As audiences await journalist Megyn Kelly’s first appearance on NBC after 12 years at Fox News, ratings predictions dominate the discourse.
With Kelly’s status as a ratings juggernaut at Fox, her high-profile conflict with President Donald Trump and her best-selling autobiography “Settle for More”, detailing ex-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes’ alleged workplace harassment, NBC could stand to gain a ratings boost of over 3 percent, based on a Morning Consult poll.
However, more telling than the numbers themselves is the political affiliation of this new audience. Republicans, especially Republican men, drove the “less likely to watch” responses, while Democrats, especially Democratic men, accounted for most of her “more likely to watch” audience.
The anchor left a $15 million contract with Fox News following an eventful year, during which she alleged sexual harassment claims against Ailes, leading to his resignation. Yet, while her unabashed conservatism might appear to balance the generally liberal programming at NBC News, viewers would be remiss to believe this change will result in a bipartisan media landscape in cable news.
When the Morning Consult poll surveyed viewers over whether they were more or less likely to tune in to Kelly’s programming given her move to NBC, 21 percent of overall respondents said they were more likely to watch, while 18 percent said they were less likely to tune in.
A predicted 3 percent ratings boost is hardly big news. Kelly might draw comparable numbers at NBC, but she is not bringing her conservative Fox audience with her. More than that, she stands to gain more in Democrat viewership than she loses in Republicans.
Kelly’s historically conservative audience is a product not only of dedicated Republicans but of liberals who have refused to tune in. So what has her move to NBC changed? While delivering straight news at NBC, Kelly will appear less threatening to a liberal audience.
Stripping away Kelly’s conservative opinions at NBC opens the door to Democrats who seek the satisfaction of hearing out the other side without the threat of actually listening to conservative programming.
Republicans who watched her for her biting commentary will turn to other pundits, and Democrats, feeling no longer threatened, will finally see what made her so popular in the first place. In their view, she is a perfect fit for a liberal audience that wants to be lulled into the image of a well-balanced consumption of news.
Kelly herself has emerged as a feminist inspiration after escaping Fox’s atmosphere of sexual harassment, conflicting with Trump over women’s issues and negotiating a schedule with NBC that fulfills her career and family goals. However, the woman whom Vanity Fair dubbed, “a newly minted role model for women who sees her gender as irrelevant, and a conservative champion who transcends politics,” now finds herself in political limbo as the liberal darling of conservative media.
This dynamic is worrisome, as some audiences do not realize watching Kelly’s hard news program is not a cross-cultural exchange. Watching her deliver the facts of the day is not “hearing out the other side,” but rather a sheltered alternative to addressing the legitimate opinions of the right.
After the Nov. 8 election, Americans were bombarded by countless opinion pieces lamenting a divided nation, coastal liberal elitism and above all, the dreaded “news bubble.” Brave liberals everywhere grappled with their isolation from conservatives and rural Americans, and for good reason. To stop the influx of fake news which had considerable sway in the election, both sides need to break their clickbait addictions and expand their horizons.
However, there is plenty of common ground to be found in mainstream moderate news sources like NBC, which provide more grounded alternatives to the Foxes and BuzzFeeds of the world.
By all means, watch her show. As an accomplished anchor, she is sure to do a fine job at NBC. However, if you are a liberal, coastal elite looking for an opportunity to bridge the gap, look elsewhere — find real challenges by seeking out content Kelly would have hosted back at Fox News.
ELLEN SINGER is a junior in the College.
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