Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This...is not CNN

Your opinion of CNN is probably colored by your perception of the network. I hang with a number of right-of-center folks, many of whom believe that CNN is bringing the Communist Manifesto to middle America. (I don't have with the extreme-right-of-center folks who believe that Fox News Channel is bringing the Communist Manifesto to middle America.) There are those on the left who think that CNN is the voice of the Establishment and an enemy of true democracy. And there are those outside of our traditional political spectrum who think other thoughts - I'm sure that there are elements in the Middle East, for example, who think that CNN is a tool of the satanic American government and the Zionist world conspiracy.

But CNN has a different opinion of itself, according to the New York Times (which is probably held in the same regard as CNN by the groups listed above):

CNN [is] a network whose strategy is to steer the middle course in its news coverage. CNN’s competitors have been finding more success pounding away at those poles — at least during prime time.

The result? CNN often occupies third place, or even fourth place, behind other cable news players:
  • Fox News Channel, which the Times characterizes as "the voice of disaffected conservatives."

  • MSNBC, which "has tried to mirror Fox’s success by steering to the left."

  • CNN's own Headline News, which I quit watching after seeing Nancy Grace on its airwaves. Grace makes me wish for the reserved wisdom of Geraldo Rivera.
Specific numbers:

In March, CNN averaged 328,000 viewers in prime time among the audience that most news advertisers seek: viewers aged 25 to 54. Fox doubled that with 628,000. MSNBC averaged 375,000.

In April, CNN has been fourth. Fox has 668,000 viewers; MSNBC has 300,000; and CNN has 271,000. HLN has 277,000.

Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, claims that cable networks don't need to report straight news:

“The people who watch these channels are news junkies. They’ve already had access to the headlines all day long on the Internet. In prime time you’ve got to stand out and make a splash.”

If Griffin is right, what does this mean?
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