THE DECLINE OF CABLE TV NEWS
By Cliff Kincaid
“Welcome to Scarborough Country, no passport required, only common sense allowed.” This is the clever opening used to entice viewers to watch former Congressman Joe Scarborough’s show on MSNBC. But who wants to visit Scarborough country when almost the only story of any significance is the missing woman in Aruba, Natalee Holloway? It’s a “country” with no Iraq war, no energy crisis, no terrorist threat, and no irresponsible spending by Congress.
The announcer says, “From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.” He does have a solid background and a good book, Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day, to his credit. The book is about critical issues--corruption and financial mismanagement in Washington, D.C., and the “bankrupting of America.” But these and related issues get completely lost in the obsession over Holloway.
Scarborough’s own “common sense” dictates that you should turn the channel, except that the Fox News Channel competitor, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, is even worse when it comes to saturation coverage of missing-person cases.
Demonstrating her priorities, on her “Greta Wire,” Van Susteren posted this email message from a viewer: “While some ratings are going down at Fox News, yours are up! Ratings don’t lie.” This is why Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity have since jumped on the bandwagon with their own stories about Holloway. Hannity sidekick Alan Colmes was even dispatched to Aruba.
An AP story noted that Van Susteren “has been rewarded with her biggest audiences since making the switch from CNN three years ago.” AP said that she averaged nearly 2.2 million viewers a night in July, up 58 percent from the same period a year ago. She has even beaten Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, which used to be the highest rated program on cable news.
Van Susteren says that “I program for the viewers.” Still, we’re dealing with only a few million viewers. And all of the Holloway coverage has so far failed to solve the case.
Who are these viewers and are they worth attracting? They don’t appear to be seriously concerned about serious issues. MSNBC promotes its Tucker Carlson show featuring his sidekick saying that their new time slot of 11 p.m. Eastern Time guarantees a “drunker” audience. That comment is supposed to mask the fact that the show was a ratings disaster in the 9:00 p.m. time slot. So it has been moved to later in the evening, when it is likely that even fewer people will be watching, to make room for Rita Cosby’s “big interview” show. Cosby, who came from Fox, interviewed a couple jurors from the Michael Jackson case for her first show on Monday night. And, of course, she discussed the Holloway case. How drunk is the audience that watches this? Does MSNBC care?
The Carlson show faltered because while he is supposed to be a conservative, he turns over a significant amount of time on a regular basis to lesbian Air America radio host Rachel Maddow, a predictable leftist.
Over at CNN, a similar disaster is in the making. It appears that the network is looking for a reason to permanently dump its most visible on-air conservative, columnist Robert Novak. He recently cursed on the air, walked off a show, and was told not to return for an indefinite period of time.
The incident occurred when liberal partisan James Carville interrupted Novak during a political discussion and accused him of saying things just to please “right-wingers.” Novak had politely asked Carville for time to make a point before getting exasperated. He said, “Just let it go,” and walked off.
Novak was wrong to use bad language and correct to issue an apology for it but he was not guilty, as Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post calls it, of engaging in a “bizarre meltdown.” Kurtz, who also works for CNN, failed to note that Novak was rightly disgusted by Carville’s personal attack and obnoxious interruptions. We urged Carville to apologize to Novak and said that CNN suspended the wrong man.
It is wrong for CNN to pair Novak, who has been a respected independent journalist for decades, with Carville, who functions as a professional apologist for the Democratic Party. But the handling of this matter by CNN suggests that Novak’s days are numbered at the network. As Kurtz indicated during an appearance on shock jock Don Imus’s radio show, it seems clear that Novak is despised because he has sources in the Bush administration, including in the Valerie Plame/CIA leak case, and he won’t talk about them on the air. These confidential sources must be exposed and even destroyed, according to the prevailing mainstream media view.
the risk of sounding like a heretic, I am increasingly turning back
to the liberal evening news broadcasts for some hard news about national
and world events. Even the “Fake News” broadcasting of Comedy Central’s
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart could emerge as a valid alternative
to MSNBC, Fox and CNN.
© 2005 Cliff Kincaid - All Rights
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Cliff Kincaid, a veteran journalist and media critic, Cliff concentrated in journalism and communications at the University of Toledo, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Cliff has written or co-authored nine books on media and cultural affairs and foreign policy issues.
Cliff has appeared on Hannity & Colmes, The O’Reilly
Factor, Crossfire and has been published in the Washington Post, Washington
Times, Chronicles, Human Events and Insight.
The announcer says, “From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.” He does have a solid background and a good book, Rome Wasn’t Burnt in a Day, to his credit.