Sinking MSNBC to Shuffle Lineup Yet Again

MSNBC's attempt to be the liberal Fox News isn't working.


rachel-maddow-sad-face

MSNBC’s attempt to be the liberal Fox News isn’t working. For a few months, it was ahead of CNN and challenging the house that Ailes built for the top spot. Now, it’s back in third.

Bill Carter of the NYT (“Leaning Forward, MSNBC Loses Ground to Rival CNN“):

Rachel Maddow, the biggest star on the MSNBC cable network, just posted her lowest quarterly ratings results ever.

“Morning Joe,” MSNBC’s signature morning program, scored its second-lowest quarterly ratings, reaching an average of just 87,000 viewers in the key news demographic group.

And “Ronan Farrow Daily,” the network’s heavily promoted new afternoon show, which stars a 26-year-old Rhodes Scholar with a high-profile Hollywood lineage, has been largely a dud.

Though it has mostly happened quietly, which may be a comment on the cable network’s larger status in the media landscape, MSNBC has seen its ratings hit one of the deepest skids in its history, with the recently completed third quarter of 2014 generating some record lows.

Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC, acknowledged that his network had been struggling, but put it in the context of the overall drop in cable news. “This has been a tough year all around,” he said. “All three cable news channels are drawing a smaller combined audience than they were five years ago.” He also emphasized that despite the plunge that caused it to trail CNN in the last quarter, the network remained ahead of CNN for the full year.

In the past, MSNBC’s ratings have typically fallen during times of intensely followed major news events. The current period is awash in them, with stories like ISIS and Ebola commanding a high degree of international reporting. This plays well to CNN’s strengths.

MSNBC consciously established its brand as politics-centric, approaching stories from a left-of-center viewpoint, in deliberate contrast to the right-of-center approach of Fox News, which continues to dominate the news channel ratings. At the same time, MSNBC moved away from a close relationship with NBC News that it had during the early years of the network. Today, fewer NBC News correspondents appear on MSNBC.

Griffin’s overall point is worth keeping in mind. We’re really talking about who’s the tallest midget here. None of the cable news channels consistently gets high ratings compared to the big four broadcast networks or even some of the cable entertainment channels. It’s a niche market.

Over the last five years, Fox News and CNN are both down 13 percent in total audience in prime time; MSNBC is down 21 percent. Fox has little to worry about because its numbers so dwarf the others. CNN has responded with a new strategy that mixes its traditional hard news approach with a regular lineup of pre-produced original series. It had a major success last week with the latest of them, “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” with Mike Rowe.

The fact of the matter is that, in a world where we can all check the news anytime we want via our smart phones, there’s very little demand for old style television news.  The audience for that is either the elderly—who advertisers inexplicably consider not valuable enough to bother with despite their enormous wealth and leisure time—or occasional, when catastrophic events make the stream of consciousness style of live breaking news worth enduring.

Fox figured out how to make it appointment viewing: focus mostly on talking heads and have a point of view that was being insufficiently catered to. At its inception, at least, there was something to the “Fair and Balanced” mantra. The big three networks were seen as representatives of a Manhattan-based elite and CNN was the plaything of billionaire liberal Ted Turner. Showcasing the likes of Brit Hume from ABC and bringing a more conservative viewpoint, they combined gravitas in their main news operation and an appeal to the folks in flyover country in their talking heads segments. Over time, the “balance” part went out the window, with the network becoming ever more partisan and inflammatory. Still, they’ve secured the viewership of rural geriatrics.

MSNBC would seem to have a huge edge: NBC. While all of the big three networks have drastically cut back their news operations since their heyday—keeping them at all only because of FCC licensing requirements—NBC News remains a marquee brand in the television news industry and the ability to leverage their on-air talent, nurture rising stars, and go long form on stories they’re already reporting on would seem like a recipe for quality programming. Then again, the MS part of the brand—Microsoft—seemed pretty valuable, too, bringing a combination of deep pockets and insight into the technology scene. They never capitalized on that, either, and are in fact no longer affiliated with Microsoft.

MSNBC has always struggled.  There never seemed to be a rationale for a third cable news channel. And it has had a history of finding random people with zero news or broadcasting experience—Ron Reagan, Jr., anyone?—and giving them shows for no apparent reason.

As Mediaite’s Joe Concha notes (“MSNBC Eyes Canceling Ronan Farrow Show Amidst Schedule Shakeup“), they seemed to have found a niche with the “Lean Forward” (i.e., lean left) approach.

Just 20 months ago, it was coming off its best year — a year that featured a custom-made presidential matchup for its progressive hosts to dissect on a daily and nightly basis: A sitting black Democratic president versus a real-life Republican Gordon Gekko. Black vs. white. Rich vs. poor. Hell, women vs. (GOP) men. The script couldn’t have written itself better for the “Lean Forward” network, who pushed these narratives hard all the way to election day.

A few months later (March 2013), MSNBC President Phil Griffin set his sights on the always-dominant Fox News, declaring his network will overtake first place in the cable news race by the end of that year.

That . . . hasn’t happened. Those heady days are as distant now as Occupy Wall Street.

A well-placed source tells me MSNBC will be announcing major programming changes sometime in the next month, including the cancellation of Ronan Farrow‘s afternoon program, Ronan Farrow Daily.

Mr. Farrow’s program — which now averages around just 50,000 viewers in the key 25-54 demo — has never performed well despite the hype that originally preceded it last February before its first airing. In the third quarter of this year, the show is down 51 percent from what occupied its 1:00 PM EST time slot a year ago (Andrea Mitchell Reports). Whether the 26-year-old Rhodes Scholar still stays on with the network in a pundit capacity isn’t clear.

While I’ve never seen the show—or Farrow in any capacity—before, his failure is hardly surprising. He’s a kid who, as Concha puts it, “hadn’t even hosted a community access show before.” It’s absurd to give him his own show. And, as Concha snarks, “The plan was to bring in a younger audience, so why not put him at 1:00 p.m. ET when just a shade over zero of Millennials are actually watching TV?” That . . . makes no sense.

