Sunday, December 4, 2005

Who is more influential: Rush Limbaugh or the New York Times?

A lot has been said about the mainstream media's influence over the American people ... about how they lie, corrupt, and only tell half the story, that they are a bunch of kiss-ass liberals, etc. and this has been talked about over and over again, without much agreement from any side.
Over the years, I've had a number of deep discussions with all kinds of different people about the influence of the media and whether or not it actually is as powerful as we may think and whether or not people are actually being given "the truth" in news and all that encompasses that statement.
Working in the media and being critical of the media at the same time is a fine line unless you work very hard to put out the best product you possibly can. I do believe I am doing this in my work time. But in my play time, I like to look at other things like this.
As we know, from studies by liberal groups like FAIR and others, the corporate entanglements of the news business has been very effective at censoring serious and important stories about the way we live, the food we eat, the capitalist system, and other things too long to go into in one sentence. We all know about stories which were killed because of the corporate implications of a story; we all know powerful people who have been able to keep things out of print; we all know that newsrooms have been decimated to preserve profits to the point where few people get much red meat in their news anymore.
As we know, from studies by conservative groups like AIM and others, many reporters and journalists tend to be socially-liberal politically and in their text, tend to label conservatives more stringently than others - Sen. Jesse Helms was always labeled as an "arch-conservative" but Sen. Edward Kennedy isn't always labeled as "liberal" ... calling folks "anti-abortion" instead of "pro-life," etc. [In columns, Teddy is often called "the liberal lion," but that is a term of endearment so it doesn't count. We are talking about the news].
Essentially, both opinions are correct. But the honest truth is that in politics, you can't get people to act unless you motivate them to the Nth degree - scaring them with twisted words either one way or the other. FAIR and AIM are both guilty of this.
But is the mainstream media really that influential from the alleged left compared to talk radio which is definitely right of center? More specifically, who would you guess is more influential: Rush Limbaugh or the New York Times?
Well, the latest talk radio listening figures are out from Talkers Magazine, posted here: ["Latest top host figures"]. Now Talkers, being a rah-rah for syndication and other foolish things over the years, isn't as good a source as say a legit accounting firm or the folks who count the Academy Award votes. But, they are all we have to look it from this perspective. And this list tells us a lot about what is going on in the radio world. Limbaugh - or Limboob as I call him on some posting boards, much to the chagrin of his fans - is the top radio talk show host with 13.75 million listeners according to some creative tinkering of the Arbitrons rating system. So, at any given time, potentially, as many as 14 million people are listening to his radio show every day. It could be more; it could be less. But this is a base figure used for advertising and bragging rights. This is down from a peak of about 20 million listeners during the height of the Clinton years, when Limboob was too busy being funny instead of popping pills.

Sidebar: I want to concentrate the bulk of this on the Limbaugh vs. Times issue but the other numbers from Talkers are pretty striking if you consider the overwhelming number of conservatives on the air and their influence over the public. Of the top radio talk show hosts, only a handful are non-conservatives. Howard Stern, tied for fourth, is politically libertarian but also has swings to the left on some issues. And his content is reprehensible at best. Doug Stephan is a political-moderate, although on business issues, he tends to swing right of center. George Noory does Art Bell's show and doesn't talk much about politics, from what I have heard. And Kim Kammando, Dr. Joy Browne, Dave Ramsey, and Jim Rome have specialized shows. The other 14 host rounding out the Top 10 list are decidedly right of center and conservative. All these hosts have a potential audience of more than 76 million people who could be clearly influenced by their shows and opinions during any given broadcast. Now, this is just the Top 10. This doesn't go down from there counting the other shows, like Howie Carr, Jay Severin, or others in local markets from which we know that conservatives outnumber liberals. A truly liberal host doesn't make it until Number 13 with Al Franken. Tom Leykis used to be considered a liberal but now all he talks about is sex.
Yet, compare these figures to the number of people reading newspapers. I posted them here: ["Newspapers"]. The combined daily readership of all the Top 10 newspapers is 9.9 million readers meaning Limbaugh tops all the newspapers combined. As well, some newspapers have liberal editorial boards and some have conservative ones. For example, the Number 2 paper, The Wall Street Journal, has a circ of more than 2 million readers. The New York Daily News and the New York Post also have conservative slants. This brings the openly conservative papers up to a circ of about 3.3 million. The Number 1 paper, USA Today, at 2.3 million circ, gives dual editorials, often representing both sides of an issue.

