"2.5 million Americans watch Fox News, which means that 297.5 million Americans don't."
-- Commenter "Underoath" at the Huffington Post, responding to the story about Shepard Smith apologizing on-air for what he called Fox News's lack of balance in covering the New Jersey governor's race
I post this comment because it brings up a point I've always wanted to mention here: Fox News's perceived power within the news media -- it's supposed absolute domination of both the medium and the message -- is really nothing more than a product of the media loving to talk about themselves. Yes, Fox has a firm grip on the cable audience -- particularly one relentlessly loyal facet of the audience, which clings to its every word and indulges its every whim -- and that makes for much hand-wringing among its competitors and detractors. But let's be honest: In the great scheme of things, how many people really watch cable news regularly? Sure, O'Reilly or Beck can pull in a couple of million viewers -- on a really good day -- but even now, with its authority waning, network news still nets up to 25-million viewers a night (with even the lowest-rated show pulling around 6-million people). And keep in mind that we're talking about national numbers -- as in a couple of million Fox viewers out of around 300-million people in the entire United States.
To put things in perspective, during the heyday of network dominance, a local news 11pm show in New York City could occasionally come close to that kind of number.
Yes, Fox News is powerful among the select demographic that watches it. Big picture, though? It's nowhere near the inescapable cultural force that it and the media echo chamber it inhabits would have you believe.