There’s a new report out from the folks at Gender Avenger, the site that tracks how many women get invited to panels, cable news shows, and the like. Whatever you think of the validity of this exercise The Cable Gamer thinks it’s a good thing to have straight, impartial statistical data of this sort. But is everything what it seems?
The announcement for the month of May is described as follows:
Who Talks? monitors the highest-rated morning and evening shows on three major television news networks: CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. Any guest who is not the host (or substitute host) and is asked to comment substantively on the 2016 presidential election is counted as an analyst. We count the total number of election analyst of each gender in each show and then compare aggregate numbers and proportional representation. Data is published monthly.
Sounds pretty straightforward. Here are their May stats on the percentages of female pundits:
- New Day: 31%
- Fox & Friends: 22%
- Morning Joe: 24%
- Anderson Cooper: 48%
- The Kelly File: 15%
- Rachel Maddow: 33%
You’ll note CNN shows win in both morning and evening categories. In fact several times Anderson Cooper has been singled out for “hall of fame” status. In one odd case he made the “hall of fame” for a 43% week, even though Rachel Maddow scored 50% (sorry Rachel, no “hall of fame” for you!).
These scorecards get a lot of play from friendly media sites, some of them quite knowledgeable, so The Cable Gamer is mildly surprised that none of them spotted a disconnect in the methodology. The criteria state they monitor the “highest-rated” evening shows on the three cable news nets—so where is Bill O’Reilly? O’Reilly has had the #1 program on cable news for “15 years and counting” (as viewers are reminded every evening). Yet The Factor has never been rated by Gender Avenger.
The Cable Gamer recently asked GA how it is that they skipped over the undisputed “highest-rated” evening cable news program, and got this response:
We too noticed the error in describing all the targeted shows as “highest rated” and have since amended our references to “popular” to encompass all. The reason we picked Megyn Kelley [sic] is that we wanted to follow all the 9 o’clock hour shows in the evening.
Yeah, well, we aren’t sure exactly where “highest-rated” as been amended to “popular.” The Cable Gamer couldn’t find it on the GA website, where “highest-rated” still appears in the criteria. And if the intention is to cover the 9 o’clock shows, why not just say that? Mind you, CNN doesn’t always run Anderson Cooper at 9 o’clock; sometimes they have documentaries and series like The Eighties in that time slot. What effect does that have on the stats?
This seems like a lot of finagling in what would otherwise be a straightforward contest among highest-rated shows. But what if it was as advertised: a contest among the most-watched programs? The results would be mostly as they are, except The O’Reilly Factor would replace The Kelly File. We started too late to capture the first part of May, but other than that we made a count, sticking to the criteria, and got these results for the last three weeks of the month:
- The O’Reilly Factor: 40%
In fact for the week of May 16th O’Reilly scored an impressive 46%—that’s higher than the measly 43% Anderson Cooper scored in his “hall of fame” week. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Mr. O’Reilly has a repertory company of female guests who appear regularly: Katie Pavlich, Eboni Williams, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Lis Wiehl, Martha MacCallum, Monica Crowley, Mary Anne Marsh, Dana Perino, Kirsten Powers, etc.
One would think Gender Avenger would want to throw a little “hall of fame” action O’Reilly’s way, as an encouragement to people who do provide the diversity GA calls for. But the rules have been quietly bent just enough to exclude Bill O’Reilly from contention. Funny that.
OK, so suppose that you are Anderson Cooper. CNN spent millions promoting you, you are the darling of the Manhattan Mafia, and yet because CNN beams to people outside of the Upper East Side and the West Village, your nationwide ratings stink.
So what do you do? If you’re La Anderson, you double down. You say to yourself, “Most likely, I am not going to get renewed when my contract expires, so why don’t I just live it up in the meantime? As the song says,’I am what I am.'” That seems to be the logic behind the announcement that CNN’s New Year’s Eve telecast will feature Cooper plus his good friends Lance Bass and Kathy Griffin.
Bass, of course, is the former boy-bander who recently “outed” himself as a gay man. And for her part, Griffin is as well known for her in-your-face advocacy of gay rights; even her Wikipedia entry lists her as “an American actress, stand-up comedian, media personality, and LGBT rights advocate.” “LGBT,” of course, stands for Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transexual. Moreover, Griffin routinely trashes the Catholic Church, in particular, as part of her act.
Such “comedy” no doubt endears Griffin to Cooper and Bass, and to various producer-types in New York City, but they are hardly appealing to Middle America.
All of which led the snarks at New York Magazine to observe in their Daily Intel column:
Showing that (thank God) they haven’t learned anything since last year, CNN has decided to bring back Kathy Griffin to co-host their New Year’s Eve broadcast from Times Square with Anderson Cooper. How well we remember the last few moments of 2008, during which we heard Griffin scream, on live television, to a heckler: “You know what? I don’t go to your job and knock the dicks out of your mouth!” Anderson, of course, mostly just giggled helplessly next to her for the evening, which we also love. But this year, CNN has also decided to bring on Lance Bass to anchor the telecast from Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. That’s right: Lance Bass, Anderson Cooper, and Kathy Griffin, all together in one big happy New Year’s extravaganza. It’s almost … well … really? … it’s just … there’s too … sigh.