Similarly, “Griffin also placed Chris Hayes — who hosted a wonky, deep-dive-into-policy weekend morning program (Up with Chris Hayes) — into the most important timeslot on any network: 8:00 p.m. weeknights.”  I’ve never seen Hayes’ new show but I watched a couple segments of his old Sunday show and found him likable and refreshingly wonky. But, even if I were a cable news watcher, I’m so atypical a consumer of news that I’m a poor target at which to aim. There just ain’t enough policy wonks out there to build a network around. The results have been predictable:

The awkward Hayes has trouble breaking 100 in the demo lately, and this is during an election year with Senate control in the balance. For context, Bill O’Reilly did 556 on the last show he hosted. Anderson Cooper on CNN: 282. Hayes: 104. The following night (Thursday, October 9), Hayes dropped to a 75. My source also tells me Griffin is looking at the Hayes situation closely because of the effect his program is having on the rest of MSNBC’s primetime lineup (and its biggest star, Rachel Maddow), but says Hayes and the show are safe for now.

Whether an even-lower-rated host (Ed Schultz, for example, who is getting beat anywhere from 5-to-1 to 9-to-1 by Fox in the demo at 5:00 PM) is also a cancellation candidate isn’t known right now. What is clear is the score these days: According to Bill Carter of the New York Times in a damning piece over the weekend, “In the first quarter of 2009, MSNBC averaged 392,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic for its weeknight lineup. In the third quarter of this year, the number is down to 125,000.” The morning show (Morning Joe) — which created the most buzz of any offering on the network at one time — now trails CNN’s New Day for the fifth straight month in the race for second.

Typically, if I’m up early enough to watch “Morning Joe,” I’m online and trying to write blog posts about what I’m reading. For a couple years after my wife died, I was a regular viewer because I was wrangling small children in the morning and couldn’t concentrate enough to write. I found the show refreshingly different at first. Rather than the happy talk about nothing at the heart of most of the morning shows, it focused on news and politics—and yet did so mostly with humor and a light touch rather than the shrillness of late night talking heads. But, frankly, the format was getting tiresome. First, the byplay between the show’s star, Joe Scarborough, and his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, was annoying. Her function seems to be that of an exasperated wife rolling her eyes at her ne’er-do-well husband’s shenanigans. Second, there are several semi-regular panelists whose presence was distracting and value-negative. In particular, I have no idea why Donny Deutsch, who seems to know nothing about anything, is on so much.

As to Griffin’s plan for reversing course, Concha reports,

Griffin says the network needs “to adjust; we’ve got to evolve.” That usually means some hosts and programs go away. Question is: What is the bigger plan moving forward?

One idea on the adjust and evolve front is start covering hard news again. A 2013 Pew Research study indicates that 85 percent of MSNBC’s programming is opinion, or 30 points higher than Fox and 39 points more than CNN. But as reported here, Griffin also said in 2013 that when it comes to breaking news, MSNBC “isn’t the place for that” (having former pundits in anchor chairs for most of the day doesn’t help on the breaking news front, either).

So can he unring that bell? And is NBC News — which is more noticeably absent from MSNBC lately — jump on board by providing the necessary resources when needed?

Another idea is to adapt more reality programming and documentaries into its schedule. It appears to be working at CNN, best evidenced by Anthony Bourdain‘s consistent ratings success and Mike Rowe’s impressive second-place 507K debut in the demo last Wednesday night (particularly when compared to Megyn Kelly’s 556 and Rachel Maddow’s 143). Shark Tank seems to be the only thing working for CNBC these days, so perhaps tapping more reality resources like MSNBC does with the its highest-rated program, Lockup, isn’t the worst plan in the world, either.

Frankly, a 24-hour news network that doesn’t aim to be a go-to place for, well, news is in the wrong business. Then again, I can’t understand why CNN’s Headline News, which was basically 48 old-style nightly newscasts in a row, decided to become some bizarre mishmash of third-rate punditry and news coverage, either. And if the idea is to drop news and just get ratings through obnoxiousness, why not just pull the plug entirely on pretending that it’s news? Unlike the broadcast networks, there’s no requirement to pretend to operate in the public interest.

Indeed, that ultimately seems the way to go. The cable news demographic is aging itself out of existence and there’s no reason to think that they’re going to be replaced by today’s middle-aged cohort. Even those of us who grew up on Walter Cronkite and a daily newspaper (“Yesterday’s news in your bushes today”) have moved on to getting our news from the Internet.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tyrell says:

    At one time NBC was respected and reported the news straight. That was when Brinkley was there. Now it is just laughable, especially the night line up (people on there hollaring) .The people they have on now would not even have been allowed in the parking lot years ago. CNN is also a cartoon. I have found Aljam to be better. I will stick to the local stations . I see the end of news channels, same fate as newspapers. Not news anymore, just entertainment.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The news viewing public gets smaller every day and not even FOX can survive that basic fact.

  3. In part I wonder how much of this — not just the decline in ratings at MSNBC but the less severe declines at CNN and FNC — have to do with the political news cycle. Midterms don’t generate nearly as much public attention and interest as Presidential elections, and it’s possible that all three networks will see their ratings boosted as we head into the Presidential race next year.

    That being said, there is something to be said for the idea that three all-news (or mostly all-news I guess) networks is over saturation. There’s only so much of an audience for this, and outside of breaking news events, which seem to primarily benefit CNN when they occur, one wonders how much the cost of running a network can be justified.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Fox is in the business of stoking fear and rage. Liberals are not fearful or angry. The model for liberals is NPR not Fox. I said so from the start. Griffin is an idiot who does not understand his core audience.

  5. superdestroyer says:

    If one looks at the transformation of Chris Hayes on MSNBC, one will see their problem. When Chris Hayes was one early on the weekends, he made it a point to develop new guest and spent the time on one topic to have a real discussion. When Chris Hayes moved to weekday nights, he started having the standard MSNBC guess (like Joan Walsh) and started with the 10 minutes per topic rantings.

