Loud and often politically controversial TV and radio talk show hosts are dominating the ratings and influencing the way that Americans think and talk about politics. Show anchors like Glenn Beck, known for their over-the-top style and extreme political views, attract huge audiences.
Ratings for programs with conservative anchors far exceed the numbers of liberal talk show hosts (although conservatives argue that news organizations such as CNN, MSNBC and the New York Times have a liberal slant).
Talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh are often harshly critical of President Obama and his policies. This summer, Glenn Beck helped rally Obama opponents to attend last summer's rowdy health care town hall meetings. Limbaugh and Beck critics say that they provoke uncivil and possibly dangerous rhetoric while supporters argue that advocacy and free speech have always been a part of American media.
In this video, NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Brown examines the impact of television and radio talk show hosts and how they affect the way Americans think about politics.
"Radio, popular radio in America, all the way back to the '30s, has been a street medium. It's always been the medium of the street, reflecting populism. So, what you hear on radio and what you're seeing now on cable news talk television, which is really an extension of talk radio, is just the First Amendment in action." Michael Harrison, Talkers magazine publisher
"There are some people who will use the excuse of it being show business to be very irresponsible and present things that are not news, things that are not fact as if they were fact." - Thom Hartmann, radio talk show host
"To the extent that opinion talkers argue from one clear ideological point of view, they increase the likelihood that their listeners understand that ideology, are able to see politics through that ideology, and, as a result, that politics is coherent for them. That's important, because it increases engagement, and that's a positive effect." - Kathleen Hall Jamieson, University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center
"That's one of the great things about talk radio, is that people, whether they're the talk show hosts, or whether they're the listeners, the callers, are speaking forthrightly. And I think we need more of that, not less of it, in this country." - Lou Dobbs, television talk show host
1. Are journalists allowed to express an opinion on issues in the news?
2. What is objectivity? What is subjectivity?
3. Which news media outlets would you characterize as conservative? Which media outlets would you characterize as liberal?
1. Had you heard of any of these TV and radio hosts before you saw this video? What were/are your perceptions of them? Would you get your daily news from these sources?
2. Some of the analysts in this video argue that TV and radio hosts are more about show business than journalism. Do you think that it is the responsibility of cable news channels like FOX News and CNN to strive to be objective? Why or why not?
3. How do you differentiate between a news program that is trying to present multiple sides of an argument and a program expressing an opinion?
Extra Credit: Michael Harrison of Talkers magazine says that sharp opinions have always been a part of American journalism and that the role of the cable news talk show hosts in an extension of radio shows that date back to the '30s. Talk to older members of your family or community. How do they feel the media has changed over the years?