Media Scumbags
February 4, 2003 4:42 PM   Subscribe

CNN Wins Ratings for Shuttle Coverage Despite the absence of chief anchor Aaron Brown, CNN scored a significant ratings victory over rival Fox News Channel on Saturday when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated Reading that immediately reminds me of what I hate about the news media. One can only imagine how they are salivating over the pending Iraq situation.
posted by a3matrix (17 comments total)
In fact, the network's NASA correspondent, Miles O'Brien, is the regular Saturday morning host and was on the air when the story broke.

Which is why I watched CNN on Saturday morning: their anchor just happened to be their specialist on the subject. That helped their coverage, I think.

It's not like they were breaking away for commercials during the early hours; this is a battle for reputation. And, a3matrix's disgust notwithstanding, it's an interesting hypothesis in the article: that CNN does best on big news stories, but poorly on the day-to-day. This rings true for me based on what I've observed of their coverage: what they do really well, which is saturation coverage of big stories like this, doesn't translate well to lesser or over-hyped stories (e.g. missing interns).
posted by mcwetboy at 4:53 PM on February 4, 2003

When your NASA correspondent has the same name as a Star Trek character, isn't your ratings win guaranteed when covering space issues?
posted by benjh at 5:03 PM on February 4, 2003

The ""lead anchor" for the respective news organizations mean nothing. I don't give a rat's patootie if "live, breaking" news is brought to me by Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Aaron Brown, et a rapidly-developing situation like that, the WHO is much less important than the WHAT, or even the WHERE.
posted by davidmsc at 5:04 PM on February 4, 2003

Someone pointed it out on my blog, and I think they're right - for all the bombast Fox produces (and it can be entertaining), their newsgathering operation pales in comparison to CNNs. Which should show CNN that they should try being CNN and not Fox (Connie Chung = Blech)
posted by owillis at 5:37 PM on February 4, 2003

a3matrix: I'm confused. You hate news media because... they bring you the news? Or do you just hate the ones that do such a good job of providing news that lots of people watch them? If you ran a tv news program, you'd immediately shut it down if something awful happened because actually covering it would be tacky or something?
Any enlightenment will be appreciated.
posted by languagehat at 5:41 PM on February 4, 2003

One can only imagine how they are salivating over the pending Iraq situation.

You don't have to imagine it, it's all there in screaming, shooting GFX: TARGET: SHOWDOWN!! IRAQ! (cue the swooshing sounds!) swooooooooooooooooooosh (cue the understated and serious, yet vaguely Wagneresque music) dum dum du dum dum dum du dum du dum dum dum... Good evening and welcome to Showdown: Target: Iraq V. 2.0.
posted by cell divide at 5:44 PM on February 4, 2003

the WHO is much less important than the WHAT, or even the WHERE

We've come a loooong way from Cronkite, Brinkley, and Chancellor. We've become so used to instant news, haven't we? Just add tragedy.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:47 PM on February 4, 2003

"Despite the absence of chief anchor Aaron Brown..."

More like "Due to the absence of chief anchor Aaron Brown..."

God, I miss Bernie Shaw.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:52 PM on February 4, 2003

It would be interesting to see how advertising rates vary during such crises, and how much the major media stand to profit from the impending war. Has anyone attempted compile such information?

It's no wonder that news coverage is so biased towards military action.
posted by cbrody at 6:10 PM on February 4, 2003

Maybe you can just read the Nation a week later....
posted by Durwood at 6:33 PM on February 4, 2003

Thank you, languagehat.
posted by swerve at 6:49 PM on February 4, 2003

Part of it maybe that CNN had the actual footage of the Shuttle (or what was left of it) in the sky way before (as far as I could tell) Fox News or MSNBC.
posted by internal at 7:27 PM on February 4, 2003

We got the rating bump from the Shuttle (sad though it was) so now, what's next? The CNN graphics art department is abuzz. You just know that editors are meeting for fifteen minutes each day to debate the merits of the various war logos in contention. A stylized map? A stylized high powered weapon target sight? Something that screams "weapons of mass destruction"? Should we make the explicit terrorist-9/11 link? overlaying WTC images with an Iraqi map? Probably not. And copy editors? What's it gonna be? "WAR in IRAQ" or should we personalize it: "Saddam's Last Stand"? And don't forget the music, something somber and yet upbeat, sounds like . . . victory.
posted by donovan at 10:47 PM on February 4, 2003

I share languagehat's bewilderment. It's not like CNN is wallpapering their channel with promos that said "We won the Shuttle Tragedy! Fox didn't! Nyah Nyah Nyah!" What exactly are you objecting to, a3matrix? Every broadcaster is rated at all times, whether there's a big story or not. And, any kind of ranking by definition has to have someone on top, someone as #2, all the way down to last-place. Someone had to have the most viewers.

It's significant because, as mcwetboy pointed out, it's a battle of reputations. Fox and CNN are currently locked into a ratings war (and pissing contest.) And ratings make a very real difference in advertising rates -- increased ratings lead to increased revenues down the road.

One point about a forthcoming Iraq war: it will be VERY expensive to cover, and CNN is by no means assured of "owning the story" as they did so well in 1991. There's much more competition, much better technology, and the story is likely to cover even more ground than it did twelve years ago. It'll also most likely be much more dangerous to cover.

(full disclosure: I work for CNN, but I don't speak for them. (Nor do they speak for me.))
posted by Vidiot at 10:56 PM on February 4, 2003

On preview, what mr_crash_davis said...
posted by Mack Twain at 11:33 PM on February 4, 2003

It was late in the day for me when I read it and I think the initial statement just set me off. To filter the shuttle tragedy down to "who won the ratings" really just got me pissed, so I was a bit reactionary. I think the media have become to predatory, and seem to know no bounds in their efforts to "report" the news to us. A lot of it is just done in poor taste it seems.
I don't hate the media for reporting the news, that was an overstatement made in anger. I think the way they do it lately (last decade at least) just rubs me the wrong way.
posted by a3matrix at 5:22 AM on February 5, 2003

For what it CNN is worth, here is a screenshot from CNN where I think they meant to say 'speed of sound'
speed of light
posted by lsd4all at 11:30 AM on February 5, 2003

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