Chris Hayes Profile

Talking Points Memo’s David Taintor profiles Chris Hayes…

What was the working theory behind the show when you started it?

One of the working theories was to try to divine a show that would play to my strengths and minimize my weaknesses. I don’t think I’m bad at sitting and reading off prompter, but I’m not awesome at it. You wouldn’t have an open audition in America for someone to read off prompter and cast me in that role. I’m also terrible at tying ties. The show is basically reverse engineered around not having to wear a tie and not having to read prompter.

Obviously it was some sort of debt to the Morning Joe format, which has been very successful and is very enjoyable. The initial conceit was to have something that was largely unscripted, largely improvised, conversational in nature, spontaneous, argumentative but not shouty. The whole idea when the show works is that you don’t know what people are going to say, the possibility that someone will say something you haven’t heard before on cable news. The other big pillar was diversity, not just in terms of racial diversity, gender diversity, but ideologic diversity, to bring in thinkers who were very heterodox or outside certain boundaries of what we consider the established terrain of political conversation. And to let those things collide with each other in interesting ways, and for me to manage that process.

What do you hope the show accomplishes each week?

I want the show to be really entertaining television, like gripping television. I don’t want it to be a chore. I want people to want to watch it. That’s in some ways our first job, because it’s prior to all others. If we put out something that people don’t want to watch, it doesn’t matter if we don’t achieve any of the other goals.

There are two other goals. The thing I like the most is when people say, ‘I learned from your show.’ I think fundamentally we want people who watch the show to be more informed about the world and politics and American public life than they were going into it. We want people to come away with information that they didn’t have before.

The third thing we’re trying to do is create a space that approximates a model of the kind of public discourse we would like to have, in that it’s not hackish, and it’s not knee-jerk, but it’s not falsely balanced or fakely neutral. We embrace conflict but not hatred. Those are all very high minded ways to describe it. That’s the aspirational goal. I think we fall short of that goal a lot. But that’s the model.

Update: Politico’s Dylan Byers weighs in on another part of the profile; Hayes drawing distinctions between MSNBC and FNC and their respective Presidents.

The problem with Hayes’ distinction is that, no matter how you get from point A to point B, you get there. Fox may be hitting for the right because Ailes has a dog in the political fight, whereas MSNBC may he hitting for the left because its good for Griffin’s bottom line — but at the end of the day, everybody’s playing baseball.

I’ll go further than Byers. Hayes makes the following argument:

[T]here is an impossibility of any symmetry between Fox and MSNBC. And the reason is because of the two men who run the networks. Roger Ailes is a lifetime, hard-right, conservative ideologue and Republican partisan. He worked in politics. He helped get Nixon elected. This is his vision. If he wasn’t doing this, he probably would be doing something else that would be furthering those goals.

Our network is run by someone who worked in TV. And he wants to make a TV network that performs well, that gets viewers, that attracts advertisers, that lives up to certain standards. There’s such a big difference in that.

Hayes’ point ignores a fundamental truth: Ailes worked in TV too. He produced the Mike Douglas Show. He was President of CNBC and later America’s Talking before FNC. Ailes knows as much about news and TV as Griffin. Ailes wanted CNBC to “perform well”. Ailes wanted CNBC to “get viewers”, “attract advertisers”, and to “live up to certain standards”.

Do I think MSNBC and FNC are the same? Of course not. They operate differently and have different ways of approaching their goals. And both do it in ways that are good and bad. Just not the same ways.

13 Responses to “Chris Hayes Profile”

  1. erich500 Says:

    Of course they’re not the same but as I posted below both are focused on opinion more than news. They’re not news-centered cable news networks, they’re opinion-centered cable news networks.

    Because they’re centered around opinion – one from the right and the other from the left – everything flows around that. Hosts and commentators dominate the coverage of events and hard news is put in the back seat in favor of analysis.

    Analysis first, news second. News is done in service to the analysis and not the other way around.

    And that’s the problem, especially for MSNBC. When a big news event occurs they’re simply not very good at giving us the news. Because they are built almost exclusively around opinion.

    I said all this below but doubled up and put it here where it belongs.

  2. erich500 Says:

    Ailes may be a true believer and Griffin simply a ratings believer but both are using the same template: opinion gets eyeballs, news doesn’t.

    Field of screams: If you opine it they will come.

    I know, stick to my day job; leave this to Spud.

  3. Ratings is the measure of their success but is not their business model. Ailes built FNC on the premise that television news has historically approached all stories from a left-of-centre worldview. It’s not that they do this intentionally but, as Brit Hume pointed out from his days at ABC News, “It just doesn’t occur to them that there’s another perspective from which to run a story and still be completely fair and unbiased.” Ailes knew that putting together an interesting-to-watch news channel that ran stories from a centre/right perspective would get eyeballs watching, and it did.

    If the story was about educational failures, for example, CBS Evening News would spotlight what the federal government hasn’t accomplished and report something like, “Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has again introduced legislation to increase K-12 funding but the Republican House leadership refuses to take it up.” That is a perfectly valid news item to report, but what about the other side of that which is equally valid? On Megyn Kelly’s FNC show, you’d likely hear a report or panel discussion about how the educational system is actually performing quite well in some states. Because education has traditionally and constitutionally long been a state issue, why should the federal government even get involved? On all of FNC’s hard-news you’ll always, at the very least, get a full gist of the liberal perspective. You will on all its opinion shows, too, but that typically comes with snotty back-talk.

    Not so on MSNBC. Its POV shows will sometimes include a token conservative – which is fine , but the few remaining hard-news hosts straight-out mock the centre/right perspective. While I think MSNBC is better now that they’ve dropped all pretence of being a “news channel” and have no problem with it, it’s not anything near the flip-side of FNC. Now, if you wanted to claim CNN to be the flip-side of FNC I’d have a more difficult time dismissing that.