    I also thought when MSNBC doubled down of Ferguson, it picked the wrong startegy. While the other news outlets were covering Ebola, MSNBC was covering protests in Ferguson, MO. How are they going to attract the NPR crowd while appealing to the BET demographic.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Still, they’ve (FOX) secured the viewership of rural geriatrics.

    Well played, sir.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve enjoyed MSNBC, I can’t see any reason liberals can’t enjoy some over the top snark, too. But I’ve been surprised they’ve held on as long as they have. Talk radio has never really worked with liberals. We aren’t like conservatives, who seem to need to go to services every day and have the Rev. Limbaugh tell them what they believe.

  8. Neil Hudelson says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If only there was an all news/current events PBS channel. Something like what CNN was at its inception–24 hour long form news discussions, with pertinent facts, no yelling, and measured opinion.

  9. Mikey says:

    Ronan Farrow

    I had no idea who this is so I went to teh Google. Apparently there’s some dispute over who fathered him, Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra.

    I looked at a picture. If he’s Woody Allen’s kid, I’m the King of England. Those eyes didn’t come from Woody.

  10. Rick DeMent says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yes this 1000 times. I want in-depth, thoughtful, nuanced discussion of the issues with a balance form all sides that seek solutions, nit just mindless bashing of the other side. Tragically, that would be even a bigger ratings loser then what MSNBC is doing now.

    There is no “liberal” counterpart to Rush Limbaugh et al. Randi Rhodes tried it and I couldn’t stand listening to her. Fear,uncertainty, and dread only plays to a very specific demo and better educated Liberals tend not to be that while uneducated liberals are not really engaged politically on the same superficial level of uneducated conservatives (which is why conservatives have such a hard time understanding why deeply religious and abortion adverse blacks and latinos dogmatically vote democratic).

  11. Walter says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “Liberals are not fearful or angry.”

    heh.

  12. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I was wondering how many different ways people could say “we’re failing at this, so obviously it’s nothing important.” I’m not disappointed.

  13. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: @Rick DeMent: I think, by its nature, values conservatism is more fearful than liberalism, simply because it’s almost by definition constantly under assault. But there’s plenty of fearmongering and loathing among the progressive set.

    The NPR-PBS model isn’t so much ideologically liberal as it is constitutionally liberal. That is, it’s aimed at a highly educated, cosmopolitan audience looking to expand their insights into the outside world. As, as Rick says, that’s a pretty doggone small audience. Indeed, that’s why the medium’s exemplars are all publicly funded: they’re able to exist without having to pander to the least common denominator to generate ad revenues.

  14. stonetools says:

    I too enjoy MSNBC, when I can see it, but my three top sources of news are some mixture of NPR, the BBC and the Internet,and I suspect it’s the same for most well read liberals.
    Fox News should be praised for finding and identifying a reliable audience: the old, conservative, white demographic-and for relentlessly catering to them and feeding them the propoganda they want and need. There just isn’t that demographic for liberals, unfortunately.

  15. argon says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    Probably the nearest thing today is Al Jezeera America.

  16. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I was wondering how many different ways people could say “we’re failing at this, so obviously it’s nothing important.” I’m not disappointed.

    To be honest, it would really would be a boon for liberals to have a media network that reliably broadcasts liberal propoganda 24/7/365 and pushes fake scandals about conservative leaders day in, and day out. But sadly, that just doesn’t seem to work for liberals, so yeah, we do suck at this important way to project our message.

  17. edmondo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Liberals are not fearful or angry.

    Have you read the posts on this board lately?

  18. Mikey says:

    @stonetools:

    To be honest, it would really would be a boon for liberals to have a media network that reliably broadcasts liberal propoganda 24/7/365

    Conservatives would tell you “you already do, it’s called CBS, NBC, and ABC.”

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Joyner: But there’s plenty of fearmongering and loathing among the progressive set.

    For example: the Koch Brothers, Halliburton, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck… just mentioning these names (and a host of others) generate tremendous losses of bladder and spleen control among the left.

  20. Guarneri says:

    @Walter:

    You beat me to it. Laugh of the thread. Now I have to hide under the table as I’ve recently learned from the left that the Republicans are responsible for Ebola.

  21. superdestroyer says:

    @Guarneri:

    You forgot that the Republicans are also responsible for ISIS (IS, ISIL).

  22. Rick DeMent says:

    @James Joyner:

    I would extend Dr. Joyner’s comments a bit WRT the notion of NPR-PBS’s freedom from pandering. Look at how different the news landscape was when it was not a profit center but mandated by the Government to provide news as a public service. I would suggest that the news organizations were then too constitutionally liberal (perhaps structurally liberal would be a better term) and they were criticized for it unfairly because, as we all know, reality has a liberal bias .

    While I agree that there is a lot of fear and loathing on the progressive side, it’s almost impossible to turn that into political action. Far left liberals are simply not represented in the leadership the way far right pols are. Obama is hardly the socialist \ Marxist he is portrayed as by current conservative CW, at best he’s a center left pragmatist who has more in common with Ronald Reagan then FDR. And is there anyone in congress who is as far to the left as Cruz, Graham, or Inhofe? Even Bernie Sanders is pretty tame by comparison.

    Tell me how any Democrats gave even lip service to the idea that Bush was behind 9/11? I can think of only one, Cynthia McKinney, and she was bounced in the very next election. Has any conservative paid any political price for spinning loony birther or “he’s a Muslim” non-sense? Hell MSNBC threw Phil Donahue off the air for his idea that the Iraq war was a bad Idea when hoe show was the #1 rated show of the networks sorry line up at the time. Contrast that with the boatload of wrong that no one has ever paid a price for on fox.

    But back to the point, now that news has to make money all the news channels are in full tilt pander mode and it has become a disgusting farce. The entire point isn’t even ideology, it’s delivering eyeballs to advertisers. If you look back at that classic era of broadcast news the fringes of ideology were presented, But they were not presented as a freak shows. Jut look at this exchange between two icons of their era who could not have been farther apart ideologically but sat down together to a sober discussion of philosophy and ideology.

