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How The Shutdown Is Playing In Conservative Media


As Democrats and Republicans continue to blame each other for being unwilling to negotiate, a small group of House conservatives have driven the debate in Washington. Even though polls show the public is not happy about the government shutdown, conservative media outlets have provided plenty of support for Republicans on Capitol Hill. And they've rallied their community through TV, the radio and social media. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: No surprise that the single, loudest media voice defending conservative Republicans on the shutdown has been the Fox News channel.


ELISABETH HASSELBECK: We start with a Fox News alert. The president finally brings both sides to the White House for the first time in the shutdown talks.


HASSELBECK: And his message, of course, I will not negotiate. I'm exasperated. Mm. We are live on Capitol Hill with the latest.

GONYEA: At foxnews.com on day one of the shutdown, story after story referred to it as the government slimdown. On the Web and on cable, Fox affixes the blame on the president. At the same time, there's a clear effort to downplay the impact.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The federal government is partially shut down, although, you know, for most people, it might be an inconvenience...

GONYEA: And there's talk radio. Rush Limbaugh has said the world didn't end because of the government shutdown; same with talk show host Mark Levin.


MARK LEVIN: This is not the plague. It's not riots and violence in the streets. There's some inconvenience, not for everybody but for some people. Some people being furloughed. Some people losing their paychecks. I understand.

GONYEA: Levin puts the blame on the president. Now over to the Web, a popular site called Pajamas Media, again, the president is the target.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: And now he's looking like a bitter, petty and partisan president, which I read in a newspaper today, John, but it was a British paper because you can't say that in an American paper.

GONYEA: Each year, Twitter gains prominence in politics. Look for the TCOT hashtag. It stands for Top Conservatives on Twitter. It's been mentioned over 200,000 times just since the beginning of the shutdown. Talk radio host Tony Katz, one of the TCOT hashtag's first prominent users, says Twitter means stories can be broken by anyone.

TONY KATZ: It allows not only for smaller voices, if you will, to be heard. It allows for the movement of stories that maybe you're not getting from certainly mainstream media or Fox.

GONYEA: His favorite example this week: the story of elderly military veterans visiting the World War II memorial despite barricades put up when the government was shut down.

KATZ: That story and those pictures were on Twitter before they were on mainstream media.

GONYEA: And it's a story that conservative media use to attack the president as being insensitive to veterans. Natalie Stroud is author of the book "Niche News: The Politics of News Choice."

NATALIE STROUD: The thing that I think that we see in media right now that we didn't see maybe five or 10 years ago is the ability of a media outlet to inoculate people for the views of the opposition. So the media may cover technically both sides, but they do so in a way that prepares the individual listening to have an argument with the other side and to cut a very strong rebuttal.

GONYEA: She says that's a growing trend, people choosing media sites based on their politics. As this week demonstrates, it's an area where conservatives have been very aggressive in creating their own narrative of events for their own audience. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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