Undoubtedly a brilliant journalist, researcher, and critic, Chris Hayes was MSNBC's bright and upcoming news talk show star. Yet in the last three months the prime time show All in With Chris Hayes has been consistently hemorrhaging viewers, dipping 18% since Hayes made the switch from his weekend morning show Up with Chris Hayes.
Since its pilot, All In finished in 4th place behind O'Reilly, Anderson Cooper, and CNNHLN's Nancy Grace, with viewers in the vital 25-54 demographic finding their interests in news elsewhere. The implications of MSNBC’s lead-in speaker losing his own viewers have arguably been bringing down the ratings of sister shows like The Rachel Maddow Show an entire 7%. Without positive ratings, any modern news pundit will quickly lose the resources they need to continue a show on a well-supported national platform.
When asked about the competition, Hayes contended that he had the ability to win ratings because a majority of what he thinks about "is making awesome television that is genuinely informative and fun and compelling and enjoyable for me to do."
Realistically however, what may be enjoyable for Hayes is not necessarily news that is well received, leaving public opinion to be anything but flattering. Columnist Noah Rothman states, "The impression that Hayes projects is that he resents having to cover the news that interests the masses. He seems to view the news cycle itself an impediment to his advocacy. While Maddow can frame the day's news in a way that both informs and entertains her audience, Hayes rejects that the day’s news should even be news."
It's this impression that reveals the underlying issue with the dropping popularity of All In: the modern journalist's dilemma. How much information can one sacrifice in the name of public demand and entertainment? And where exactly is that sweet spot between news and amusement that pundits like Maddow apparently strike?
While in a perfect world, news would be unbiased and strictly factual, 21st century internet and TV culture has a need for engaging and extremely relevant news material. Hayes in particular seems to mistake a cable news studio for a lecture hall, giving detailed reports on not-so-current news. As a journalist, his duty to ensure that people consume accurate information is just as vital as his duty to research and deliver it.
This balance between news and entertainment can be reached, however, without completely sacrificing journalistic integrity. Teamed up with Rachel Maddow, the two popular pundits cleverly know how to advance their agenda through fact-based argumentation, and are generally better received than the extreme bluster of Republicans on the far right. While they both have successfully advanced the liberal agenda, Hayes has tended to avoid some of the most shocking and relevant material that runs the news cycle today. The latest example has been Hayes's lack of recognition for the breaking news in London where a religiously motivated attack by two men took place on camera as they savagely killed and dismembered a British serviceman in the middle of a London street in broad daylight.
Ultimately, if Hayes fails to adapt to the demands of a prime time audience with compelling and pertinent information, his show will undoubtedly replaced by someone who can.