Yes, a La Cage Aux Anderson. It’s just too… fabulous for words. Or for viewers.
Clearly Cooper doesn’t care, and Jon Klein doesn’t seem to mind, either—he seems quite happy to be in fourth place. But where are the Time-Warner shareholders? Surely they care more about green than they do about pink.
AC and Kathy had the highest rated (and most fun) NYE program on cable. So Middle America WAS watching and will watch again.
The “T” in “LGBT” stands for “transgender”.
Reposted from The Cable Game, 18 December 2009
Recognize these people in the screen grab? These serious and/or smiling faces are all seen on the CNN website, right now, which would lead the innocent viewer to assume hat these are the CNN-ers viewers should trust. But there”s a catch: Surveying those pictured, we see that almost all of the seven folks pictured are no longer at CNN.
In her previous post, The Cable Gamer noted that CNN’s self-declared tagline, “the most trusted name in news” might need to be tweaked just a bit in light of CNN’s error—caught by Mediaite—in identifying the location of big cities in California and the spelling of other important California locations.
But now, after a bit of digging, TCG has discovered a much bigger error—maybe all of CNN’s fact-checkers got laid off to pay for Anderson Cooper’s ad campaign, or Jon Klein’s severance package. Let’s take a close look at that picture above: Second from left, that’s Aaron “The Dentist” Brown. He’s long gone. In the middle, Lou Dobbs, once a star at CNN, until he was kicked off the air for speaking his fearless mind. Now, of course, Dobbs has found a happier home at Fox Business Network, which no doubt thanks CNN for the plug. And next to Dobbs is Christiane Amanpour, now at ABC. And over their on the far right, in her overlit and photoshopped glory, is Paula Zahn—who knows what she is doing. That’s four, gone totally. And then, far left, is Wolf Blitzer. OK, he’s still at CNN. That leaves two: Judy Woodruff, third from left, and Larry King, second from right. King seems still to be under contract with CNN—perhaps just to keep him quiet—and maybe Woodruff is, too. But Woodruff and King are certainly gone from CNN in any meaningful way, that is, in a way that a viewer would know.
A close look at the picture. Once again, it’s still on the CNN site as of 7 pm ET. This is not a cache:
Yup, this page is all there, in all its anachronistic glory, until CNN gets around to taking it down. We can note that in the lower left, it says, “copyright 2003…an AOL Time Warner Company” which indicates two things: First, that the picture is seriously out of date, not only in terms of year, but also in terms of corporate ownership, as AOL was long ago spun off. And second, we are reminded that CNN has suffered some pretty serious talent-carnage in the last eight years. Here’s a closer look at those gone-from-the-air faces:
Ah “the pursuit of the truth.” Yup, that’s what CNN does alright, starting with its obsolete website self-touts. And that link in the lower right goes right back CNN’s home page, and then back again. So this is real, a real statement of where CNN thinks it is as of today, Friday—at least until its gone.
Amusingly, CNN relies heavily on the strength of its website as a response to those who point out that the cable channel is third or even fourth in the Nielsens.
Reposted from The Cable Game, 18 March 2011
CNN Commentary reports on the players for CNN’s upcoming Democratic debate:
CNN is repeating its format from its previous GOP debate. Anderson Cooper, who was reportedly the debate moderator, will be joined by a panel of questioners made up of chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN en Espanol political anchor Juan Carlos Lopez. CNN Tonight anchor Don Lemon will also ask questions of the Democratic candidates submitted via Facebook.
CNN is repeating its format, but not the participants. Gone are moderator Jake Tapper and questioner Hugh Hewitt (the latter a concession to Salem broadcasting, the conservative partner who apparently didn’t 100% trust CNN to treat the GOP fairly). As it turned out neither Hewitt nor Dana Bash had much to do in that talkathon. Tapper set the contentious tone that pervaded the three-hour-plus event.
Nobody seems to be questioning the reason for jettisoning most of the team from the GOP debate, but maybe it was more about who they wanted to replace them with. Both Cooper and Don Lemon are openly gay, and not shy about offering “analysis” on issues relevant to that constituency—which just happens to be a key Democratic voting block. Mr. Lopez is an unexpected addition (there wasn’t any fourth questioner with the Repubs). Lopez is particularly attuned to matters involving immigrants—which just happens to be another interest group important to Democrats. But The Cable Gamer is probably overthinking this. This could all be simple coincidence. After all, why not fire the team that delivered CNN its highest ratings in history?
