By Chris Jennewein
The old adage about a tree falling silently in the forest could apply to the Republican primary debate on Fox News Thursday night.
If you were a Millennial or Gen X voter trying to watch the debate, it was almost impossible. Fox News is a subscription channel, and its website didn’t offer live streaming to non-subscribers. Sky News in the United Kingdom did stream it briefly, but Fox quickly put the kibosh on that.
Ironically this happened on the same day that media stocks tanked on Wall Street because of growing cord cutting. MarketWatch’s headline put it pretty bluntly: “Media stocks clobbered as Netflix drives customers to dump cable.”
If the Republicans wanted only to reach their dwindling base on Thursday night, this wasn’t a problem. Fox News is watched mainly by older, white Republicans. The median age of Fox News viewers is 68.8.
But the much ballyhooed debate didn’t reach younger Americans who will ultimately determine the outcome of the general election. Thus wining the debate in the subscription echo chamber that is Fox News is no indication of general viability in modern America.
Starting with the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960, television has played a big role in electing American presidents. But its effectiveness began to wane when the Internet appeared in the 1990s.
Joe Trippi, manager of Howard Dean’s upstart, Internet-fueled presidential campaign in 2004, saw this coming and wrote about it in his book “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Just over a decade later we have a major presidential debate that very few voters could actually watch.
As we get closer to 2016, hopefully smart political advisors will see the virtue in cutting the cord as well and reaching the new American voters.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.
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