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That FOX Is Most Trusted Is All Right

If we needed more evidence that in 2010 television news-consumers shop for fare that favors their individual political palates, we needn't look any further than an eye-opening poll conducted Jan. 18-19, by Public Policy Polling.

In its questionnaire, the professional polling company based in Raleigh, N.C., simply asked Americans whether they trusted the five major networks' news operations.

When the results of the poll were released last week, Fox News was the clear winner in a race that, it can be argued, ended up fielding five losers.

It turns out 49 percent of the respondents said they trusted Fox News. Thirty-seven percent said they didn't, and another 15 percent said they weren't sure.

ABC News brought up the rear, with only 31 percent saying they trusted that operation. CNN (39 percent); NBC (35) and CBS (32) ran two, three, and four respectively.

Those are staggeringly low numbers for professional news operations whose primary goal should be to present themselves as accurate and credible at all times.

Maybe the most telling finding of the poll was that 74 percent of those respondents who identified themselves as Republicans said they trusted the right-leaning Fox to deliver their news, while 30 percent of Democrats thought they could count on Fox to deliver the straight scoop.

NBC, on the other hand, did best among Democrats, with 62 percent of the left-leaners saying they trusted that network. This is most likely the residue of MSNBC, which has a pronounced lean to the left side of the political spectrum in much of its programming lineup.

While all this is hardly surprising (I call it, extremely unfortunate), it does once again emphasize that people are shopping for news presenters that most closely match their own ideological thinking.

But what if a network were to go where so many others fear to tread these days? What if it attempted to play things straight down the middle?

Well, cover your eyes if you are one of those who choose to look at things from the middle, because the view isn't pretty.

Consider that CNN did the best among moderate respondents, which helped it to its second-place rating in the overall trust category. This is good news for CNN, right?

Wrong.

CNN has seen its ratings take a terrible dive in the past couple of years. Recent data shows it has been neck-and-neck while bringing up the rear in the cable news ratings race with MSNBC. Both networks are lagging far behind mighty Fox.

It looks like trying to play it down the middle these days will only get you squashed by heavyweight partisans on the left and right.

And just to rub it in, Fox went out with ads on Monday touting itself the "Most Trusted Name In News."

Some might remember that CNN used to make that exact promotional claim. Ouch!

It's good to be king.