The recent events in Japan and Libya radically transformed the landscape of American cable news. When breaking news arrived CNN’s ratings surged to the point where they were consistently challenging and beating Fox News. Once the story of Bill Sammon’s agenda setting at FNC came to light, CNN made sure to report the story both on its website and on the air.
Here is Howard Kurtz talking about Sammon on Reliable Sources via Media Matters:
Howard Kurtz said, “Amazing. He privately found it far-fetched, but kept on raising it anyway. This, from Fox’s Washington managing editor. Sammon told me he also criticized George W. Bush in that speech and considered it kind of remarkable that the country was even having a country about Obama’s alleged socialist tendencies. Does he regret raising it? No, because it was a main point of discussion, he says, on all the channels in all the media. But much more so, I would say, on Bill Sammon’s channel.”
Interestingly, when Media Matters broke the story on Sammon, CNN.com put it on their widely read political ticker. This is a story that one would expect MSNBC to jump on, which they did, but CNN has made it a point to get their shots in on Fox News too.
Fox News will never admit this, but they are worried about CNN’s latest revival, and they should be. According to the New York Times, at the height of the Japan and Libya stories CNN was beating Fox News in some areas and trouncing MSNBC across the board, “The disparity has been most noticeable during the last two weekends, when CNN has attracted huge audiences with continuing coverage of the international crises, beating even Fox News, the perennial leader among the news channels.”
It was almost as if CNN’s audience grew overnight. They started averaging in the neighborhood of 1.6 million viewers, and CNN.com had its best ever day on March 11 with 67 million page loads and 60 million videos loaded. CNN averaged 75 million global page views from March 11-March 20. Over at MSNBC, because of their commitment to political commentary, a under resourced news division, and the fact that they don’t work weekends, they slipped to third place.
Things really got testy between CNN and Fox News after a FNC report claimed that Gaddafi used CNN reporters as human shields. CNN strongly rebutted Fox’s report, and didn’t hesitate to highlight the political agenda that is driving the news operation at Fox News. It seems they didn’t want to start a major on air feud with Fox News, but they weren’t going to miss a chance to let everybody know what is really going on at Fox News.
For a few years now, CNN has been the sleeping giant of cable news. They are the network that is capable of beating Fox News, but once they fell into third place they started getting desperate and making some truly boneheaded moves. Even though the Tea Party is fading away, they cozied up to the Tea Party Express. They hired more right wing pundits, and they almost single handedly sent cable news back to the Stone Age with Parker/Spitzer.
Hopefully the lesson that the suits in Atlanta have learned is that America doesn’t want another Fox News, but they do want a news network that they can trust to cover the story when breaking news happens. CNN will never get into high profile feuds will Fox News, but they will quietly take their shots at FNC’s credibility all the while reminding America of why for decades they have been the nation’s most trusted source for breaking news.
There is a big audience of Americans who are not interested in the propagandistic news styling of Fox News. The efforts of Jon Stewart and websites like Media Matters are having an impact. America knows they can’t trust Fox News to deliver the facts, and the biggest beneficiary of this great American awakening could be CNN.
Image: Sobel Says