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.
Brian Stelter does not like to be called a “critic.” He’s a reporter:
if you were “mostly a fan,” you’d know I’m not a critic or ombudsman, I’m a full-time reporter about media.
But as CNN Commentary noted:
If he really insists he is a news correspondent, then he needs to reel back his opinion-casting and critiquing and just stick to reporting the facts.
On today’s program Mr. Stelter got it into his head that Kelly Ripa was being mistreated due to sexism:
BRIAN STELTER: Now, you might just say this is a squabble between a bunch of multimillionaires, but you also might view it this way, as a case of another female television star being mismanaged by mostly male executives…I wonder if you think there’s a gender dynamic at play here. I sure think there is….
STELTER: Now, listen, maybe she was very, very angry, but would she have been covered this way if she were a man? And, frankly, would she have been treated this way by ABC if she were a man?
Once again Brian “I’m not a media critic” Stelter is off criticizing the media, and for good measure opining that he is sure there was a “gender dynamic” to how ABC treated Kelly Ripa.
The manner in which they did it is angering female staffers … They took her out while she was on maternity leave and buried it on a day when there’s serious news.
But in this case it wasn’t ABC. It was a network called CNN. And the gender angle is not just someone’s opinion: Kate Bolduan was away for maternity leave and had just given birth. Very few men find themselves in that situation. Yet we could find nothing from Mr. Stelter in searches of CNN’s website expressing any concern at all over what his bosses did to Kate Boulduan—a situation that’s a stronger case for “sexism” than the one he opined about today.
We don’t know why the Ripa matter got Stelter’s sexism senses tingling, yet Kate didn’t even make a ripple. The Cable Gamer reports, you decide.
I’m still thinking about CNN’s self-congratulatory ad trumpeting a New Day victory (which in CNN-speak means finishing second while Morning Joe came in third). I’m not going to rehash the issues regarding how the ad was publicized; instead, I’ll let the numbers do the talking.
Any student of The Cable Game has to keep an eye on TV by the Numbers, where every weekday they publish detailed ratings of the cable news wars–including the morning shows. Taking all the available numbers for this week and averaging them out, here are the standings for the Big Three channels’ morning shows in the key 25-54 demographic:
- Fox & Friends (FNC): 272,000
- New Day (CNN): 131,000
- Morning Joe (MSNBC): 79,000
Points to ponder:
- CNN does have a lead over MSNBC.
- Fox News’ lead over CNN is almost three times the size of CNN’s lead over MSNBC.
- Fox News easily beats CNN + MSNBC combined.
- Fox News’ lead over CNN + MSNBC combined is larger than CNN’s lead over MSNBC.
Conclusions: While it’s better to be New Day than Morning Joe, the spread between them isn’t that large, especially considering the dominance of Fox & Friends. The fight for second place is a fight for a distant second place, one that shows little promise of advancing any time soon. Any notions that Morning Joe could become the morning show on CBS broadcast are dead–it’s more likely to transition to a little-watched online stream show, if it survives at all. And finally: with the numbers he has, Roger Ailes could run a helluva full-page ad, one that would expose CNN’s advertising ploy as the embarrassment that it was. But he doesn’t have to spend the money. People in The Cable Game are laughing at it already.