Bill O’Reilly leaving Fox News marks the end of an era for American conservative media. For years O’Reilly has been a ratings juggernaut in the world of cable news. O’Reilly’s departure is saddening to many of his long time fans and being celebrated over at the MSNBC studios. No matter your feeling about Bill O’Reilly or the accusations against him, it marks a titanic shift in the way that conservative Americans get their news.
Fox News has been dominant among cable news channels for years because they offered a center-right alternative to all the other left leaning “mainstream” news outlets. Now just over the course of the last year Fox has almost completely changed their primetime lineup. Greta Van Susteren left to move to MSNBC, Megyn Kelly left for NBC, and now Bill O’Reilly is departing. Tucker Carlson, Martha MacCallum, and now Eric Bolling have been given new shows. Sean Hannity remains as the last of the Fox News “Old Guard” as the rest of the Fox News lineup faces sudden changes.
Conservatives traditionally received their new from either Fox, talk radio, or the Wall street Journal. Later folks like Matt Drudge and Andrew Breitbart pioneered conservative media over the internet. Thankfully conservatives are embracing the new frontier of media, while radio, cable news, and newspapers are important, more and more folks are getting their news from podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Youtube. As conservative media giants like Bill O’Reilly and eventually Rush Limbaugh ride off into the sunset, we will need folks to fill the vacuum created in their absence.
Part of this Brave New World of media comes with a different set of responsibilities. While Cable and Radio can make their bones off of getting consumer eyes and ears to advertisements, but internet based news outlets usually cannot rely on a consistent flow of dollars from regular sponsors. More and more content creators and commentators online are relying on either big funders supporting them, or some form of crowdfunding from their audiences. In a world where we have more choices than ever for where we get our news, maybe the responsibility will be on us to kick $5 a month or so to support the operations of folks who we trust.
The media landscape is changing dramatically and there will be growing pains that come with that. Lower barriers to enter the world of media come with benefits as well as consequences. The old Reagan adage “Trust, but verify” can be more important than ever.
One thing can be said for sure about the state of American media, things will certainly never be the same again.