    William F. Buckley and Huey Newton Firingline

    Of course this was intellectual ghetto programming as well, but it was in line with the format and standards of the news programming of the era. Today the news has to inflame, not inform to get eyeballs. The is no information anymore only heat. Contrast shows like Meet the press and This week fro the 60’s and 70’s to today. It’s really remarkable.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner: I recommend Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind on how deeply conservatism is based on insecurity. (First few chapters. After that, there’s a lot of padding.)

  24. Ron Beasley says:

    MSNBC has the same problem Air America had. Progressives/Liberals don’t listen to talk radio or watch 24/7 cable news.

  25. MBunge says:

    MSNBC was a horribly run network for years with no clue of what it was supposed to be. Then Keith Olbermann came along and showed them what to do. The continual idiots who run MSNBC didn’t understand it but tried to copy it, then got rid of Olbermann.

    The problem with MSNBC is that it isn’t run by news people and it isn’t run by political people. It’s run by corporate people who seem to think they’re managing a movie studio and just have to have the right “stars” to succeed. I mean, Ronan Farrow? There’s about a thousand people at local news stations across the country who would have been 10 times better at hosting a show, but MSNBC couldn’t be bothered to look.

    Mike

  26. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner:

    The NPR-PBS model isn’t so much ideologically liberal as it is constitutionally liberal. That is, it’s aimed at a highly educated, cosmopolitan audience looking to expand their insights into the outside world. As, as Rick says, that’s a pretty doggone small audience.

    There are plenty of farmers and farmers’ wives listening and watching NPR-PBS in flyover country.

    Mike

  27. PAUL HOOSON says:

    Lewis Black deserves a show. He would make you laugh with a humorous tirade and also educate the public why something is crazy and make people see the outrageousness of things. Draft Lewis Black. – He could be the true liberal answer to Rush Limbaugh.

  28. stonetools says:

    @Mikey:

    Conservatives would tell you “you already do, it’s called CBS, NBC, and ABC.”

    Yeah, but we pretty much know that’s nonsense. These networks bend over backwards to present two points of view, even when the liberal guy is presenting facts and the conservative guy is spouting complete nonsense. Thus Jonathon Cohn will come onto PBs presenting a sober, fact-filled analysis showing that Obamacare is (mostly) working, although there are still a few trouble spots, mostly caused by Republican opposition. Then Marsha Blackburn will come on spouting complete BS, and after five minutes of crosstalk, in which the host studiously avoids taking sides by calling Blackburn on her BS, the host intones, “Thank you both for coming on. We can’t settle this dispute here, but at least we have aired this dispute, etc..” The impression here is that two sides have presented arguments of equal worth, whereas in fact side A has presented cogent analyis and side B has presented the equivalent of saying “the Earth is only 6000 years old.”
    This ritual dance occurs on every so called “liberal” network, even MSNBC, and drives me up the wall.
    There is also the “liberal” networks allowing the perpetuation of “Zombie lies” by conservatives by refusing to reprimand conservatives who repeat them, etc, etc.

  29. Moosebreath says:

    @stonetools:

    “These networks bend over backwards to present two points of view, even when the liberal guy is presenting facts and the conservative guy is spouting complete nonsense.”

    They present the Republican point of view at least as often as the Democratic point of view, as shown by their guest lists for the Sunday morning shows:

    “On Broadcast Shows, Republicans And Conservatives Hosted More Often Than Democrats And Progressives Overall. On three of the four broadcast shows, Republicans and conservatives were brought on as guests more often than Democrats and progressives: 49 percent of guests on Fox News Sunday were from the right while only 27 percent were from the left, 28 percent of guests on Face the Nation were from the right while 21 percent were from the left, and 37 percent of guests on Meet the Press were from the right while 34 percent were from the left.This Week was the only show to host guests on the right and left evenly at 31 percent for each.”

  30. James Joyner says:

    @MBunge:

    There are plenty of farmers and farmers’ wives listening and watching NPR-PBS in flyover country.

    Oh, sure. But they’re not the target audience for the news programming like “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” and the “NewsHour.” They may like it because it’s thoughtful and pleasant but they’re not at whom the shows are aimed. Now, “Car Talk” and “Prairie Home Companion” and non-news programming do seem to be geared toward a broader, more mainstream audience.

  31. Scott says:

    @argon: I discovered Al Jezeera America a couple of months ago and it has become my go to for straight news. Reminds me of CNN 20-30 years ago. I may be enjoying because it is new and that I will drift away over time but right now it seems refreshing.

  32. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    I will stick to the local stations . I see the end of news channels, same fate as newspapers. Not news anymore, just entertainment.

    LOL! Local news stations are the worst. Everywhere you go the local news channels are the cheesiest low value stations.

  33. wr says:

    @MBunge: “The problem with MSNBC is that it isn’t run by news people and it isn’t run by political people. It’s run by corporate people who seem to think they’re managing a movie studio and just have to have the right “stars” to succeed.”

    I think that’s the smartest thing anyone here has said.

  34. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    You forgot that the Republicans are also responsible for ISIS (IS, ISIL).

    I can’t argue with you on that.

  35. stonetools says:

    The commenters on this thread shows the differences between liberals and conservatives. When we liberals want to support an argument, we normally link to mainstream news sources(NYT, CNN, BBC, etc). The reason is the consensus is that these present, objecive, balanced news reporting. Conservatives, thought, almost always link to their sources (the Daily Caller, The Blaze, Drudge Report, etc).
    The conservatives, to their credit, has laboriously constructed a self sustaining media network that presents a consistent paralell universe that nurtures the conservative vision and studiously excludes anything that contradicts it. Thus no evidence that Obamacare is successful or that Benghazi is bogus ever penetrates the Conservaverse.
    Among liberals, you will find ongoing discussion about Obamacare. On Fox News, the only message that is permitted is “Obamacare is disaster. Obamacare must be repealed.Obamacare is disaster. Obamacare must be repealed.Obamacare is disaster. Obamacare must be repealed. Obamacare is disaster. Obamacare must be repealed.”, 24/7/365.
    The conservative media network is a potent weapon for conservatives-their equivalent of the US Air Force. The are plenty of armies that might be able to resist an attack by US ground forces-but for the USAF. That’s what the CMN means to he conservative movement.

