Why MSNBC sucks*
by Joseph Hughes, Tue Aug 09, 2005 at 07:08:04 AM EDT
Looking at the ratings, which I reference below, it's obvious that you, Rick, are reaching for something, anything, to help your sagging network. Getting embarrassed by Fox News month after month is taking its toll, not only on your network, but also on your sanity. In fact, imitating Fox News' successful pattern has proven to be, in your case, the definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
There is a way out, however, if only you recognize the opening.
With the addition of "Rita Crosby: Live & Direct" in the 9 p.m. slot - "The Situation with Tucker Carlson"has moved to 11 p.m. thanks to poor ratings - it's clear that in an effort to compete with Fox News, MSNBC wants to become Fox Lite. But why? Fox is already doing what MSNBC wants to do, and they're doing it much better.
Take, for instance, the 7 p.m. offerings. Shepard Smith's "Fox Report" consistently outdraws Chris Matthews' "Hardball," which no one would accuse of having an overtly liberal bent. At 10 p.m., MSNBC's most conservative program, "Scarborough Country," is regularly obliterated by Fox's "On the Record" with Greta van Susteren. Rounding out primetime, "The O'Reilly Factor" (8 p.m.) and "Hannity & Colmes" (9 p.m.) have no problem turning away the competition.
No matter how hot Crosby's show starts, its long-term prospects mirror those of her new network's counterparts. Should this surprise you? Of course not. Again, Fox is the best in the industry at what it does. Why should MSNBC think it has the chance to overtake its competition solely by offering a more low-rent version of its evening lineup?
It doesn't have to be like this, Rick.
Taking a page from Capitalism 101 - a page I'm sure someone like Joe Scarborough could lend you - MSNBC must learn that to catch up to its competition, it mustn't simply parrot the ratings leader. It has to offer a true alternative, something that, for the most part, it hasn't done. It's as though MSNBC (and CNN, too), in the wake of the 2004 elections, took President Bush's victory to mean that they had a mandate to offer right-leaning programming.
Here's a novel idea, Rick: Quit pandering to a radical minority. Quit devoting valuable primetime real estate to Michael Jackson, to missing white girls, to wall-to-wall hurricane coverage. Quit underestimating your audience and pandering to the lowest common denominator. The people that want that want Fox News, they don't want MSNBC. So stop playing to an audience that simply isn't there.
What happened to news? Instead of polluting your primetime lineup with empty gab, why not try doing something the other networks are doing less and less - reporting the real news. Why not talk about the Downing Street Memo and the fact that's just starting to dawn on America: We were led into an unjust war built on a pack of lies. Why not talk about TraitorGate? Why not talk about poverty? Why not talk about health care? Why not talk about the real issues facing Americans, not just those that you think will score the most ratings points. It's clear that that isn't working.
Sure, I recognize that it may sting at first, this grand experiment in what has long been referred to as "the news." So your ratings may suffer at first. So what? It's not like they're faring so well these days, anyway. But I guarantee you this, Rick: Once the revamped MSNBC hits its stride, as more and more people see that there is indeed an alternative, your ratings will start to turn around. What will work for Democrats - being more of what made them them - will also work for a struggling news network.
People are tired of this. People are tired of being fed garbage disguised as primetime news programs. People are tired of empty spin, empty stories and empty-headed personalities. People are tired of being lied to. They want the truth and they are searching for a network to give it to them. MSNBC could be that network, Rick, but only if you decide to stop wallowing in Fox News' filth and get back to the business of fighting for everyday Americans.
* Except for Keith Olbermann
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