NEW YORK — The News Nation television network is expected to achieve its highest viewership by broadcasting the fourth Republican presidential primary debate, scheduled for Wednesday. Notably, this debate will once again exclude Donald Trump from participating.
The Young News Nation Cable Network
Two of the three debate moderators are affiliated with conservative media rather than News Nation, including podcast star Megyn Kelly. This raises concerns that the event may contradict the centrist image that the network is attempting to establish.
Cherie Grzech, NewsNation’s Senior Vice President of News and Politics, expressed her enthusiasm for the fantastic opportunity the network provides. It allows a broader audience to experience and understand who they are and their purpose entirely.
Her advice for those skeptical about NewsNation’s capability is simple: Watch and see.
A NETWORK STILL SEEKING AN AUDIENCE
The debate will be aired from 8 to 10 p.m. ET and will be televised on the CW network, which, like NewsNation, is owned by the Nexstar Media Group. The CW will broadcast it live in the country’s eastern half and tape-delay it in the western half.
NewsNation replaced the previous WGN America network in late 2020 and aimed to establish its presence with renowned personalities from other networks, such as Chris Cuomo from CNN, Dan Abrams from ABC News, Ashleigh Banfield from MSNBC, and former host Leland Vittert from Fox News.
Based on ratings, the show appears to be still searching for an audience and has room for improvement. In November, NewsNation averaged 99,000 viewers during prime time, while Fox News Channel garnered 1.73 million, MSNBC achieved 1.14 million, CNN attracted 540,000, and Newsmax captured 207,000 viewers, according to the Nielsen company.
NewsNation positions itself as a neutral alternative to other outlets with strong partisan affiliations. According to Abrams, the network caters to the marginalized moderate majority seeking news coverage that is not hyper-partisan.
Critics, including the liberal media watchdog Media Matters, argue that Nation has a right-leaning bias rather than maintaining a balanced stance.
According to Joe Berkowitz, a writer from The Daily Beast who observed the network for a week in the fall, left-leaning perspectives are seldom, briefly, and cursorily presented on Nation, almost as if it’s to fulfill an obligatory requirement.
The network includes several former Fox personnel, such as Grzech and Chris Stirewalt, the politics editor. Additionally, former Fox executive Bill Shine serves as a consultant.
In response to critics, Grzech has not noticed such issues with Nation. “I haven’t observed that, and it’s not my experience here,” she clarified.
A HIGH-PROFILE DEBATE HEADLINER
The Republican National Committee selected the debate moderators for Wednesday’s televised debate. Elizabeth Vargas, formerly of ABC News and currently hosting an evening newscast on NewsNation, is one of the chosen moderators. Another selected moderator is Eliana Johnson from the conservative site Washington Free Beacon.
Kelly is the main focus here. Grzech and Kelly have a history together, having worked on debate preparation at Fox. It was Kelly’s involvement in debates during the 2016 Republican presidential nominations that gained her fame, mainly due to her feud with Trump.
Kelly agreed to a significant free-agent contract with NBC News;
however, the arrangement did not go as planned. Eventually, she negotiated her departure after facing intense backlash in 2018 for suggesting that it was acceptable for white individuals to wear blackface on Halloween.
She has successfully reinvented herself as a prominent podcast and radio personality, now more outspoken and opinionated than ever. Additionally, she is assuming a debate moderator position that impartial journalists have historically occupied.
Kelly has prior experience in this role. However, she openly shares her opinions on the individuals engaged in debates at her new job.
During a social media debate in September, she criticized Ron DeSantis for confronting the Walt Disney Corp in Florida. She remarked, “Seriously, Ron DeSantis, you don’t have to smile throughout the debate. Someone misguided you on that.”
Kelly criticized Nikki Haley’s announcement of her presidential candidacy as “cringy.” On X, formerly known as Twitter, Kelly expressed her thoughts on Chris Christie, questioning if he has lost some of his effectiveness. In October, she responded sarcastically to one of Vivek Ramaswamy’s X messages: “you’ve got to be kidding me.”
Furthermore, during one of the debates on Fox, Kelly expressed her boredom with a simple statement, “I’m bored.”
Tom Jones, a senior media writer at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, questioned whether Megyn Kelly, formerly a journalist, still fits the title. Jones expresses concern that Kelly may bring her agenda and disrupt the debate setup for Nation. Despite acknowledging her career transformation, Jones doubts if her current role qualifies her to moderate debates.
Kelly, representing herself, declined an interview request.
As it is a Republican debate, one could argue that individuals in conservative media would have a better understanding of what potential GOP primary voters want to hear. However, does this also imply avoiding important subjects that might make a Republican audience uneasy? Grezch stated that inquiries about Trump, the absent participant and current polls leader, are indeed valid.