  36. Andre Kenji says:

    No. The real problem is that News Networks have crappy ratings everywhere. BBC News is one of the least watched channels of the BBC(And that´s why they have a channel that broadcasts the Parliament and a channel that is broadcast in the Gaelic Language). Sky News is a money loser for Murdoch. Al Jazeera only survives because they are subsidized by the Emir of Qatar. News channels are a niche product.

    By the way, good news coverage is supposed to be boring, not entertainment.

    Fox News has huge ratings precisely because they are not exactly ;’news”, but a combination of talk shows and talk radio. MSNBC and CNN faces the pressure of having similar ratings as Fox News have, and that´s completely unrealistic. MSNBC can´t get Fox like ratings with straight news coverage, that´s very expensive(Besides that, they would be cannibalizing their broadcast news programs).

    On the other hand, NBC News is profitable for NBC, unlike ABC News and CBS News. So, I call b* to the idea that MSNBC is a failure.

  37. Pinky says:

    Every cable channel falls into the same death spiral. MTV started out with music videos, then discovered that they’d get a little more ratings with music videos plus silly filler material. Then they’d get a few more viewers (at lower cost) with music videos, filler, and reality shows. Pretty soon the music videos got dropped.

    History Channel went from being a perfectly good Hitler documentary channel to pursuing alien encounters. The Learning Channel became TLC. CNN is following the same pattern. CNN Headline News, I guess, is further along in the decay. But as long as a network can do better with its old content plus a little more garbage, they’ll inevitably end up pure garbage.

  38. DrDaveT says:

    I’m amazed that nobody has noted that the left does have its answers to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh — mostly on Comedy Central. The preferred liberal response to pernicious nonsense is parody and ridicule, not faith-based vitriol. Though some of the satire can be pretty rough.

    Or, to go for the one-liner: liberals don’t have their own Rush Limbaugh for the same reason Christians don’t have their own porn.

  39. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: That was entertaining. Your reputable sources have been repeatedly proven to be biased and inaccurate, but that doesn’t matter. Your discussions of ObamaCare cover the entire gamut of opinions from “it’s really good” to “it’s great” to Harry Reid saying “all those horror stories are lies.”

    And those information sources you discount? Their main offense to you is that they don’t reinforce your biases. Yes, they’ve been inaccurate on occasion, but you seem to think that their inaccuracies and biases are disqualifying, while those of your sources are immaterial.

    So here are a couple of areas where your side can’t dominate, no matter how they try. So they’re not important, and you’re too smart and sophisticated to fall for them, and occasionally your side tries to shut them down. But that doesn’t mean you’re losing, right?

  40. Gavrilo says:

    Ah, NPR. The gold-standard in independent news. I, too, longed for a cable news channel that would regularly feature the kind of thoughtful analysis that NPR is famous for. You know, the kind that the rural geriatric set would never watch.

    Then I remembered that the fear-mongering, rightwing noise machine Faux News has regularly featured two NPR correspondents (Mara Liasson and Juan Williams, until his controversial firing) since its inception in 1996.

  41. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @DrDaveT: Or, to go for the one-liner: liberals don’t have their own Rush Limbaugh for the same reason Christians don’t have their own porn.

    Oddly enough, there is Jewish porn…

    And I find myself wondering if there is some Christian porn out there. Rule 34 and all…

  42. Pinky says:

    And seriously, Morning Joe, 87000 viewers in the key demographic? That’s stunning. If you figure how many tvs are turned on at any given time, and divide by the number of possible channels, you’d get a higher number. That means that people are deliberately avoiding Morning Joe. More people make an effort to not watch that show than make an effort to watch it.

  43. gVOR08 says:

    @Pinky: Yeah. Seems like everything is devolving into “reality” shows. Talk about your lowest common denominator.

  44. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Like I said, a paralell universe.

    Your discussions of ObamaCare cover the entire gamut of opinions from “it’s really good” to “it’s great” to Harry Reid saying “all those horror stories are lies.”

    Er, wrong. Like most liberals, my idea of “great” would be single payer-Medicare for All. I think of the ACA as a halfway good solution that was the best we could get, goven the sociopathic conservative opposition to providing access to health care for millions of Americans.
    And all the horror stories are objectively lies. The latest:

    Obamacare isn’t driving health insurance premiums through the roof in South Carolina.

    In fact, individual plans sold through HealthCare.gov or directly by insurance companies should only increase by about 1 percent in this state next year.

    That’s a relatively minor bump compared to some other states – and much lower than the 50 percent to 70 percent increase that South Carolina officials predicted a year ago.

    According to the state Department of Insurance, the premium for a 2015 plan may increase by 39 percent this year or decrease by 35 percent depending on a shopper’s address, age, smoking status and the type of plan he or she chooses. But overall, prices will only tick up by 1 percent.

    “We’ve seen somewhat of an increase this year. It’s minor,” said S.C. Department of Insurance Director Ray Farmer.

    So the Republicans are simply dead wrong on that. 2+2=10 wrong. Earth is flat wrong. Just 100 per cent dead wrong.
    Now, will you admit this? Hell no. My guess is that you never heard about it, because in Conserverse, this fact about South Carolina isn’t and will never be reported, just as Stalin’s Pravda never reported on Trotsky’s military victories.
    THhis is the beauty, or if you like, horror of the Conservaverse. Once someone like Jenos is in the bubble, he doesn’t even understand he is in a bubble, except when he ventures out in a site like OTB. Most denizens of the Conservaverse don’t even get that far. They like their bubble too much.
    Note, BTW, my link is to a major South Carolina newspaper, NOT to some left wing blog, although I did find it at Balloon Juice.

  45. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: And all the horror stories are objectively lies.

