We hear politicians and talking heads on TV complain all the time about what a divided nation we live in, but the 24-hour news stations broadcasting this message likely play a powerful role in that divisiveness.
When Ted Turner founded CNN more than three decades ago, he wanted to create a space where journalists could report the news around the clock, as it happened. It was a revolution in television and in journalism. Before that, people tuned in to one of the network newscasts at 6:30 pm. After the success of CNN, several other 24-hour news channels emerged.
Today, the most successful news channels are the ones with a decided point of view. Fox News launched in 1996 and conservative founder Rupert Murdoch said that he saw this network as a counter to the "liberal bias" in the mainstream media [source: Mifflin]. Since 2002, it has been the No.1 news network in ratings. In fact, Fox News has more viewers than CNN, MSNBC and Headline News combined in primetime [source: Weprin]. In recent years, MSNBC has become the liberal answer to Fox News's conservative punditry -- and picked up some good ratings numbers as a result, mostly coming in at No. 2. Meanwhile, CNN has kept its neutral stance and suffered in the ratings wars [source: Patten].
But this plethora of news channels, particularly with a partisan slant, has not made us smarter. Quite the opposite. A 2012 study found that people who primarily got their news from partisan sources -- like Fox and MSNBC -- knew less about current events than people who watched local or more unbiased news [source: Woolley].