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Fear and Jenga at Fox: The Success of Glenn Beck

jenga_4-9.jpg“On March 23, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner unveiled the Obama Administration’s toxic-bank-assets plan. The stock markets cheered the news, sending the Dow up 497 points. This meant one thing: it was time for Glenn Beck to break out the Jenga set.”

Thus begins next week’s media column from Time Magazine’s James Poniewozik. As he looks at the trio of ratings juggernauts at FNC, Poniewozik writes, “O’Reilly embodies anger and Hannity brashness, Beck embraces fear.”

But the Jenga anecdote is even more interesting if you followed Poniewozik’s Twitter feed on March 23. As he watched the Jenga game, you could see the wheels turning on a column. “Glenn Beck and David Asman playing Jenga on-air to illustrate…something…about the toxic-assets plan. Insane, yet compelling,” he began. In a dozen more tweets, he wrote “I want all my news Jenga-fied,” and “Tomorrow: Glenn Beck and Neil Cavuto discuss the AIG bonuses over Hungry Hungry Hippos.”

Say what you want about Jenga and other “low-tech explainer stunts,” the numbers don’t lie. As Poniewozik sums up: “A year ago, with Fox News in an election-year ratings slump, some TV observers (like me) wondered if its conservative commentators could thrive in an Obama era. The answer is yes, and how. Fox roared back and has more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined.”

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