How First Take Changed Media Forever: Part 2

The First Take franchise has undoubtedly shaped the way we consume sports media today, but it has perhaps generated an even larger impact. While heated debates have always been a staple of politics, the advent of 24-hour news networks has changed the nature of these debates and it’s all thanks to First Take.

In 1982, CNN launched the political debate show, Crossfire, which was hosted by one right leaning journalist and one left-leaning journalist. The show ran from 1982 to 2005 with various high and low points, but was considered a staple of CNN as it provided several controversial moments throughout its time on the air.

Crossfire’s most infamous episode occurred on October 15, 2004 when The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart appeared on the program. Instead of debating the hosts on the political happenings of the day, Stewart lambasted the program for “hurting America.”

Stewart argued that Crossfire was masquerading as a political news show, and instead was just an entertainment show that aimed to create controversy and grab headlines rather than inform the American people of the issues they should be worried about.

Shortly after the episode, the then-president of CNN, Jonathan Klein, announced that Crossfire would no longer air on the network. In his statement announcing the cancellation of the show, Klein said that he wanted to move away from “head-butting debate shows.”

In 2013, during the height of First Take’s popularity and after 12 consecutive years of losing in the ratings war with Fox News, CNN decided to relaunch to program. The first episode featured Newt Gingrich, a far-right former Republican presidential candidate who was at the head of the birther movement who frequently described President Barack Obama as a “radical,” and President Obama’s campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter.

In a statement announcing the revival of the show, CNN’s new President Jeff Zucker said, “We look forward to the opportunity to host passionate conversation from all sides of the political spectrum. Crossfire will be the forum where America holds its great debates.”

While Crossfire was soon cancelled again, this was a prime example of how First Take has influenced the political media and helped polarize our nation. Instead of accurate reports, truthful presentation of facts and keeping politicians honest with the American people, the political news genre has turned into partisan propaganda machine that pushes its own agendas in an effort to heighten ratings.

During Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire, when one host tried to explain that the show was a political debate show, Stewart replied “That’s like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition.”

Today’s political news genre has devolved just as the sports media genre has–into hard-headed arguments that accomplish nothing as opposed to accurate reporting. The issue with this type of entertainment is while these networks are able to get huge ratings, it damages our nation.

The United States has never been more polarized than it is today. We have black athletes trying to raise awareness for issues plaguing their community and, in response, the President of the United States is calling them “sons of bitches.” We have incidences such as Charlottesville and the Dylan Roof shooting because Americans now think that if you don’t agree with their positions and ideas, you are an enemy. A Deadspin writer once said, “[Professors] should hold the conservative students heads under water until they stop breathing.” And when asked if he was joking, he said no.

Television shows such as Crossfire and First Take have helped lead us to where we are today. Democrats and Republicans can no longer work together and, instead, they sit and do nothing and pander to their supporters who refuse to compromise.

The United States didn’t used to be like this. For most of this nation’s existence, while we might have disagreed on various issues, we were all united as Americans. Now, people proudly say “Not my President” and openly root for their opposition to fail even if it hurts this nation.

It is in our nature as human beings to copy the actions of the people who influence us. There is no greater influence in the world than media, as it gives us the information that we desperately need. While television shows used to inform of us of crucial information, it is now being used to divide our nation and has lead us to where we are today. We have First Take to thank for that.

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