The Decline of Glenn Beck
What caused it?
by James Downie
Six months ago, Glenn Beck held his “Restoring Honor” rally on the National Mall, drawing a crowd of about 100,000. Newspapers and magazines featured the rally on front pages around the country. The next month, The New York Times Magazine devoted a cover story to him. “In record time,” the piece observed, “Beck has traveled the loop of curiosity to ratings bonanza to self-parody to sage.”
Just six months later, however, Beck seems to have traveled somewhere else entirely. His ratings and reputation are in steep decline: His show has lost more than one million viewers over the course of the past year, falling from an average of 2.9 million in January 2010 to 1.8 million in January 2011. He now ranks fifth among Fox’s six weekday talk hosts, trailing lesser-known personalities like Shepard Smith and Bret Baier. Beck’s three-hour radio show has been dropped in several major cities, including New York and Philadelphia, and has seen a ratings decline in most other markets. “It’s hard to gain a million viewers,” says Eric Boehlert, who follows Beck’s shows for the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters, “but it’s really hard to lose a million viewers.” And Beck’s fall contrasts with the fortunes of other Fox News hosts, like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, whose TV ratings stayed solid throughout 2010.