    This is all about whooping-up MSNBC’s target audience, anyway. Aside from that, no reasonably informed person would make the comparison.

  4. erich500 Says:

    Al made my point above (or one of them): Fox News broadcasts with “a perspective” or a point of view. They don’t attempt to provide objective coverage, they give a POV of the world.

    Ailes has admitted this, that FNC was created, in large part, to give the “Middle America” or “flyover country” view of the world. Okay, but that’s acnowledging that you give “a perspective” of the news and aren’t trying to be objective. Objectivity is hard to accomplish but you don’t throw it out the window.

    MSNBC does the same thing. It’s news from a view, a perspective. That’s the similarity. Is MSNBC worse? Yes, but worse is not different. Neither tries to be impartial; both target a segment of the populace.

    These are news channels with a particular ideological perspective dominating their broadcasts. Both admit it.

    And I repeat just for myself if nothing else: Fox and MSNBC simply aren’t news centered cable channels. Sure they give news but they’re opinion dominated channels (see the prime time lineups for example: all opinion shows) with a particular perspective dominating news coverage and analysis. That’s what draws ratings – as CNN has learned. Folks want mostly opinion, they don’t want news (sorry CNN). Both Fox and MSNBC provide it.

  5. The point you’re missing, Erich, is that all reports are from a perspective. Fox News reporting is as objective as any other news organisation.

  6. erich500 Says:

    Sure, Al, reporters are human and humans live in a world of perception and not reality. Reporters can’t escape their skin and be completely objective. News reporting – what stories you cover, what stories you don’t, how you cover a story, et cetera – is mostly a subjective exercise (there’s some objective standards that apply, e.g., Brian Ross’s terrible judgment with the Holmes story). It’s mostly an art and not a science.

    But saying that there are many perspectives is different than having “a perspective.” A as in one. Fox gives a conservative/right of center perspective of the news. They don’t try to give multiple perspectives of news.

    This is where MSNBC and Fox are similar: they have an agenda, a perspective, a POV and the two networks are centered around that perspective.

  7. erich500 Says:

    Shorter me: the fact that humans/reporters can’t always be objective doesn’t mean that they can always be subjective.

  8. Erich: There aren’t “many different perspectives”. In the USA the choices are pretty much left, right and neutral. Only C-Span is neutral. ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR, etc., all present news stories from a liberal worldview. This does not preclude them from remaining objective, it merely limits the frames of reference they use to convey their product.

    MSNBC doesn’t do “news”. FNC does.

  9. erich500 Says:

    In reverse order: MSNBC certainly has news programs. Not many and what news they do provide is often overwhelmed by opinion. But they do broadcast straight news.

    Second: perspectives. I’m not sure what your point is. There are many different perspectives of the world even among people of a particular political persuasion. There is no single conservative view nor is there a single liberal view. There are gradations within each. There is a lot of difference, for example, between a Michael Moore, for example, and a Joe Lieberman. Both are on the left but both have vastly different perspectives on many issues.

    Third: To return to the main point: Fox news promotes “a perspective” of the news or world most of the time. Ailes has admitted that. But promoting “a perspective” and not considering multiple perspectives is the same thing that MSNBC does.

    That’s where they are similar

  10. “Political perspective” is the default position from which you view and assess how society works. Michael Moore and Sen. Lieberman do share that same perspective, but that agreement in no way means that they’ll also always agree on how specific issues should be handled. Indeed, it is often the case that people from differing political perspectives will reach the identical conclusion on how to go about something.

    -promoting “a perspective” and not considering multiple perspectives is the same thing that MSNBC does.-

    With that logic, it is also the same thing that ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR, etc., do.

  11. erich500 Says:

    Well, we’re really geting into deep waters here. I’ll just make one more and you can finish up or continue because I am boring everyone with my repetition.

    Re perspectives: Who represents “the left’s” perspective on the world or news? Michael Moore or Joe Lieberman? Who represents “the right’s” view on, let’s say, Afghanistan? Limbaugh? McCain? Santorum? Boehner?

    I say none represent “the perspective” because while there is something we can call a “left” view and a “right” view, they’re not monolithic. And in some cases, there isn’t a “left” or “right” view of an event. Some news/events transcend politics.

    But this is, I think, what Fox News does. And MSNBC. They place the world in a single basket. One perspective largely dominates their coverage of matters. They provide a one-sided view of the world, of events, of perspectives, and of how people think. E.g., the Black Panther’s voter intimidation story. Should that be reported? Yes. But to the level that Fox did? No. They overreported it. They promoted “a perspective” that was interested in the story.

    Other networks may be doing this too – giving one perspective – but not as openly as both MSNBC and Fox. In my view, they take it to another level. And that’s where there’s “symmetry” (to use Hayes’ phrase).

    ^ Lordy, that’s pseudo-intellectual boring flapdoodle. Somebody put me down.

    No, Larry, put the gun away.

  12. erich500 Says:

    Ugh, I apologize for that shooting joke.

    In light of the massacre, that was in very poor taste.

    Sorry for that.

  13. I don’t think you fully understand what “perspective” entails. It isn’t about actively pushing a particular point of view or outcome. Neither ABC News nor FOX do that. It is the mode of outlook, a well of experience from which a person bases how he or she will consider a subject matter. These news organisations consider subject matter from different outlooks. Neither is necessarily biased.

    MSNBC, on the other hand, is biased in favour of the progressive liberal agenda. That’s what their “Lean Forward” advertisements have been all about. Nothing at all wrong with it, but it isn’t opposite of what FNC does. .

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