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Chris Stirewalt On Fox And Journalism

Chris Stirewalt On Fox And Journalism

The Fox News apostate chats about media history.

Chris is a political analyst and author. He worked at Fox News for more than a decade until they fired him in the wake of the 2020 election, when he was part of the election team that accurately called Arizona for Biden. He’s now the politics editor for NewsNation and a contributing editor for The Dispatch. His new book is Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back. He’s also a blast.

You can listen to the episode right away in the audio player above (or on the right side of the player, click “Listen On” to add the Dishcast feed to your favorite podcast app — though Spotify sadly doesn’t accept the paid feed). For two clips of our convo — on how the unbundling the news corrupted it, and why Trump voters can’t quit him — pop over to our YouTube page.

Other topics: Chris’ upbringing in West Virginia; working as a sports writer alongside “crabby profane smokers”; transitioning to local TV; my young days on Fleet Street; loud newsrooms and gossip at the pub; the benefits of news being bundled and magazines stapled; the unbundling force of the Internet; how blogs challenged and checked legacy journalists; covering the Iraq War; the demonization of the Clintons; some history of The Daily Dish (e.g. Palin); the perverse incentives of seeing stats on posts; how hatred drives the most traffic; losing readers to keep principles; the shift to social media; the loss of any gatekeeping; the roots of online tribalism; why Canadians and African-Americans are often the best comedians; Steve Kornacki’s The Red and the Blue; Russiagate; Trump’s rape case; Alvin Bragg’s blunder; Murdoch and Ailes; Shep Smith’s integrity; the social costs of political dissent; how cable news is designed for personality cults; Carlson and his firing by Fox News; Peretti and Denton; Ben Smith’s new book; and the 2024 election.

Browse the Dishcast archive for another discussion you might enjoy (the first 102 episodes are free in their entirety — subscribe to get everything else). Coming up: Ben Smith on going viral, Tabia Lee on her firing as a DEI director, John Oberg on veganism, and Patrick Deneen on a post-liberal future. Send your guest recs and pod dissent to

A journalist writes:

I really love the podcast! And your piece on Ben Smith was especially good — and great to see someone in journalism saying it. I like Ben quite a bit personally. His likability has helped immunize him from criticism, even mild, in our business — but the dossier decision was one of the worst I have ever seen. And as you suggest, more broadly, the impact of Buzzfeed et al was less than met the eye.

One thing that hasn’t been said enough is that one reason Buzzfeed declined was the wholesale absorption of so many of its staffers and so much of its approach and attitude by others, especially the NYT and the WaPo — much to their detriment. The key to great standout journalism remains actual reporting out in the world —and indeed, real reporting was the best stuff that Buzzfeed did.

I like Ben too — and my review was not meant to be personal. Mathew Ingram — who reported on The Daily Dish when it went independent in 2013 — has a great synthesis of the debate over Ben’s Traffic and the downfall of Buzzfeed News. Guardian of Dishness, Chris Bodenner, presciently wrote on the Dish in December 2014:

Looking back at 2014, Felix Salmon runs through all the high revenue and venture capital numbers of new media companies like Buzzfeed, Vice, and Vox: “The small but self-sustaining bloggy site is a thing of the past: if you’re not getting 20-30 million unique visitors every month, and don’t aspire to such heights, then you’re basically an economic irrelevance. Advertisers won’t touch you…”

But if you’re like the Dish and rely on subscribers rather than advertisers, you don’t need to be so dependent on huge traffic numbers. And even if you can get those numbers and their corresponding ad dollars, advertisers are fickle, as Gawker recently saw when it lost “seven figures” in ad revenue from their controversial coverage of Gamergate. (Can you imagine the ad backlash over Dish controversies like Scrotumgate, or all the graphic photos we posted of dead children in war zones?)

Another reader:

For me, the flagship of respectable early online media in the late 1990s was Slate. Many of their writers are still prominent today and just as good. Slate was very centrist but did include a few crazy, contrarian libertarians like Steven Landsburg, and great law writers like Dahlia Lithwick.

Yep. Because Kinsley was a great editor.

“A minor line in last week’s column stuck with me,” according to this reader:

You wrote, “A magazine was once defined by what it didn’t publish as much as it did,” and you bemoaned that some periodicals have become “online content factories.” I agree. And I’m concerned about my reading habits in the Digital Age. For example, I used to spend an hour or two with the Sunday New York Times. For years, it was a highlight of my week.

Now, I open my laptop and I often succumb to endless scanning and scrolling. I still get the NYT, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker (I used to consider them essential) along with three substacks (including yours). But it’s too much! It can be overwhelming. If my head isn’t in a good place, I’m prone to clicking on articles, skimming them for a moment or two, then moving on to something else. I can fritter away endless amounts of time this way. I’ve been a reader all my life. (I’m a college professor.) But I don’t think I’m alone in becoming far more distracted than ever before. Reading is less pleasurable for me now.

I’m curious: what are your reading habits nowadays? When is the last time you’ve read an excellent novel? And have you found any coping strategies for the situation I’m describing? 

I’m stuck in the dazzle as you are. The Dishcast forces me to read books — so I can be prepared. But after absorbing online journalism, and reading books for work, I find I spend what’s left of my free time on things other than words: dog walks; smoking weed; listening to music; watching a decent Netflix or HBOMax series.

Another listener asks, “What is your beef with The Bulwark?”

Honestly I don’t think I’d ever heard of the publication until you referred to it, or perhaps it was your conversation with Cathy Young that caused me to check out The Bulwark. It was not even on my radar as a news or opinion source.

Is it that some of the writers are omnipresent on MSNBC? Or that many of them are the embodiment of Jen Rubin syndrome? Like Nicole Wallace, are they now entirely apologists for the left despite working for the GOP in the past?

Perhaps for a future podcast consider interviewing one of them, or some of the others who did a 180 in the wake of Trump. You don’t seem to grasp how one could abandon all of one’s core convictions simply because of Trump. So, ask them. Mona Charen, for example, did explain how Trump caused her to see blind spots she had had on a host of issues, thus a leftward drift.  

A group of former Republicans now appear regularly on the Joy Reid show — tending to the erogenous zones of resistance liberals, trying to take down any viable GOP rival to Trump, while claiming Trump is a unique threat to democracy. Throw in shifting core principles on a dime, even embracing critical race, queer and gender theory, and you can see why I find it all a bit much. Especially given some of their long records of boosting the worst of the worst — like Palin, for example, and the Iraq War, and torture — and never taking responsibility for any of it. But there are some people there I respect a great deal — Saletan, Young, Charen, for starters. Will and I started out in the same intern pit.

On to the Dishcast commentary, here’s a listener on last week’s debate over colonialism:

Great episode with Nigel Biggar, as usual. 

I was born in India in 1945, just before the end of the Raj. I think India wouldn’t be a united and democratic country today if the British had not ruled it for a long time. The East India Company succeeded in the “divide and conquer” policy primarily because of the native rulers’ selfishness. I can’t imagine Indian education, industry, and political institutions being established by Indians and organically grown a century ago. Indians forget that Muslim rulers — whom the English replaced — were no better. “Convert or kill” is much worse than “divide and conquer.” It is better to be ruled by traders and merchants than by religious fanatics.

Even Gandhi liked the British in many ways. In 1930, he said, “I have thankfully copied many things from them. Punctuality, reticence, public hygiene, independent thinking, and exercise of judgment, and several other things I owe to my association with them.”

Today the woke regard all of Gandhi’s virtues as forms of white supremacy! A quick dissent:

I was surprised at how you treated Nigel Biggar. 

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