Are 24-Hour News Networks the Future of News?

The “Big Three” are watched by thousands, but face criticism due to alleged partisanship.

The giants of the television news scene.

The giants of the television news scene.

Alexander Woodcock, Staff Writer

Beginning with the founding of CNN in the year 1980, and the subsequent launch of Fox News and MSNBC, 24-hour news networks have become a mainstay of television. It is now quite ordinary to be able to tune in to these networks at any time and catch up on occurrences in political and world news. But are these truly the best ways to receive news?

The creation of CNN brought a revolutionary idea to the field of television news. Radio stations with the exclusive purpose of relaying news existed prior to 1980, but the entry of television into the business of exclusively news signified a wider audience consuming news than ever before in history. This meant that CNN had found a gold mine in the business world, and it was one that others could hardly resist entering. MSNBC and Fox News launched their own 24-hour news stations in the year 1996, and a new era of news had begun.

There are, indisputably, numerous benefits to being able to receive news at any time of the day. The most obvious of these is that news is now more accessible than ever before. No longer must one wait for a certain period of time to learn about the happenings of the world; they may do this at any time. Additionally, due to their long runtime and therefore their great advertising revenue, 24-hour news networks have resources beyond anything that a smaller newspaper could fathom. This may allow them to hire better and more informed hosts and reporters and support a greater number of staff and researchers, which may in turn lead to better, more accurate news.

But some would claim that the very defining characteristic of 24-hour news networks (their runtime) makes them partisan in nature and untrustworthy. This argument follows the logic that, given that exciting news does not occur at every hour of the day, these networks must sensationalize the news so much that it fails to be news. On top of this, it is argued, 24-hour news networks have almost become partisan propaganda as opposed to independent journalism. This argument is not entirely unfounded. A 2022 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that 24-hour news networks have grown more polarized since their founding, especially since the 2016 presidential election. The study also found that the partisanship of these networks  is “more pronounced when it comes to primetime programming”.

Why might this be? Why do the “Big Three” of news networks (these being the aforementioned CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News), according to the study, fall prey to such partisan pandering? And does this alleged partisanship outweigh the benefits of being able to learn about the world at any hour of the day? There is far from a consensus on this issue, but let us see what students and teachers at Sutton High School have to say. Sutton senior Carina Campbell saw a clear political divide in the stories 24-hour news networks are telling, making reference to her relatives watching contrasting networks of MSNBC and Fox News.

“We have totally different stories,” Campbell said.

Mr. Anderson, when asked why polarization may have emerged, said “they are trying to retain their viewers”. When asked a similar question, Mr. Stamos said that 24-hour news networks take advantage of partisanship to make gains, be they monetary or political.

All of this begs an interesting question: are 24-hour news networks the future of news? Campbell remarked that she believed so, given their wide viewership and the waning amount of people watching the evening news. Ms. Riley, however, disagreed.

“I think reading online is more futuristic,” she remarked, adding that reading the news is, in her opinion, more educational than watching it on television.

24-hour news networks, it is safe to say, will not be disappearing in the near future. They represent enormous businesses with seasoned reporters working for them. But given the emergence of news on social media as well as online newspapers, coupled with the attacks these networks face for potentially being skewed to one political side, one must wonder if the general population will stick with them or find a new source for their news.