- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Fueled by combative ratings wars and partisan politics, the broadcast realm is quickly turning into a war zone. One tactically minded network is ready for it. Fox News Channel, the most popular cable channel of all at the moment, also has been the top-rated cable news channel for the last 15 years, all of this according to consistent audience ratings numbers from Nielsen Research Media.

Recent critical headlines might suggest otherwise, implying that Fox News is “faltering” or in some form of crisis. Though there can be industry fluctuations and personnel changes, Fox News is still top dog. The network, meanwhile, is stepping up to the battlefield with a clear strategy: It’s pushback time, and it comes at a particularly pivotal time following the death of Fox News founder Roger Ailes on Thursday.

Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch himself announced plans to intensify the Fox News brand and bulk up its already muscular coverage with a spate of new hires. In the works: a new, state-of-the-art open-concept newsroom designed to enhance both collaboration and creativity among the programming, news and digital teams.

“This is a major investment in the future of Fox News and a sign of my unwavering confidence,” said Mr. Murdoch in an announcement made before the entire company at the network’s New York City headquarters on Wednesday.

“We are committed to ensuring the entire team here has all the necessary resources to continue keeping us ahead of the competition as we invest in the future of Fox News,” vowed Suzanne Scott, president of programming.

The network plans to hire more journalists and “content creators,” and promises that this bustling new team will have immediate access to multiple cameras and other fancy production fare during breaking news events — including oversize data screens and enhanced video displays.

Time is of the essence, and Mr. Murdoch is poised to strike almost immediately. Construction on the new set begins in July and will be completed in four phases — the big reveal to be made in early 2018.

TABLOIDS BECOME THE NORM

“Donald Trump made a name for himself in part by regularly appearing on the cover of New York City tabloids in the 1980s and 1990s. Fast forward to 2017, and the guy is now president, still appearing on the cover of various grocery store check-out scandal sheets — like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Journalists from these institutions conduct their reporting like they’re covering Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce,” writes a very candid Joe Simonson, who covers politics for HeatStreet.com.

The nation’s newspapers of record have “turned into tabloids,” he says, awash in anonymous sources — particularly when it comes to sensational coverage of President Trump, with headlines that bring up impeachment, scandal or foreign intrigue.

“Trump certainly rewrote the book on politics by showing how an amateur can become a professional. In response, many of America’s beloved journalists are showing how a professional can turn into a loathed amateur,” Mr. Simonson cautions.

And, of course, Mr. Trump is on to all of this, lashing out for months against liberal bias, “fake news” and “fake polls” in the press.

“I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests. I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing,” Mr. Trump told the graduating class of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday.

VULNERABLE DEMOCRATS: A RATINGS SLIP

“Americans’ opinions of the two major political parties are now similar after the Democratic Party’s ratings slipped to 40 percent, from 45 percent last November — while the Republican Party’s image is essentially unchanged at 39 percent,” writes Gallup Poll analyst Jeffrey M. Jones in a review of some new findings from the pollster.

“The decline in Democratic Party favorability is mostly a result of lower ratings from self-identified Democrats. In November, 83 percent of Democrats had a positive opinion of the Democratic Party; now, 77 percent do. Independents are also slightly less positive toward the Democratic Party, while Republicans’ negative views of the opposing party are steady,” Mr. Jones says.

Currently, 79 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of their party.

LIBERTARIANS NOW SEEK A PRESS SECRETARY

It’s a first. Boosted by considerable third-party success and a higher profile during the 2016 presidential election, the Libertarian Party has made a command decision to hire a full-time, experienced press secretary.

“This new staffer will be responsible for outreach to the press, building relationships with them and helping get more media attention for the party and our candidates,” says executive director Wes Benedict, who has already fired up a fundraising outreach to make the hire possible.

“Achieving major media attention will help the national party grow, state parties grow, county parties grow and increase the prestige of our candidates up and down the ballot,” he adds.

Three libertarian presidential hopefuls were featured on both CNN and Fox News last year. Final nominee Gary Johnson got plenty of press on his own by seeking to woo undecided or unaffiliated voters.

“This is one of the most critical investments of 2017, and an important part of laying the foundation for big things in upcoming elections,” Mr. Benedict notes.

POLL DU JOUR

67 percent of Americans say they get stressed out from “information overload” when planning a vacation.

51 percent say they are more stressed now than at this time last year.

49 percent say keeping up on social media has had a negative impact on their vacation time.

37 percent have delayed or canceled a vacation because of the stress of planning it.

33 percent have questioned their choice in friends after taking a vacation with them.

25 percent have broken up with a significant other during a vacation.

Source: An APCO Insight/Wyndham Vacation Rentals poll of 1,037 U.S. adults conducted April 19-21 and released Wednesday.

Cranky outbursts, casual asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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