The relative invisibility of “The Greg Gutfeld Show” in late-night media coverage helpfully illustrates a big problem with the press. With a total audience of 1.8 million viewers, Gutfeld’s show was the third most-watched program in late-night last month, surpassing Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden on ABC and CBS, respectively.
As Variety noted in May, “Year to date, Fox News’ ‘Gutfeld’ has secured a bigger average viewership – more than 1.73 million – than any of TV’s late-night offerings except CBS’ ‘Late Show’ and NBC’s ‘Tonight Show.'” A Washington Examiner analysis of Nielson data for the year compared Gutfeld’s average audience on Fox News to his competitors’, and the results were illuminating:
Gutfeld’s show, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. EST, has an average of 1.7 million viewers. Meaning his show averages more viewers than:
-HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” (1.5 million viewers)
-NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” (1.2 million viewers)
-CBS’ “Late Late Show with James Corden” (1.2 million viewers)
-HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (1 million viewers)
-TBS’ “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (835,000 viewers)
-Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” (732,000 viewers)
The difference between Gutfeld’s show and the programs eating his dust is a steady drumbeat of media coverage inflating their cultural influence. Outlets regularly pluck clips from every late-night show trailing Gutfeld’s while virtually ignoring him, despite the gaps in viewership.
There’s no comparison between the volume of coverage Gutfeld gets and the volume of coverage Sam Bee and Trevor Noah get, to use just two examples. (And that’s doesn’t even begin to address the tone of the coverage.) He’s practically invisible in the bulk of late-night coverage, despite being one of the most-watched hosts and boasting a larger viewership than many of his more-covered competitors.
To be fair, Gutfeld’s show is only on once a week, unlike those of Meyers, Corden, and Noah. But Bee, Oliver, and Maher air once weekly as well, and all receive far more media attention than Gutfeld.
Does the show simply produce fewer clippable moments? That depends on what you consider a clippable moment, a question that gets at the heart of the problem.
You can make the argument that an especially fiery rant from Bee or an amusing bit from Noah are perfectly newsworthy, but then you have to apply that same standard to Gutfeld, and without ideological bias (unless your publication doesn’t purport to be objective). Given that he’s outpacing them in total viewers, this show should have a built-in advantage for news value too.
All this is to say the lack of Gutfeld coverage is an excellent illustration of how the media’s cultural preferences shape its coverage, assigning disproportionate news value to content journalists like, which, in turn, artificially inflates the influence of liberal programming.
Granted, most of the content in question is culturally liberal anyway, so it’s perfectly fair for the coverage to reflect that. But it should still be as proportional as possible. When it’s not, the media develops cultural blindspots (as do readers), which further impede our ability to understand what’s happening outside New York City and D.C. (There’s a reason the press was stunned by the “Roseanne” reboot’s monster ratings.)
I know this is asking a lot, but if they care about balance, media writers should grit their teeth and pay at least as much attention to Gutfeld as they do Bee—especially since he’s doubling her ratings. We’ll all benefit from coverage that better reflects the tastes of the public, not the tastes of Acela Corridor journalists.