Sunday, September 7, 2003

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The substance of style in cable news

Given all the brouhaha over the past year about the relative merits of Fox News vs. CNN, I made sure to tape Virginia Postrel's appearance on Tony Snow's Fox News Live Weekend so I could compare it to her CNN appearance. Comparing and contrasting the two were highly revealing.

Why? Because the Fox segment was just flat-out better on the aesthetics. Postrel was in Fox's DC studio. Virginia looked much better in this appearance, probably because she wasn't trying to sound pithy while suffocating in a remote studio the size broom closet. Furthermore, in contrast to the CNN teasers, the Fox teasers seemed more on point with the thesis of The Substance of Style.

Does Fox's rightward tilt explain this? Not likely -- in fact, during the segment Tony Snow seemed to imply that libertarians were geeks with little social life.

Part of it may have been due to the fact that Tony Snow is higher on the news food chain than the nondescript morning anchor that interviewed Virginia on CNN. Part of it also is that I simply loathe the dearth of hard news content on morning shows, and the CNN interviewer made no effort to go beyond the discussion of toilet brushes.

In contrast, Snow made a concerted effort to link Virginia's take on aesthetics to larger trends like cultural globalization and political thought, which I find more interesting.

Still, having unconsciously abstained from watching cable news since the Iraq war, it was interesting to see the differences. Part of the reason Fox is doing better than CNN is that their sense of style is more focused. But part of it is also due to the symbiosis between their style and the substance.

UPDATE: Chris Lawrence also provides a first-hand account.

posted by Dan on 09.07.03 at 05:45 PM