The Decline of Lou Dobbs and Cable News

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

 The Daily Beast has an interesting if somewhat disappointing look at Lou Dobbs's transformation from someone who, as the piece notes, "practically invented television business news" to a fringe-nut kook who takes time off from his immigration monomania to ask wide-eyed questions about President Obama's birth certificate. I say it's somewhat disappointing because it doesn't adequately answer the question in its headline " What Happened to the Real Lou?" Or rather while it answers the question what happened (he went from being a serious journalist to being a bit nutty), it fails to answer why.

But one thing did leap out at me, from an email that former CNN CEO Tom Johnson sent to writer Lloyd Grove:

Ted [Turner] and I never permitted anchors or correspondents to air their personal opinions. Our rule was reporters report. Anchors present the news.

We never would permit Lou to do what he is doing today.

So much of it is very divisive.

In my personal opinion, all this angry opinion on all three news networks—CNN, MSNBC, and Fox—is damaging among viewers who really want the news, not personal opinions.

Reporters report. Anchors present the news. What a quaint notion! Of course it's much harder to brand on-air personalities if reporters are limited to reporting and anchors to presenting. (I believe in the UK they actually call anchors "news presenters" or somesuch—a better term, I think.)

And while angry opinion (or, really, opinion of any emotional stripe) may be damaging and divisive it does drive ratings, which is why Fox did so well and why MSNBC has moved to become Fox of the Left.

Oh wait, I guess I just answered my own question about why Lou Dobbs went nutter.