    Let me introduce you to a little basic logic.

    Harry Reid’s exact words:
    “Despite all that good news, there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue, but they’re being told all over America.”

    That is an absolute statement. It allows for zero true horror stories.

    So, to disprove it, all one has to do is find one horror story being true. I’ll stick with the one I’ve cited in the past: Holly Fisher, whose daughter was born with two heart conditions, but at 10 months of age was informed that under her ObamaCare choices, she has no more access to pediatric cardiologists.

    Therefore, Harry Reid is lying. And, by repeating his statement, that means you are lying.

    Or, possibly, simply misinformed. I’ll grant you that possibility, and offer you the opportunity to correct yourself. Harry Reid, though, deserves no benefit of the doubt.

    Back to you.

  46. beth says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: But you don’t know the true circumstances of the example you’re using. She says her husbands company changed providers due to raised rates which they blamed on Obamacare but offered no proof. Maybe the rates went up because their child’s care was so expensive. Without any of the people who claim Obamacare hurt them willing to put forth any verifiable facts no one has any way of knowing if they are true. The SC insurance rates are a verifiable fact. Your example is not. Why aren’t we hearing any followup from this lady? She’s got a rightwing radio gig so she’s got ample opportunity to back up what she claims.

  47. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I’m willing to concede that there may be one objectively true horror story, although I have yet to see that unicorn. I notice you simply skipped over my objectively true refutation of a major Obamacare zombie lie, namely, that Obamacare would lead inevitably to skyrocketing premiums.
    That’s how living in the bubble works. They avoid truth at all costs, but even when exposed to the truth, they simply pretend it doesn’t exist and move on as if nothing happened. What mattwers is their repetition of their talking points,and the perpetuation of wishful thinking, such as thinking that disproving what Harry Reid said disproves the objective evidence that Obamacare is working.
    Since we are doing lessons in logic, the mere fact that someone wrongly said something is A doesn’t help your argument that something is B when the object is actually C. Both you and Harry Reid can be wrong about some aspect of the ACA, and it can still objectively be a success.

  48. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: Of course I ignored it. You were setting up a BS argument — “here’s one story that’s a lie, so they’re all lies.” The easiest way to stomp that was to find one that was true. Arguing about your anecdote would have simply reinforced your fallacy.

    I’m not making the argument that ObamaCare is horribly bad for every single person. I laid out Harry Reid making an absolute statement, and you chose to echo it.

    The real argument is whether the benefits to some outweigh the costs inflicted on others. Single anecdotes don’t really make that argument.

  49. DonVito says:

    Giving Ronan Farrow a show was a spectacular failure but the Chris Christie witch hunt was really a factor in the precipitous ratings decline. I’m no fan of Christie but their coverage was just too extreme picking at anything that resembled facts. i guess their liberal and nerdy strategy could be considered an epic failure.

    I almost forgot this is also the same network that Al Sharpton has its own show. Enough said,

  50. superdestroyer says:

    @Gavrilo:

    The average age of an NPR listern is mid-50’s http://www.npr.org/blogs/gofigure/2010/04/05/125578017/median-ages-across-npr-platforms

    The idea that NPR does a great job is laughable. Every time I am driving home, I have to find something else when the 8 minute long fan boy report on some alt-rock or folk singer comes on.

  51. Pinky says:

    @superdestroyer: NPR is ideology for people who don’t want to admit they’re being spoon-fed ideology. Fox News is ideology for people who unfortunately are perfectly willing to admit that they’re being spoon-fed ideology.

  52. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @DonVito: Giving Ronan Farrow a show was a spectacular failure but the Chris Christie witch hunt was really a factor in the precipitous ratings decline.

    Especially when there’s much better pickings for gubernatorial scandals in New York (Chris Cuomo) and Virginia (Terry McAuliffe).

    The second link (with McAuliffe’s name) is especially appalling. He appointed as Secretary of the Commonwealth a guy who admitted to lying to police in an actual case of voter suppression. But Cuomo and McAuliffe are Democrats, so they get a pass.

  53. gVOR08 says:

    @Pinky: Not to single you out except as representative of a theme in this thread, but you remind me I saw a good comment, forgot the source, months ago. The thread had gone off on the foundational books of conservatism. Someone commented that they have Burke and Hume and Rand as a conservative canon, why don’t liberals have a comparable liberal canon. Someone replied that we do, it’s called Western Literature.

    In this context, the point is that anything that isn’t explicitly conservative is being counted as liberal by conservatives.

  54. wr says:

    @Pinky: “And seriously, Morning Joe, 87000 viewers in the key demographic? That’s stunning. If you figure how many tvs are turned on at any given time, and divide by the number of possible channels, you’d get a higher number. That means that people are deliberately avoiding Morning Joe. More people make an effort to not watch that show than make an effort to watch it.”

    By that brilliant logic, people are deliberately avoiding every show on TV except for the Superbowl and the Academy Awards. Given the Nielsen estimate of 315 million TVs in the country and diving it by, say, 200 channels, you get almost 1.6 million viewers per channel… which is ludicrously enormous for almost every cable network.

    Anyway, the question is not the number of viewers, but whether the network makes a profit from the set of viewers they have.

  55. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Pinky: NPR is ideology for people who don’t want to admit they’re being spoon-fed ideology. Fox News is ideology for people who unfortunately are perfectly willing to admit that they’re being spoon-fed ideology.

