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Apparently my recent post, A word on ratings and the "25-54" demo hype struck a nerve with Brian Stelter over at TVNewser who writes "to suggest that I'm motivated by ideology or influence by certain cable news channels is offensive, baseless, and wrong" and asserts "I am not a liberal activist" and "I don't do anything "at the behest of executives at MSNBC."
Well, I'm sorry that Brian is "offended" but the facts speak for themselves.
When he writes "I am not a liberal activist", is Stelter denying that he picketed outside the headquarters of Sinclair Broadcast Group to protest their decision not to air a controversial episode of Nightline? Is he denying that he wrote about his protest and published photos of his activities on his blog?
When he writes "I don't do anything "at the behest of executives at MSNBC", is Stelter denying that he removed a post linking to Olbermann Watch "at the behest" of MSNBC executives who were upset that he linked to a post commenting on email exchange between Keith Olbermann and a producer for Tribune Broadcasting?
When he writes "I do not despise Fox News" does that mean he is disowning the myriad examples of anti-Fox News Channel commentary on his site? One does not need to look hard to find regular attacks against Fox News' most popular host, Bill O'Reilly, approving links to liberal bloggers who attack Fox News and the publication of "reader emails" attacking Fox News.
It is hardly worth debating that Brian is a liberal and that his blog is replete with anti-FNC posts. So how about the reasons he offers for focusing on the 24-54 demo?
By way of rebuttal to the phrase "at the behest of executives at MSNBC" Brian writes "I've talked to MSNBC president Rick Kaplan twice in the last nine months, and we didn't talk about ratings (or Olbermann) on either occasion" and later adds "I started emphasizing demo data at the end of 2005 as I gradually learned that the cable news nets simply do not care about total viewers" and "They (executives at MSNBC, CNBC and CNN) measure success or failure based on the demo, so I do, too"
Let's take a look at these statements.
It is irrelevant how many times he spoke with Rick Kaplan in the last "9 months" because I did not write "at the behest of Rick Kaplan". I have no idea how "9 months" figures into his thinking but he pulled that figure out of thin air. More to the point, there are more executives at MSNBC than just Rick Kaplan including Keith Olbermann who holds a corporate title beyond "news anchor". I know for a fact that Stelter has done things at Keith's "behest" so the statement is true regardless of his interactions with Kaplan. That he spoke to Kaplan twice does not preclude Stelter from doing something at the behest of Kaplan or anyone else at MSNBC but either way I never mentioned Kaplan in the first place. In other words, Kaplan is a "red herring".
At to whether Stelter began to focus on "the demo" at the behest of MSNBC, Stelter admits he has changed how he reported ratings information so at least we agree on that point. He says he "gradually learned" that the cable news nets only care about the demo and then cites "execs like" Jon Klein at CNN and Jeff Zucker and Mark Hoffman at CNBC. In other words, he cites executives from also-ran cable new networks at NBC Universal and Time-Warner.
When Stelter says he "gradually learned" about "the demo" how did he "learn" this and who was his "teacher". I'd say referencing Kaplan, Klein, Zucker and Hoffman otherwise known as "ABF" or "anyone but Fox" only proves my point that Brian has been influenced by executives at the also-ran cable news networks to shift away from reporting the "ratings "race" in a way that favored Fox News Channel. Ironically, the "demo ratings race" STILL favors Fox News Channel but allows TVNewser to portray the ratings race as "competitive". Of course, even this does not explain TVN's post from early May; Fox News won (again) the "demo" but is not even mentioned:
"TUESDAY, MAY 02 - April #'s: Olbermann #2, Grace #3, Zahn #4 At 8pm In The 25-54 Demo."
More to the point, Stelter is ignoring the fact that his change in reporting just happened to coincide with efforts at MSNBC and CNN to discourage straight-up ratings comparisons at instead stress the "demo" in their promotional efforts. Just to be clear, I am not alleging that Stelter is engaged in some active conspiracy with MSNBC. I'd prefer to belief that it simply a matter of a young guy being co-opted by various executives who picked up on his liberal, anti-FNC bias and exploited that in order to use TVNewser has part of a broader campaign to redefine "success" in the cable news ratings race by getting media watchers and TV critics to focus on a demographic where they were not as far behind.
My concern with Brian went along with it and TVNewser is now the primary outlet in the blogosphere advancing this "demo ratings race" which is then picked up on by other liberal bloggers and used to advance the absurd notion that Keith Olbermann has been a "success" at MSNBC.
If nothing else my 2,630 word post (I did not count but I am willing to take Brian's word that he did) was worth it to hear Brian post something TVN readers have never heard before. Stelter closes by noting "Fox News Channel usually wins every hour, every daypart, every day, in every category of viewership."
Well, that's a start!