Now, let's look at the latest figures from the New York Times circulation numbers, posted for investors at its Web site: ["Circulation Data"]. Clearly, things are mixed for the old grey lady: home delivery numbers are down but single copy sales are up over the last year. The Sunday numbers are pretty even.
But the point of the comparison is this: On any given day in the Fall of 2005, there were 14 million people listening to Rush's show; on any given day in March 2005, there were 1.14 million copies of the Times in circulation. Even if you said two or three people read one issue of the Times, that would still leave the potential audience numbers at about four to one [Rush listeners: 14 million; Times readers: 3.5 million].
Now some will say that the Times influences other reporters, editors, and some of their articles are syndicated, so that influence trickles down to other newspapers and readers. I can buy that. It is clear that Judith Miller fudging the weapons of mass destruction story, for example, was spread throughout the country and affected more readers and definitely had an influence over public policy and public opinion. Fair enough. So let's double the Times readership and influence to 7 million folks daily, just for the heck of it. Well, that still only amounts to half of Limbaugh's daily audience.
Some might say that Rush is only on five times a week while the Times publishes seven times a week. OK, but that doesn't account for Rush's rebroadcasting either, which is on at night in smaller markets and repeated on weekends in edited format.
Another person might say that Rush has a strong, loyal following, so those folks have their minds made up politically already, whereas the Times only reaches those people who don't have their minds made up and therefore can be influenced or brain-washed by their supposed liberal bias. But, you know what? That is a bunch of bunk. Limbaugh has liberal listeners just like the Times has conservative readers. Both are influential over the public; the key is that one is more influential than the other, clearly: A guy who talks to 14 million people a day is more influential than a newspaper which sells 1.14 million editions a day. As well, the Times, as bad as it may be, doesn't pound away at its readers with opinion on every single page, every waking minute. Most of its opinion is on the editorial page and sometimes on the front page. With Limbaugh, it is for three hours straight of pounding away opinion.
So it is crystal clear that Limbaugh - and other talk radio hosts - is much more of an influence over the public than mainstream media outlets.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Of course Limbaugh is influential. I know it because I am a living example myself! I campaigned for Howard Dean and John Kerry in late 2003 and early 2004 at a time when I used to think Republicans were mean , evil, greedy , selfish, bigots, homophobes, sexists, racists and warmongers. And Democrats were the compassionate ones looking out for the little guy. That was the extent of my understanding of politics or the differences between liberals and conservatives

And then one afternoon in the summer of 2005 the unthinkable happened. I was sitting in my car in my company's parking lot eating lunch and listening to the radio. When the station I was listening to went to commercials I started flipping around -- until, I hit WLSAM. There was the voice not too unfamiliar, of seething hatred and rage and nastiness, embodying everything vile about the human spirit. My hands were greasy and my mouth full, so I decided to endure it a little longer until I could wipe my hands. Ha ha ha..little did I know that that little decision of listening for an extra few minutes was going to change my life! A liberal had called Limbaugh bitching about how unfair it was that teachers make so little when they provide so important a service to society, when barely high school graduate athletes make more in a single year what these teachers would in several lifetimes. Limbaugh responded in typical masterly fashion which still rings in my head today, and it became my first REAL lesson in economics- not the kind taught in colleges. I ended up listening to the rest of the show sitting in my parked car. And then the next day , and the next week, and month..and so on. Rush had recently started his 24/7 podcasts so I figured for $7 a month I couldn't lose much; if anything I could learn a few things about the "other side". But as it turned out, it didn't stop at just 'learning about the other side'. Over the next several months leading into the fall and winter of 2005, I underwent a Herculean change. I couldn't believe what was happening to me and neither could my friends. Here is a man whom I loathed at one point, but today stands in front of me on an imaginary pedestal and someone I worship.

As if Spring 2007 I am just sitting here disappointed that there is not one REAL conservative on our side who can stand up and fight for the conservative movement, as did the great Ronaldus Magnus . What we have are people who are conservative on one, two or three issues trying to cast themselves as the 'New Conservative' in an attempt to curry favor from the DriveByMedia. No Senators, ex-Mayors and Congressmen, you are NOT conservatives, so stop calling yourselves that. I like Gingrich and hope he gets in, but for now its just wait and watch.

- Mega conservative//Rush24/7 Dittos.

Tim