    Just for fun, let’s look at the stories from today’s Morning Edition:

    Britain Debates Revoking Passports Of Fighters Returning From Syria, Iraq

    Egypt’s Conservative Society Further Burdens Poor Working Women

    U.S. Doctor Witnesses Unfolding Ebola Epidemic At Liberian Hospital

    Missing Parrot Returns But Doesn’t Speak English Anymore

    How Too Many Trees Contribute To California’s Drought

    ProPublica Analyzes 3 Decades Of Deadly Police Shootings

    Vatican Report Conciliatory Toward Gays, Unmarried Couples

    Animated ‘Book Of Life’ Celebrates Day Of The Dead

    As Oil Prices Slide, Speculation Rises On Shale Boom’s Sustainability

    Economists Theorize Eurozone May Experience Triple-Dip Recession

    How Presidential Speeches Have Changed Over Time

    Editor Retools Magazine With Politically Active ‘Cosmo’ Woman In Mind

    Astros’ Turnaround Costs Furniture Mogul

    School Facilities Strained By Boom In Petroleum Engineering

    Police In Hong Kong Clear More Barricades From Protest Areas

    China’s Nomads Have A Foot In Two Very Different Worlds

    Here are a couple that leap out at me:

    ProPublica is a hard-left organization that’s like a slightly less blatant Media Matters.

    Cosmo’s editor is steering her readers towards liberal causes, and ignores the potential market of conservative women.

    Oil prices are dropping, and that’s bad.

    Oil is booming as an industry, and that’s bad.

  56. wr says:

    @DonVito: “I almost forgot this is also the same network that Al Sharpton has its own show. Enough said,”

    Please note: This is not a hard right wing site, so simply using the name of a liberal boogeyman as a cultural signifier is not “enough said.” If you have a problem with Sharpton having his own show, please feel free to let us know why.

    (One hopes it’s a little more than “Tawana Brawley race baiter negro argle bargle”…)

    I’m not a great fan of Sharpton’s show — I find him a little dull. But that’s my taste, not an indictment of a network. So please, let us know what the issue is here.

  57. Pinky says:

    @wr: Maybe that Sharpton’s presence indicates that MSNBC is more faithful to the former part of “liberal and nerdy” than the latter? I mean, does anyone watch him for his mastery of detail?

  58. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    The real argument is whether the benefits to some outweigh the costs inflicted on others. Single anecdotes don’t really make that argument.

    Indeed. Note that the South Carolina example isn’t a single anecdote. Its an example of an entire insurance market. And it’s not the only one.

    Frankly, it’s the conservatives who wanted to discredit Obamacare on the basis of “horror stories” (that is, anecdotes). That strategy has failed, since most of the horror stories have been discredited

  59. DonVito says:

    @wr:

    I didn’t know i needed to explain my opposition to Al Sharpton. Aside from from being a lying criminal in the Brawley case and still not paying his judgment, he is also a tax cheat.

    His National Action Network is also legalized extortion. The organization threatens protests and boycotts of corporations while simultaneously soliciting donations and sponsorships from them.

  60. bill says:

    @michael reynolds: then why is their platform based on non existent issues like voting rights / womens rights and some crazy belief that they can control the weather by redistributing wealth ?
    I actually tried to watch chris matthews last night, it was 4 people shouting over each other- not very watchable.

  61. wr says:

    @Pinky: “Maybe that Sharpton’s presence indicates that MSNBC is more faithful to the former part of “liberal and nerdy” than the latter? I mean, does anyone watch him for his mastery of detail?”

    Does Sharpton seem nerdy to you?

    Beyond that, I don’t know what makes people decide to watch Sharpton — or any other particular TV host. He does seem to have as clear a grasp on political detail as anyone else I’ve seen — what makes you say otherwise?

  62. wr says:

    @DonVito: “I didn’t know i needed to explain my opposition to Al Sharpton”

    Are you such a famous public figure that you assume we know what you think? To the readers here you are nothing more than another pseudonymous commenter, so of course you need to explain — if you have any desire for people to understand your point of view, which seems to me to be the point of commenting in the first place.

    As for the reasons, pretty much what I thought. Nothing about his show, just the usual Rush Limbaugh litany…

    I would have been curious to know why you objected to him as a broadcaster.

  63. DonVito says:

    @wr:

    I don’t care what you think or believe. I’m stating my opinion and i don’t need your thumbs up or approval. I explained my stance on Al Sharpton and you’re free to defend him. i don’t watch him because I see absolutely no reason to. I also live in the tristate area and we know what Al Sharpton is all about. You can use Google if you want to learn more.

  64. wr says:

    @DonVito: If you don’t care what people think or believe, why do you bother posting your opinions in a public forum?

  65. DonVito says:

    @wr:

    I never said I didn’t care what people think, only I don’t care what you think. It’s easy to tell when someone here is just looking for a fight and nitpicking at posts. That’s what you were doing and as a result, i don’t care what you think. Troll someone else with Rush Limbaugh litany comments.

  66. Tyrell says:

    @Andre Kenji MSNBC lineup is mostly a joke. People hollaring at other people, one sided, opinionated, unprofessional. What we miss and need is a network that will give in depth analysis with several views and opinions. There should be no slant or sides favored. It should be played straight down the middle.
    “Meet the Press” and similar programs may be nearing the end of the line. It could be the day and time. The old way was that people went to church, came home to dinner, watched the network news programs like on ABC, NBC,, and then either turned on the football, baseball, or car race. Now a lot of people go shopping on Sundays or hang out at convenience stores or coffee shops.
    I always thought that Larry King would be good on “Meet the Press”.

  67. the Q says:

    “…like arguing who is the tallest MIDGET……”

    My Lord Mr. Joyner, really? Midget? Shouldn’t that have read , “the tallest height challenged littlle person” for chrissakes?

    Why not say, “like arguing who has the highest IQ at a tea party meeting”or “like arguing which militia man is the biggest fan of the IRS” or “like arguing which of Jenos’ comments is the most ridiculous”….I think you get the point.

    To go after height challenged little people with the “tallest midget” line is tremendously insensitive.

    Because to paraphrase Camus, “if you don’t look out for the little people who will?”

  68. John425 says:

    In sum, the MSNBC slogan of “Lean Forward” is liberalspeak for “Bend Over.”

  69. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Almost all of the US news services have jumped into the 24-hr infotainment boat.

    There’s a reason why I gave up on US newspapers and started reading the Financial Times.

    Most people don’t watch news to get actual news, by the way. They want to be fed stories that fit into their view about how the world works.

  70. Pinky says:

    @Tyrell: I really wanted to upvote that comment – couldn’t you have put the part about Larry King in a different one?

