Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is quite a smart broadcaster. In last night’s show, he picked up on some comments that NBC News legend Tom Brokaw made about O’Reilly’s proper place in the TV news constellation. Speaking of the power of network news, Brokaw said in a recent chat cited by O’Reilly: “That audience is so much more substantial than most people realize. When I talk to audiences I say how many of you think Bill O’Reilly is the most popular guy in news? And they will all raise their hands. I say Bill O’Reilly would finish dead last if he were on the evening news.”
True though those comments may be, O’Reilly knows better than to pass up a chance to do battle with a guy like Brokaw. It elevates him.
And in rebutting Brokaw’s dismissal, O’Reilly made one interesting point about the Internet: “Since the rise of cable news, the network news has lost a lot of influence. When was the last time you saw a discussion about a ‘Nightly News’ story on the Net? Here on ‘The Factor,’ we are the center of discussion on the Internet nearly every night. “
Again, true. The Erik Wemple Blog is among those Web-based platforms that helps to essentially re-broadcast O’Reilly’s fare to another audience altogether. And we do that far less with any of the nightly newscasts. Behold, however, the reason why the Erik Wemple Blog right now is drawing attention to “The O’Reilly “Factor on the Internet. It’s because of something idiotic that O’Reilly said about the Internet: “So let me set this up for you: All the surveys show that Americans depend on TV news for vital information. Newspapers and magazines have lost a lot of influence. And the Internet does not provide in-depth reporting or analysis; it is a headline service. So for better or for worse, Americans are dependent on national news broadcast for information.”
Perhaps O’Reilly missed this piece about how long-form journalism is going big on mobile devices. Or this piece from several years back about how there’s a “substantial online audience for compelling, in-depth journalism.” Or the news of yesterday that Ezra Klein’s Web-heavy explanatory journalism model is heading from The Post to somewhere new. Or perhaps O’Reilly missed the 18 formatted pages of David Remnick’s profile of President Obama in the New Yorker.
We could spend the rest of the day larding up this post with more and more links that upend O’Reilly’s Internet-headline-service claim. But that’s plenty — he just spouts such nonsense so he can get some play on the country’s “headline service.”
And another thing: Have a look at this October 2013 chart from the Pew Research Center. It suggests that O’Reilly’s “headline service” is on its way to eating his lunch — and it already has among younger Americans.