CNN: On The Straight-And-Narrow?

Today's TV news is all about perspective.  But let's have some quality perspective about the facts.

Reports are out that CNN could finish third in March in overall prime-time viewers among cable news networks for the first time ever.  MSNBC has made gains in grabbing second place. Both are well behind cable news leader Fox News Channel.

That said, CNN says it's still very profitable -- and intends to stick to what it knows best, delivering mostly straight-ahead news.

MSNBC and Fox have another story to tell. Fox has built up an incredible lead because of its strong and loud opinions over the years. Now MSNBC has found the right combination of doing more or less the same thing.

Critics will tell you those opinions are mostly from the right side of the political spectrum for Fox; somewhat left for MSNBC. Respective network executives won't say as much, instead claiming they respect and provide all points of view.

But both Fox and MSNBC execs would seem to agree that TV viewers are more in need of opinions about facts than ever before.  What about the facts themselves? That's a murky area.

It's not so surprising this trend comes while the growing blogosphere offers the same deal: lots of opinion compared to a paucity -- or at least, harder to find -- reports that are just about facts.

But all these opinions can be dangerous, leading to myths, assertions, and claims that are difficult to trace. Then where are we? In fiction-land, that's where. So CNN continues to moves in the middle, a strategy it hopes will bring in a broader news viewer. The downside is that it might become a niche of the overall TV news business.

Though in third place in prime time, CNN says it is solidly in second place when looking at total day viewership. Of greater importance, CNN also says it has better reach among consumers than all its cable news rivals when considering all its media platforms. 

CNN held the lead for years in overall TV advertising revenue -- despite Fox's No. 1 status among viewers. That may be the case, when factoring in all its media outlets. But demanding marketers may want more, catering to the whims of the growing news consumer looking for alternatives -- and attitude.

One executive at a competitor of CNN put it plainly: "What do they stand for?" In this culture, that seems more important than answering the question, "What kind of journalism is it offering?"


4 comments about "CNN: On The Straight-And-Narrow?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Barbara Stewart, March 30, 2009 at 1:40 p.m.

    Funny you should write on this today! Friends at work & I have just been commenting in last couple of weeks on how strident and oppositional CNN has become. An informal count gave 4-5 Republican spokespersons for every Democratic rep on both day & evening shows. The Dobbs immigration 'rants' have become outrageous and patently unreliable. Pundits offer evident unsubstantiated bias instead of analysis or simple opinion. Little in constructive alternative commentary. The 'balanced center' is certainly not where CNN has landed - it is more right-wing than ever. But it is the only news channel fed thru our in-house cable system at the office. Nonetheless, coworkers are tuning out, preferring to do without.

  2. Dave O'Mara from Logan Marketing Communications, March 30, 2009 at 6:09 p.m.

    To suggest CNN provides "straight-ahead news" or MSNBC is "somewhat left" in its coverage is laughable. Fox News will continue to leave these networks in the dust so long as they cover issues of interest to only liberals and report them from a solidly left wing perspective. With the advent of Fox Nation, it may even get worse.

    When you allow a single competitor to corner the market on issues and reporting of interest to at least half the nation’s news consumers, you deserve to bring up the rear.

  3. Tim King from None, March 31, 2009 at 5:01 p.m.

    Sadly its easier for people to find opinion that fits theirs and news that slants that direction than it is to hit them with the cold hard truth. In times like this the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow, so why swallow when you don't have to. In the long run MSNBC and Fox aren't really doing anyone any favors, but it sells and that's all that counts anymore.

    Edward R. Murrow is spinning in his grave.

  4. Janis Mccabe from jmod35, March 31, 2009 at 6:07 p.m.

    Dave must be left-handed like me. I'm told we often confuse the right and the left. (I once had to tell a guy from out-of-town to get my sister [also a lefty] out of the back seat and into the front seat so he could watch her hands when she was giving him directions to our house, instead of listening to her. When she moved up front, after they'd been lost for more than an hour close to our hometown, they got to the house in 10 minutes.) Dave wrote left at least twice when he clearly was speaking of right.

Next story loading loading..