Meanwhile, what could Jake Tapper be thinking? After succeeding wildly with the game plan to provoke fights among the GOP participants and provide CNN producers with a plethora of two-shots, Tapper will find himself watching the sequel from the sidelines. Will Cooper be a provocateur like Jake was, needling and prodding the participants to go at each other? The Cable Gamer has to think if CNN wanted Tapper-type questioning they would get Tapper, not yank him off the stage. Now it’s silver-haired Anderson Cooper’s show, and however it turns out, it won’t be the same without Jake.
The “one-shot” CNN Quiz special aired on a holiday (Presidents’ Day) but its viewership in the news demo (242,000) made it not only CNN’s top-rated program Monday night, but easily in CNN’s top five for that entire week’s Monday-Friday lineup. Anderson Cooper can do this sort of show in his sleep, and it costs a lot less to produce than an hour of news with those boring (and expensive) satellite shots and finicky correspondents.
So it’s no surprise that The Cable Game hears rumblings that CNN execs want more. Bear in mind that there haven’t been many successful hour-long quiz shows, so I expect some thought is being given to a 30-minute format. Maybe bring in a studio audience and have a year’s supply of Rice-a-Roni (“the San Francisco treat”) as a consolation prize–well, I’m not sure even Zucker would go that far. But special “celebrity” editions of the CNN Quiz? You know that’s in the cards.
Whether CNN’s attempt at a game show was a “one-time thing” or a harbinger of things to come depends on what the Nielsen gods report about its premiere episode. Scheduling it opposite the Celebrity Apprentice finale (a showdown with a heavy cable news resonance about it) was probably not the best programming move. But even lukewarm ratings are enough to trounce MSNBC these days, so the odds favor its return. Like most television, it’s an idea that dates back to the medium’s earliest years. It isn’t new to The Cable Game either: Bill O’Reilly used to do a news quiz, though it was just a five minute segment once a week.
The erstwhile “most trusted name in news” will put pretty much anything on the air these days as they “broaden the definition of news.” Documentaries arguably qualify. But documentaries purchased from independent filmmakers, with lax or nonexistent editorial standards and often some very large axes to grind, are problematic. And are we seeing hours devoted to pole dancers, sex workers, and cannabis because they are urgent page-one issues? Or for their appeal to younger viewers? All of this is in addition to shows you’d ordinarily expect to see on The Travel Channel (Parts Unknown) or Discovery (Somebody’s Gotta Do It). There’s even a series with Morgan Spurlock, apparently a reward for his tendentious, unreliable Super Size Me.
Perhaps CNN will air a Real Housewives style “documentary” series following Chris Cuomo around after work. Maybe strand a handful of CNN anchors on an island: I’m a Journalist! Get Me Out of Here! With reruns of other people’s reality shows (Shark Tank, Forensic Files) finding their way onto so-called “news channels,” Canadian newsman Peter Trueman comes to mind. He would end his broadcasts (on the fledgling Global network) with several minutes of commentary, sometimes with only the most remote connection to the news of the day. And then his closing mantra: “That may not be news, but that, too, is reality.” Nowadays that sounds more and more like the programming philosophy at CNN.
Sometimes there’s a certain schizophrenic quality to CNN’s programming. They’ll bend over backwards to avoid traditional news coverage by airing documentaries about sex workers, marijuana, or whatever subject they think will attract viewers. Yet they’ll pre-empt these shows at the drop of a hat to pile on the saturation coverage of a missing plane, today’s snowstorm, or the travails of Bill Cosby.
The latest bit of fluffery ropes six CNN anchors into a game show hosted by Anderson Cooper. There’s no mole to be found here; it’s a quiz format, and one hopes it isn’t all about Bill Cosby’s girlfriends or the interaction of airplanes with black holes. CNN has posted a promo and, to be fair, it doesn’t look as embarrassing as some of the stuff Jeff Zucker has put on CNN’s air. For now it’s a one-shot special, but I think if it became a weekly primetime show that might be overdoing it a bit.
One of the three teams of two shown in the promo is Alisyn Camerota with Jake Tapper. Something Tapper said (with Alisyn on camera) caught our ear:
Unlike the other guys, we actually really like each other.
Why did that phrase sound so familiar? It harkens back to ten years ago:
And then there’s the not-so-subtle dig at the competition, taking advantage of gossip items about rivalries and backstabbing on the sets of the network morning programs: Underneath, in yellow, the ad reads: ‘And our people actually like each other.’
That TV Newser post dates from 2005 and describes an advertising push for a morning show called Fox & Friends. A show Alisyn was closely associated with during her 16 years at Fox News. Coincidence? Or a sly barb at Aly’s old stomping grounds? Chris Cuomo is also in the promo, and it’s a good thing they didn’t give him that line. That might stretch credibility a bit too far. For now, the show will give Anderson Cooper a chance to hone his quizmaster skills; you never know what opportunities may come his way.