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CNN: The All News Network?

The CNN Center in Atlanta.

The CNN Center in Atlanta. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bloomberg Businessweek ran an article last week by Alex Sherman, ” Has CNN‘s All-News Strategy Become Old News?”.  It seems that the folks at CNN feel that there are times when commercials are not appropriate.

In Sherman’s article, Mark Whitaker, the CNN Worldwide Managing Editor, is quoted saying, “Our bread and butter is in-depth coverage of breaking news…We have faith that will help us with the ratings”.

The article goes on to discuss that CNN establishes high ratings when covering breaking news stories that have major national interest, like disasters, plane crashes and of late, the protests associated with the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

According to the article, networks sell roughly 70% of their available advertising space a year in advance and the rest is sold at a higher rate since advertisers know more people tune in when there is breaking news.

Lyle Scwhartz, a managing director for a media buying firm that is part of the largest advertising company in the United States, says that these ads still need to be placed in available time slots and by the time that happens, the breaking news might be over.

The article also adds that there is a problem between tragedy and commercial advertising.  Many airline industries have an agreement that the networks will not air their commercials while covering things like plane crashes.  Other breaking news is also uninterrupted.

Once the breaking news has subsided, according to Sherman, CNN’s ratings drop them back down to third place.

So this article begs the question:   If advertisers buy these time slots at a higher rate because more viewers tune in during breaking news, but the network reduces and in some cases cease all commercial time during this same period, who benefits from this model?

I just don’t see this as being a sustainable business model for CNN.  After a while, the advertisers are going to get pretty fed up with buying more expensive time slots for nothing.  The comments associated with this article and a related article on Media Bistro, for the most part, have been pretty tough on CNN and it’s programming.  Most people are critical of the bias they see on CNN as well as the notion that they are an all news network.

Since CNN is declining in ratings, and constantly lags behind other networks like Fox News Channel, and MSNBC not just in ratings but in advertising revenue as well, I can only guess that continuing this business model will ultimately lead to the end for CNN.    Whitaker having “faith” that this will keep the network afloat seems like a stretch, at best.

As noted in Sherman’s article, there is so much competition out there as far as tuning in to the news, laptops, phones, tablets, other than its booming online website, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities to say that CNN is in the early stages of the death throes of a dying network.

You can read the Media Bistro post on the subject here.


Can The Press Trump the Rights of The Individual?

The New York Times ran an article on Monday by Jennifer Preston.  It appears lawyers representing 20 media companies, including the New York Times, is asking that the judge on the Zimmerman case, unseal the court files.  The lawyers claim that the documents were sealed incorrectly based on procedure, and that this information should be available to the public.  Specifically, the press.  They are also claiming that Zimmerman’s lawyer did not offer the court evidence proving that sealing the documents was necessary.

Preston writes:

“…the lawyers for the media companies, which included The New York Times Company, argued that the records were improperly sealed because Mr. O’Mara did not submit evidence showing that closing them was necessary to prevent a “serious and imminent” threat to the administration of justice.”

You can read the eight-page motion authored by the lawyers representing the media companies, here.

I’m not a lawyer, let me make that perfectly clear.  But, as an average citizen reading this article, I have to wonder if this motion on behalf of the media companies, was not done on a self-serving basis and that alone.  These same media companies, the ones that didn’t bother to pay attention to the story until nearly 3 weeks after it actually happened, now want front row seats and access to all the preliminary documents?

I may be mistaken, but once the official trial date has been set, and the jury selected, and court proceedings are underway, won’t these same media companies have access to the trial?  Isn’t that part of a fundamental right, a public trial?

In this age of competitive digital journalism, it seems to me that these folks don’t want to miss the boat again.  Social networks, as noted in an earlier post, “Social Networks Bring Tragic Story to National Media“, brought this story out immediately, and it wasn’t until it spread like wild-fire and almost 3 weeks after that, did the national media perk up and realize there was something going on.

Something smells rotten in Denmark, as my Grandmother used to say.  I’m not sure how access to these documents at this point benefits anyone.  I don’t see  it benefiting Zimmerman, the family of Trayvon Martin, or the general public.  I do see the possibility of the media getting hold of documents and sensationalize them, and use them to sell papers, online hits, etc.

To believe that the release of these documents and the nature of them could in no way taint a jury pool;  is to believe that the world is full of lollipops and rainbows.

Maybe I’m a bit cynical, but the coverage of this story has been relentless since the national conglomerates got wind of it.  I’m not justifying that or not, it’s just my observation. If I can turn on my television, or computer every day, and find some aspect of this story freshly pressed, then I believe it is in the realm of possibilities that any potential juror could see the same thing.

I think the media companies involved with this motion are forgetting one little, very simple fact.  There is no “right to know” in this country.  Not legally.  Not in the Constitution, no-where.  There are however, several rights that are on the “books” that speak directly about trial and the courts.  It’s called the Sixth Amendment.

I would suggest that the major media companies involved in this motion, take it on the chin and show up extra early at the start of the trial.  Maybe, you can get a good seat.

Muto is a Mute Point

There has been a lot of buzz about Joe Muto, the self-named “Fox Mole” that began blogging for the website Gawker.

This was the case in a recent article by Mark Trumbull, a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor. It’s seems there is almost no one out there in the digital media world (including myself) that can resist discussing Muto.

Through his blogging for Gawker, Muto made some pretty heavy comments about the journalistic ethics of his employer, right down to using the nasty “B” word, bias.

Basically, Muto decided he was fed up with his employer Fox News and decided to start blogging about it. He also posted some video of outtakes that had never aired, and used his daily interactions as a producer to “expose” the bias of FoxNews, and in some instances, specifically their website. 

Trumbull shared in his article what Muto wrote for Gawker, “…The plan was simple: Get hired, keep my head down and my views to myself, work for a few months, build my resume, then eventually hop to a new job that didn’t make me cringe every morning when I looked in the mirror.” 

Trumbull questions whether or not Muto is a whistle-blower, or a “disloyal self-promoter”. 

In truth, I’m not sure why this is news and I don’t think Muto is a whistle-blower, nor a disloyal self-promoter. Okay, maybe the worst self promoter in the history of people looking for their 15 minutes of fame. 

As a news consumer, I’ve concluded that most of the media powerhouses out there like MSNBC, FoxNews, CNN, and the like, all practice what I would say is some form of political bias. I know plenty of people who watch these programs and can figure out that Fox leans to the conservative right and the others, for the most part, lean left and liberal. This is not a surprise. So I’m afraid Muto’s “revelations” about his employer of 8 years is not exactly breaking news. 

This is also why I think, many people are looking to local news, and other sources, like the wide variety of news aggregators on the web, for their information. Why shouldn’t they? 

Despite the ocean of cognitive dissonance viewers find themselves bobbing around in and the myopic view of what the public considers news, this network, as well as all the others will continue to thrive. Largely, because they successfully pass off what is truly opinion, as factual news. They are all guilty of portraying their “talking heads” as if they were anchors delivering hard news they consider important and relevant to the public. 

If you can differentiate between what is news and what is opinion, you will do just fine.  Mind you, there is nothing wrong with having an honest debate and broadcasting opinions as long as the opinions are represented as such.

This blog for example, is simply my interpretation of the news about the news. When I can, I offer up fact based evidence to support my view and when I can’t, well…it’s just my opinion and you can take it or leave it. This opinion should however, never be motivated by my personal political views or other beliefs. It must be an intelligent discussion of the information presented, and that is why I believe at this point in the game, Muto is a mute point. 

His 15 minutes are more like 5, and I look forward to when the news outlets move on to more relevant and newsworthy subjects.