CSI Professor discusses his books, the 2023 election cycle, and what the future looks like for U.S political media spheres.
By Gabriel Acevedo
From Fox News’ beginnings to the recent election cycle, associate professor Dr. Reece Peck discusses his new book, populist rhetoric in political media, and the results of the 2023 election.
For many communication students in CSI, they recognize his name as the professor who oversees internships with COM 390, or perhaps were assigned to read his book in COM 203. Dr. Peck is a political analyst who has analyzed the rise of Fox News, the relation between the network’s growth from cable tv, and how it developed as a prime source for conservative voters.
Now in his upcoming book, Dr. Peck analyzes how the rise of digital and social media helped create a new wave of political influencers, ranging from right-wing populist Alex Jones to left-wing populist The Young Turks. “These media were able to propel movements that would’ve been considered ‘fringe’,” remarks Dr. Peck, “but because of internet technology, particularly video news on YouTube, they were given a stage, a platform that they never enjoyed in the past.”
Despite Dr. Peck marking how cable TV is weakened in the digital age, he notes that Fox News remains a key player in this political climate. Dr. Peck has stated that Fox News has been at a crossroads with digital media but notes that conservative media and groups have more of a unity with their policies and beliefs in contrast to liberal groups. For example, Dr. Peck has noted that Tucker Carlson has learned from conservative youtubers, and “concocting a programming formula that was far right, like Alex Jones, but more left like Bernie Sanders and the young Turks.”
Dr.Peck also acknowledged how Fox News actually seeks talent on the internet, and how it leads to more collaboration from other conservative media outlets such as PragerU and The Daily Wire. “Ever since its inception in 1996, Fox News has always sought for talent from online, and wanted to bring online players onto the show in contrast to CNN,” stated Peck, “So Fox News is kinda like the main pillar of the conservative media system, and it platforms and lifts small players. You rarely see that from liberal media platforms, but Fox News embraces their right-wing counterparts online.”
As much as Dr. Peck acknowledges the smart decisions and success of conservative media outlets, conservative policies and representatives have not seen the same in the polls. In the recent 2023 elections, liberal turnout has increased, and the only state that got a major conservative win this cycle was Mississippi’s governor race. Dr. Peck phrases this as “the dog regrets chasing the car since they bit the metal bumper,” especially in the context of the overturning of Roe V Wade. Dr. Peck has acknowledged that because of issues such as abortion policies, “conservative media are on the wrong side of the issue, and they’re trapped in the bind of being ideologically correct with their own movement, but also want to be in tune with the voters.”
However, Dr. Peck also acknowledges that liberal influencers are not in good standings. With the decline of CNN, the recent dropping of Biden’s approval rating, and the challenges faced between Democrats and progressive policies, Dr. Peck feels that they need to do more for voter support, as they lack the media stronghold the conservative party has. “There’s a larger ideological gap between establishment media, and the progressive and Bernie wing of the Democrat, and they need to be able to unify more and seek more talent.”
Dr. Peck closes by discussing the apathy of the public, and how they’re “disenchanted” by political parties. He states that there should be less culture war differences in the media, and more discussion on economic and other factors to help bring more interest in a public dreading issue like the climate crisis and a potential Biden and Trump rematch.