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The Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that the audience for cable news plummeted last year. In particular:

The audience for cable news in the last year declined substantially. In aggregate, the median viewership fell 13.7% across the entire day in 2010. Prime-time median viewership fell even more, 16% to an average of 3.2 million, according to PEJ’s analysis of Nielsen Market Research data. Daytime fell 12%.

This is interesting. The audience for actual cable news dropped a fair amount, but the audience for prime time blowhardery dropped even more. So the problem isn’t that 24/7 news is too boring and needs further injections of attitude, because it turns out that attitude isn’t selling as well as it used to. On the other hand, CNN cratered in prime time far worse than the two blowhard cable news outlets, so apparently the public appetite for more high-minded analysis is weak too.

I don’t really know what to make of this, but in a weird way I blame MSNBC. For a while, Fox was sui generis, and their viewers basked in the idea that they were part of an exclusive fraternity of insurgents fighting the liberal media monolith. Then MSNBC became the Fox of the left, and suddenly the liberal monolith was unmasked as…..Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann. Once prime time explicitly became just a battle of Team Right versus Team Left and Team Nothing, that made all the blowhardery just a little less special than it used to be in the good old days. Even diehard partisans probably started to lose interest, and that dampened the appetite for prime time cable shows of all stripes.

Then again, maybe it’s all Glenn Beck’s fault. When a guy like that becomes the face of cable opinionmongers, it can hardly help but give opinonmongering a bad name.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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