The late night TV realm used to be funny. Opening monologues and snappy sketches, however, have taken a back seat to hosts who offer grim political opinions, mostly directed against President Trump, Republicans and those who support the Second Amendment. But wait. Some suggest it’s one way to garner audience ratings in a waning business.
Consider that back in the glory days, the late Johnny Carson typically drew 9 million viewers each night, his audience expanding to 21 million for such special events as the marriage of falsetto singer Tiny Tim to 17-year-old “Miss Vicki” in 1969. Fast forward to 2017, and Nielsen Media Research reveals that ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, CBS’ Late Show with Stephen Colbert and NBC’s Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon typically attract about 2 million viewers or so.
“Late-night shows are in a much fiercer competition for eyeballs than ever before, and I suspect the politicization is a response to that — a desperate way of getting in the news, of getting noticed, of securing the loyalty of a particular demographic,” says Robert Tracinski, a senior writer for The Federalist.
“This is also my theory about the big entertainment awards shows like the Oscars and the Emmys. If the big, broad, general audience you used to have is gone, and deep down you think it’s never coming back, then why not make a harder bid for the loyalty of the smaller audience you’ve got left?” he writes. “What were once cultural institutions with a broad, bipartisan audience are becoming niche players with a narrow fan base. They no longer view partisan politics as a dangerous move that will shrink their audience. Instead, they’re using partisan politics as a lure to secure the loyalty of their audience, or what is left of it.”
Mr. Tracinski says somber late-night commentary also gets considerable support from the news media — “pathetic fanboying from DC journalists,” he observes.
“This is a good reason not to be to concerned over late-night hosts pushing us away with political diatribes when we just want too be entertained. The fact is that we were already drifting away, and they’re just making a desperate bid for attention in a fading medium,” Mr. Tracinski concludes.
PARTISAN ANGER INTENSIFIES
An ambitious new study by the Pew Research Center reveals that the gap between the political values of Republicans and Democrats is now larger than at any time since 1994, when the organizations first started gauging opinions on 10 major issues, including immigration, military strength, the role of government.
Some 23 years ago, only 15 percentage points separated the average Republican and Democratic responses to the same question. Now that gap is 36 percentage points.
Meanwhile, there is no love lost between the political parties.
“About eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (81 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, based on an average of surveys conducted this year — with 44 percent expressing a very unfavorable view. Two decades ago, a smaller majority of Democrats (57 percent) viewed the GOP unfavorably, and just 16 percent held a very unfavorable view,” the researchers say.
“The share of Republicans with highly negative opinions of the Democratic Party has followed a similar trajectory. Currently, 81 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners have an unfavorable impression of the Democratic Party, with 45 percent taking a very unfavorable view. In 1994, 68 percent of Republicans had a negative view of the Democratic Party; just 17 percent had a very unfavorable opinion.”
‘PETTY PALACE INTRIGUE’
“We’ve seen recent information that says that only 5 percent of media coverage has been positive about this President and this administration, while at the same time you have the stock market and economic confidence at an all-time high; ISIS is on the run; unemployment is at the lowest it’s been in 17 years; we’ve cut regulations at a historic pace; we’re fixing the VA for our vets — and you’ve only found 5 percent of your time to focus on some of those big issues,” White House press secretary Sandra Huckabee Sanders told the assembled press corps Thursday, referencing an extensive Pew Research Center study which revealed that only 5 percent of the news coverage during President Trump’s first 100 days was friendly.
“Frankly, those are the issues most Americans care about — not the things that you cover, not the petty palace intrigue that you spend your time on. I think that we need to move towards a certainly more fair, more accurate, and, frankly, a more responsible news media for the American people,” Mrs. Sanders concluded.
FOR THE LEXICON
“Vice president of community, equity and inclusive excellence.”
Voila. That is the title of a brand new position at Washington State University, according to The Daily Evergreen, the university’s newspaper. The new vice president must be able to “centralize all the diversity units” at the school, home to 30,142 students. The annual salary to be offered is $275,000, says Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzales.
She also notes that recent student demands include “stricter hate speech policies, cultural competency training, greater faculty and staff diversity, increased support for multicultural programs, expansion of gender-neutral facilities and free feminine hygiene products.”
WEEKEND REAL ESTATE
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POLL DU JOUR
• 56 percent of Americans say the “government is almost always wasteful and inefficient”; 69 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats agree.
• 43 percent overall say the government can’t afford “to help the needy”; 69 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats agree.
• 30 percent overall say the best way to ensure peace is through military strength; 53 percent of Republicans and 13 percent of Democrats agree.
• 26 percent overall say immigrants “are a burden on the country”; 44 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Pew Research Center survey of 5,009 U.S. adults conducted June 8-18 and June 27-July 9 and released Thursday.
• Kindly follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin
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