblog

There’s A Promising Market For Conservative News

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Fox News anchor Shepherd Smith in the studio

Yesterday at The Federalist, I examined the claims of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during last week’s GOP primary debate that the “mainstream media” is dominated by “liberal bias.”

While there is some truth to this claim, as I point out in my article, the data paints a more complicated picture: Conservative outlets such as Fox News and (editorially) the Wall Street Journal outperform the closest left-leaning ones, CNN and the New York Times, by wide margins.

I write,

It would be fair to counter that cable news is not the only source on television, and not even the most-watched. Fox has no evening news like ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. The fact that, according to a recent study by the American Press Institute, “Democrats are more trusting of news from the three broadcast networks and the newswires, while Republicans are more trusting of news from cable” suggests the slant there tends to favor the Left.

However, people divide their news consumption today between mediums. That same study notes, “The 24-hour cable channels … are the source most often cited for four of the topics probed: politics, international news, business and the economy, and social issues.” So when it comes to political issues, the most common source, 24-hour cable news, is fairly evenly divided: Fox News generally has a Nielsen rating about equal to CNN’s and MSNBC’s combined.

A bit later on, I return to this point:

To presume that all “mainstream” media is by definition progressive makes becoming part of the mainstream impossible for conservative outlets.

Yet shouldn’t this be precisely the goal? It seems to have been the goal for Fox News, at least, and by the numbers they seem to have achieved it with flying colors. Indeed, the data also suggests there may be room in the mainstream market for one or more conservative alternatives to Fox News, just as CNN and MSNBC seem to be splitting progressive viewership.

I think this extends beyond just 24-cable news as well, which is in part why I also examined print publications and mentioned online and radio venues.

As an example of an alternative approach, other than Fox News, I recommend Abraham Kuyper:

This all makes me think of Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper. Not only does his concept of sphere sovereignty entail that every domain of life, including journalism, ought to be independent of others and actively occupied by conservative Christians (preferably Calvinists), but he lived it.

Kuyper edited two newspapers in his lifetime, founding one and writing regular editorials in both. In fact, many of his works, including his three-volume work on social theology, “Common Grace,” were first written and published as a series of newspaper articles. Kuyper primarily promoted his ideas via mass journalism throughout the Netherlands.

Too often, however, the permanent underdog mentality dominates conservative media. The numbers indicate to me that this is a mistake. In many cases, the mainstream does have a liberal bias, but some mainstream outlets have a conservative bias, and those outlets do very well for themselves. Indeed, I would say the data indicates that there is a market for conservative, mainstream news that remains under-exploited.

I smell an entrepreneurial opportunity! I hope what people take away from my article is that a more hopeful and enterprising attitude, like Kuyper’s, has proved effective in the past and holds promise for the present.

Read my full essay, “‘Mainstream Media’ Doesn’t Have A Liberal Bias” at The Federalist here.

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Dylan Pahman Dylan Pahman is a research fellow at the Acton Institute, where he serves as managing editor of the Journal of Markets & Morality. He earned his MTS in Historical Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary. In addition to his work as an editor, Dylan has authored several peer-reviewed articles, conference papers, essays, and one book: Foundations of a Free & Virtuous Society (Acton Institute, 2017). He has also lectured on a wide variety of topics, including Orthodox Christian social thought, the history of Christian monastic enterprise, the Reformed statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper, and academic publishing, among others.

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