  71. al-Ameda says:

    I’m a liberal and I have to say that MSNBC is somewhat bland, so I rarely watch it.

    If I want some entertainment with the issues of the day I watch the Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Bill Maher’s Real Time – those shows have good entertainment and production values.

  72. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    I always thought that Larry King would be good on “Meet the Press”.

    I’ve always thought that Larry King was an unctuous celebrity worshipping dilettante. Come to think of it, that fits today’s Meet The Press perfectly.

  73. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @stonetools: Indeed. Note that the South Carolina example isn’t a single anecdote. Its an example of an entire insurance market. And it’s not the only one.

    So, you’re abandoning the “every single horror story is untrue” position?

    Also, it’s been announced that enrollments for next year will open not on October 1, like last year, but November 15 — conveniently after the election. I’m sure that’s an entirely unrelated factoid.

  74. Tyrell says:

    @Pinky: Sorry. I used to watch him on CNN.

  75. munchbox says:

    Wow a lot of comments on a worthless topic ….figures!
    We’re really talking about who’s the tallest midgethere.
    My goodness if a republican said this you would almost think he was a racist or something …am I right? Or at least as insensitive as the owner of that Washington football team?

  76. humanoid.panda says:

    @bill:

    then why is their platform based on non existent issues like voting rights / womens rights and some crazy belief that they can control the weather by redistributing wealth ?

    You, good sir, are a moron.

  77. humanoid.panda says:

    @John425: What a surprise! A conservative poster with hangups about anal penetration! That almost never happens.

  78. superdestroyer says:

    @wr:

    While watching the Sharpton show one time when the discussion was on schools, Sharpton got confused between charter public schools, private parochial schools. Randi Weingarten, the guest, correct him but it did not help. He had a point to make and was not about the let the facts get in the way. And you can add Duke Rape Case, Hofstra gang rape case, and not understanding the facts in the Trayvon Martin case to the problems with Sharpton. I do not know how many times I have heard him confuse “stand your ground” a legal jargon term in Florida with “self defense.” If Rush Limbaugh made the same level of blatant mistakes, I would know because every liberal website would be repeating the talking points of media matters.

  79. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: Thank you for explaining why you don’ t like his show. I don’t watch it much — as I said, I find him dull — but I appreciate you laying out your reasoning.

  80. Pinky says:
  81. Tyrell says:

    I think Maddow is a nice, intelligent person. What she needs to do is have more in depth reporting, assemble people with differing views, and not offer her opinions. I want the information, the facts. I can make up my own mind. She would be more effective without the slanted partisan comments.

  82. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    The easiest way to stomp that was to find one that was true.

    The problem is you didn’t do that. You found a woman who made a claim about the ACA with 0 supporting evidence. Not one bit of evidence from her or you showing that her husband’s employer changed its insurance or why and not one bit of evidence as to what is actually available to them. All you have is a right wing hyper partisan making claims. Pardon me if I don’t take ”Hobby Lobby” at her word.

  83. Grewgills says:

    @Pinky:

    Fox News is ideology for people who unfortunately are perfectly willing to admit that they’re being spoon-fed ideology.

    That has not been my experience with Fox news viewers. They have to a person claimed that the news is straight and that the pundits are mostly balanced or are balancing the ”mainstream” media.

  84. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Rick DeMent: There’s way, way far left stuff out there–I have a friend who periodically sends me links that will “show me the truth about” whatever, but for the most part, the far left has been pretty well discredited.

    The wingnut right will eventually become similarly discredited, but I can’t predict when it will happen because “you can some of the people all of the time.” Eventually, a different cohort will rise to the top, though.

  85. John425 says:

    @humanoid.panda: Wowee, Panda gets to talk about his favorite subject. Let me titillate you further…BOHICA.

    And…never had complaints from your momma.

  86. gVOR08 says:

    @bill: FYI, I’m a good liberal and I hate Tweety. Many of us do. (From Chris Matthews’ round head and yellow comb-over.)

  87. DrDaveT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    the problems with Sharpton

    My wife has a litmus test she uses: whichever side Sharpton is on has it wrong*. It’s an awfully reliable test. Of course, Sharpton isn’t a liberal or progressive; he’s a special-interest advocate for black people. The right-wing equivalent would be someone like Grover Norquist, who is for the rich regardless of right and wrong. It’s not (in either case) an ideology; it’s lobbying.

    *The other side(s) might also have it wrong — this is common — but Sharpton is never right.

  88. wr says:

    @DrDaveT: “My wife has a litmus test she uses: whichever side Sharpton is on has it wrong*”

    So you’re saying that Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown deserved to die?

  89. superdestroyer says:

    @wr:

    I think the claim that George Zimmerman profiled, stalked, and then murdered Trayvon martin was wrong when Sharpton made it before the trial and was definitely wrong after the not guilty verdict. I also think the claim that Zimmerman violated the civil rights of Martin was also wrong.

  90. bill says:

    @humanoid.panda: well “thought” reply- are you like “sexual harassment panda”, just not as funny?

    @wr: maybe not, but when you attack someone with a gun….there’s a chance they won’t just “wing” you.

  91. Tyrell says:

    @Pinky: I still wonder why anyone watches him at all.

  92. DrDaveT says:

    @wr:

    So you’re saying that Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown deserved to die?

    I’m trying to figure out how you got from what I said to this… attempted paraphrase… but I can’t do it. Help me out here.

    You do recognize, I hope, that there are thousands of intermediate possibilities between “Trayvon Martin deserved to die” and “Al Sharpton’s stated position on what happened is correct in all important aspects”, right?

    Besides, even if I firmly believed that Zimmerman was acting in self-defense, that wouldn’t be IN ANY WAY equivalent to a belief that “Trayvon Martin deserved to die”. But I suspect you know this.

  93. Billy Minniapolis says:

    @Mikey: Ronan Farrow is the worlds most famous bastard. Him being the bastard child of Mia Farrow is his claim to fame. That’s just pathetic but I can see why most liberals can relate.