When the man whose job is to study the press cannot see influences on the press it is time to retire.
Brian Stelter is the self-anointed media arbiter over at CNN. His stated task is to watch and critique the news and media industry. That is not to suggest that he actually does this job, but that it is his job description. Mostly he seems tasked with complaining about Fox News, and certain on-air personalities specifically. He is also very adept at making excuses and deflecting any time his industry is caught in blatant professional or ethical screwups.
Since this Sunday when tRobert Mueller’s nearly two year long investigation came to a close — and was shown to contain little content — the media has been in a core meltdown. Across the networks those who have been blasting the collusion clarion are now flailing to explain themselves, to justify their actions, and to insist they have done magnificent work on this story — which they got wrong.
As an example of how much they have built into this story and manipulated their own audiences since the 2016 election, the ratings for the main players this week, as Brandon Morse detailed earlier, already took a sharp nosedive. As the Associated Press euphemistically described, the “audience has dipped”. Since the report that blew apart the collective news media narrative arrived viewers have fled the carnival barkers in rather heavy amounts.
The AP only talked of Rachel Maddow experiencing a 19% “dip” over her yearly average. That shields the reality a bit, since that translates to half a million viewers fleeing her show from the previous week’s Monday-Tuesday slot. Morning Joe, which has been working the collusion angle as hard as they did promoting Trump before the 2016 primaries, has dropped 12% of its audience this week. CNN’s ratings have been averaging just 600,000 viewers throughout the day, compared to Fox News averaging over 2 million.
When faced with these numbers however Brian Stelter looked them over, analyzed the metrics, applied his industry acumen and empirical knowledge, and he then delivered his assessment — it was a shrug. In his Reliable Sources newsletter Stelter delivered his hot take on these ratings. “The president seems keenly aware of cable news ratings trends,” the media maven began. “On the phone with Hannity, he said “I noticed” that his friend’s ratings were way up while his rivals have “dropped.”
Faced with two of his most-despised media figures you cannot be too surprised Stelter would try to massage the messaging. But to this level? One can only laugh. Heartily.
It’s true that Fox’s prime time ratings have popped this week while CNN and MSNBC’s ratings have been below average. That makes sense: On the right, the Barr letter is being celebrated like a sequel to election night. Since the letter’s release on Sunday, there hasn’t been much news. So I’m not surprised by the ebb and flow, but I’m keeping an eye on it…
He said that. He says there has not been much news since this Sunday. The media expert has not been able to find anything notable taking place.
Brian, the story that has occupied the press for 2.5 years landed — your network should have weeks of material in the hopper on that subject alone. Hell, the week before I saw CNN convening panels and providing blanket coverage for hours all concerning the possible arrival of the Mueller Report.
But let’s call Stelter’s desire to pretend that report did not happen. There were a few other things taking place! The Jussie Smollett story has been a daily headline generator. Michael Avenatti was arrested in multiple districts. The Senate voted on the globe-saving Green New Deal. Apple unveiled its new streaming service. THINGS HAVE BEEN HAPPENING, TATER!!!
Of course, it goes without saying but I’m saying it anyway — if there has not been much news how does he square that Fox news shows were all trending well above their annual averages, with some drawing over 30% more viewers since the report arrived?
He does not explain this. And we all know why.
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