The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Like Fish Don’t Notice Water

Posted on | May 21, 2014 | 29 Comments

CNN President Jeff Zucker declares his network won’t “be shamed into” covering a congressional investigation of the Benghazi scandal, as he claims the pressure to cover Benghazi comes from “others who have political beliefs that want to try to have temper tantrums.”

Mocking CNN’s bizarre and monomaniacal devotion to the story of a disappeared jet, Grover Norquist wondered what would happen if the Malaysian plane were to land in Benghazi. OK, so . . . forget about politics. What does Zucker’s bias mean for CNN’s ratings?

First Night of CNN Primetime Changes
Land Network in Third Place

CNN took third place among cable news networks [Monday] night after making significant primetime changes, including the removal of live programming at 9PM. The new lineup lost to both FOX News Channel and MSNBC during the 8PM, 9PM and 10PM hours.

Here are the numbers:

8 p.m. ET
Fox: The O’Reilly Factor ….. 2,019,000
MSNBC: Chris Hayes ………… 639,000
CNN: AC360 …………………… 274,000

9 p.m. ET
Fox: The Kelly File ………….. 1,787,000
MSNBC: Rachel Maddow …….. 720,000
CNN: Parts Unknown …………. 281,000

10 p.m. ET
Fox: Hannity ………………….. 1,383,000
MSNBC: The Last Word ……… 531,000
CNN: Tonight …………………… 304,000

Averaged over prime time (8-11 p.m.), the three major cable news networks had a combined audience Monday of 2.7 million viewers, and here are the percentage shares:

Fox ……………… 65%
MSNBC …………. 24%
CNN …………….. 11%

Now, let us stipulate that politics is not the only factor that influences cable TV news ratings. However, the news junkie — the kind of person who prefers cable news as a prime-time viewing habit — is also usually a political junkie. Because of a general perception that most news media have a liberal bias, Fox News dominates cable news ratings by delivering news and commentary from a standpoint that is decidedly not liberal. In a distant second place, MSNBC caters to an audience of left-wing news junkies whose political appetites are not satisfied by a half-hour of biased news nightly on the Big Three broadcast networks. And CNN . . .

Jeff Zucker’s network is a fucking asterisk, is what they are — an irrelevant afterthought in the TV new business, of interest only as an example of how not to operate a cable news franchise.

The most obvious play for CNN would be to try to peel off some of the conservative viewers — two-thirds of the cable-news audience — who are now regularly watching Fox. One can easily imagine how this could be done. If Zucker can’t imagine it, he should drop me an e-mail and I’d offer a few suggestions, but of course that’s not going to happen because, as Zucker’s Benghazi comments show, he thinks he’s such a goddamned Harvard-educated genius that nobody can tell him anything.

Therefore, CNN continues failing.

Everyone in the organization, from Zucker on down the line, should feel a profound sense of shame for how they’ve squandered CNN’s advantage as the pioneer in the industry, failing to adapt to changing circumstances as they’ve drifted down to the ratings cellar, where they sit day after day, hoping for the Big Event — the breaking-news story that will make people switch over for continuous coverage. It’s a pathetic waste of resources, a disgrace and a failure for which no excuses should be accepted.

Many years ago, not long after I became an ex-Democrat, I explained the problem simply: Most people in the news media don’t notice liberal bias for the same reason fish don’t notice water — it’s everywhere all around them and it’s all they’ve ever known.

Insofar as CNN is failing because of its liberal bias, Jeff Zucker isn’t the solution to the problem, he’s part of the problem.



  • richard mcenroe

    Attention Mr Zucker: Conservative “tantrums” are ®NBC News. Please acknowledge this on air. Yrs, Peter Jennings

  • Quartermaster

    When Madcow beats you, you have a very serious problem.

  • M. Thompson

    Pretty much. They don’t even notice it because it surrounds them. Rather pathetic.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Zucker rhymes with…which also describes what he is doing to CNN.

  • texlovera

    “Jeff Zucker’s network is a fucking asterisk…”

    And who better to lead it than a fucking ass…

  • Kirby McCain

    Special Forces team slaughtered innocent civilians. That fictional tale got inserted into TNT’S remake of Salem’s Lot. And I turned it off. There’s no bias in the media, to say so would be to grossly understate the problem. The American public is being propagandized by a corporate media enterprise determined to spread the poisonous ideology of Marx.

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  • Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • Guest

    There is a German word for the feeling I experienced whilst reading this article but I am too hung over to spell it properly 😉

    I hope for good riddance to bad rubbish. fuck CNN

  • Adjoran

    The decision to hire Zucker was CNN’s cry for help, they committed suicide with the inexplicable hire.

    Remember Zucker took over NBC as CEO in 2005, when they were the number one network. By the time they bought out his contract – after promoting him TWICE as the ratings declined – they were #4 among the broadcast networks and often beaten by popular cable shows. The New York Times reported that Hollywood was mystified how the guy kept getting promoted as his performance failed. Among other debacles, he was responsible for the Leno-O’Brien-Leno catastrophe on The Tonight Show.

    Just before CNN called, Zucker was co-producing Katie Couric’s ABC talk show, which drew an audience of hundreds.

    Imagine how bad CNN’s ratings would be if they weren’t on 24/7 in airports, bus stations, and some fast food places.

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  • Evi L. Bloggerlady