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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fox News Vs White House

Fox News is the most viewed cable news channel, the ratings and viewership numbers make that an undisputed fact, and the White House has decided to pick a fight with them.

Ruth Marcus over at Wapo's Post Partisan calls this fight "Obama's dumb war with Fox News as she asserts that this war the White House has decided to get into with Fox is "dumb" and makes them "weak", makes them look "childish and petty, at best" and is a "self-defeating trifecta."

Sure, it’s legitimate -- and standard practice -- to dispense access and coveted interviews to favored reporters and news outlets. So is subtly doing the opposite: letting a reporter who’s filed a tough story know that he or she is in the doghouse by leaking a scoop to a competitor. The Bush administration routinely briefed conservative columnists before a big presidential speech; the Obama White House tends to call in ideological sympathizers. This is the way the game is played.

Where the White House has gone way overboard is in its decision to treat Fox as an outright enemy and to go public with the assault. Imagine the outcry if the Bush administration had pulled a similar hissy fit with MSNBC. “Opinion journalism masquerading as news,” White House communications director Anita Dunn declared of Fox. Certainly Fox tends to report its news with a conservative slant -- but has anyone at the White House clicked over to MSNBC recently? Or is the only problem opinion journalism that doesn’t match its opinion? On "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace replayed a quote from an Obama interview: “I don't always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that's part of how democracy is supposed to work. You know, we're not supposed to all be in lock step here.”

Maybe he should tell the rest of the team.

Jake Tapper decided to ask White House press secretary Robert Gibbs about it and reports the question and Gibbs stuttering answers:

Tapper: It’s escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations “not a news organization” and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it’s appropriate for the White House to decide that a news organization is not one –


Gibbs: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.

Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say –

Gibbs: ABC -

Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?

Gibbs: You and I should watch sometime around 9 o’clock tonight. Or 5 o’clock this afternoon.

Tapper: I’m not talking about their opinion programming or issues you have with certain reports. I’m talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a “news organization” -- why is that appropriate for the White House to say?

Gibbs: That’s our opinion.

Veteran reporter, Helen Thomas, also had some input on the White House's foolish mistake of taking on one of the the number one rated news channel out there:

Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas on Monday advised the Obama administration to stand down and avoid fighting with Fox News and its correspondents.

In an interview with MSNBC, the columnist -- who is promoting her new book on presidents and their campaigns -- also stressed the White House ought to "stay out of these fights."

"They can only take you down. You can't kill the messenger," said Thomas, who has covered every president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.

The Obama administration has bitten off way more than it can chew this time and it seems to be backfiring on them with other news organizations.

Huffington Post on Fox's numbers:

Fox News has pulled off another dominant quarter, claiming the top 10 cable news programs in 3Q 2009 and growing against 3Q 2008, while CNN and MSNBC lost substantial portions of their election-boom audience.

Fox News averaged 2.25 million total viewers in prime time for the third quarter, up 2% over the previous year. That's more than CNN (946,000, down 30%) and MSNBC (788,000, down 10%) combined.

"The O'Reilly Factor" led all cable news programs with an average of 3.295 million total viewers for the quarter, up 12% over the previous year. "Hannity" (2.603 million, up 9%), "Glenn Beck" (2.403 million, up 89%), "On the Record with Greta van Susteren" (2.150 million, up 16%), and "Special Report with Bret Baier" (1.997 million, up 20%) rounded out the top five.

Meanwhile, flagship programs at MSNBC and CNN did not sustain their growth from 3Q 2008: At MSNBC, "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" averaged 1.087 million total viewers, down 12% from the previous year and "The Rachel Maddow Show" averaged 996,000 total viewers (Maddow began the program in September 2008, so a comparison for the quarter would be inaccurate; compared to September 2008, though, Maddow's September 2009 total viewer average is down 40%). At CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" averaged 1.005 million viewers, down 17% from the previous year and "Lou Dobbs" averaged 658,000 total viewers, down 24%. Larry King and Campbell Brown were both down just slightly in total viewers.

Don Surber is keeping a tally.

TVNewser provides the scoreboard and facts and figures showing exactly how well Fox is doing compared to the others.

25-54 demographic: (L +SD)

Total day: FNC: 252 | CNN: 138 | MSNBC: 152 | HLN: 116

Prime: FNC: 226 | CNN: 136 | MSNBC: 217 | HLN: 88

5p: 6p: 7p: 8p: 9p: 10p: 11p:
FNC NewsHQ: FNSunday: Report: Huckabee: Hannity: Geraldo: Huckabee:

308 234 239 242 191 245 195
CNN Zakaria: Newsroom: Newsroom: Special: King: Newsroom: Special:

154 128 162 160 88 160 144
MSNBC Special: Special: Special: Special: Special: Special: Special:

146 164 216 243 181 228 216

HLN HLN: Prime: Issues: Grace: Behar: Grace: Showbiz:

50 73 103 73 80 111 171

Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.

Total Viewers: (L +SD)

Total day: FNC: 861 | CNN: 438 | MSNBC: 304 | HLN: 240

Prime: FNC: 943 | CNN: 425 | MSNBC: 434 | HLN: 241

5p: 6p: 7p: 8p: 9p: 10p: 11p:
FNC NewsHQ: FNSunday: Report: Huckabee: Hannity: Geraldo: Huckabee:

965 950 1111 962 962 941 645
CNN Zakaria: Newsroom: Newsroom: Special: King: Newsroom: Special:

466 490 546 424 379 472 331
MSNBC Special: Special: Special: Special: Special: Special: Special:

398 321 433 513 406 383 379

HLN HLN: Prime: Issues: Grace: Behar: Grace: Showbiz:

197 195 255 278 240 205 296

Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.

Jumping into the boxing ring with Fox News was definitely not one of Team Obama's brightest moves to date.