Why MSNBC sucks*

I hope MSNBC president Rick Kaplan is reading this. If he is - if you are - I have something to tell you: Your network is terrible.

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.

MSNBC's evening offerings consistently run third behind Fox News and CNN among the Big 3. When placed in larger relief, MSNBC often falls behind CNN's Headline News. On most days, Fox News' viewership quadruples that of MSNBC, tripling CNN. For some time - looking through the data presented by TVNewser - Fox has been the unquestioned leader.

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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Comments

6 Comments

Rick Is A Corporate Sockpuppet
Great diary BobcatJH. I think you credit Rick and MSNBC with too little awareness of what they are doing and what the implications of the ratings are.

MSNBC does not care about ratings. Air America has conclusively demonstrated that there is a market for center left commentary in the talk radio market. There is no question that a similar market niche is begging to be filled. MSNBC has no more interest in filling the center left market niche than Rupert Murdoch does.

MSNBC is as much a part of the Right Wing Noise Machine as Faux News is. MSNBC would rather have low ratings than put on a show that does not cater to the politics of its network executives.

Another example is CNBC. None of the cable news networks has attempted to fill the obvious center left market niche. It cannot possibly be explained by a failure to understand the ratings opportunity. It is not possible that they are not aware of the pent up demand demonstrated by Air America.

Air America will not be repeated by the cable networks because the political bias of their network executives is a greater imperative than ratings and money. The cable networks are guilty of fiduciary malfeasance by not putting on a center left talking head show. They don't care.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-08-09 11:39AM | 0 recs
Keith Olbermann: The only good thing on MSNBC
My husband and I watch Keith Olbermann every evening.  However, last night the new woman, Rita Crosby, appeared and we had to change the channel.  The woman has the MOST ANNOYING voice and her interview style is very third rate.  Perhaps MSNBC is trying to lose money by  having horrible hosts (Matthews, Carlson, Scarborough, and now Crosby), but MSNBC is losing out. My husband and I are educated consumers and we just are not buying the waste on MSNBC.  It is possible that MSNBC is trying to compete with Faux News by having stories on Michael Jackson, runaway brides, and white girls missing, but we're not watching it.
by Marie Smith 2005-08-09 12:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Keith Olbermann: The only good thing on MSNBC
Yeah Keith!

Olbermann rocks.  Funny, succint, witty and irreverant.  It's like the daily Show, only longer and more newsy.

For real... come on, MSNBC.  Why do you have to suck so bad for like 95% of the day?  I like Olbermann... I confess to liking Matthews, for sheer geek factor.  Obviously Alison Stewart is smokin AND cool, so there's a bonus.

Rita Crosby?  Huh?  Tell you what MSNBC... I'll watch her show one time for each $50 check I get from you.  Outside of that, I'd rather be kicked in the nuts... at least after an hour the pain will be down to 'severe discomfort' level, whereas with Crosby the full hurt will only have begun after an hour.

And another thing... Ron Reagan... cool.  Monica Crowley... hmmm... she's just a waste of Reagan's time!  Get Ron his own show!  He's funny, and got a little attitude if its something he cares about.  Monica just says something stupid and then smirks like its fuckin brilliant.  If I wanted that, I'd volunteer to guard detention for elementary school kids.

I'd love to see MSNBC step up to the plate and give the other 50% of us something to watch.  No more flavor-of-the-day shit.  I cannot count the time I've wanted to watch the news, only to find CNN, FOX, and MSNBC all showingthe same thing (Peter Jennings was only the most recent example).  My wife and I have a running joke.

We flip through all three, only to find them covering stupid-ass-story-of-the-moment... look at each other and start

"Well... its a good thing this is the most imprtant thing happening right now!"

"Yeah!  I wonder when they got that whole Iraq thing wrapped up?  Musta been when iw as in the shower."

"Uh-huh... and the whole health-care/economy/America-going-to-shit thing... glad that's taken care of.  Now all I have to worry about is [insert crap here]!"

"Awwwww yeah!  So glad we live in a world where the most important thing is [insert crap here]!"

Get it?  It's funny because... of course... more than an nth channel covering the same shit with a different voice(but the same video!), we need some actual news and analysis.  Get it?  Ha!

by teknofyl 2005-08-09 02:03PM | 0 recs
merge CNBC, MSNBC
Can someone explain to me why cable systems like COMCAST allow CNBC and MSNBC to be carried on two different channels eating up space? I can see Time Warner pimping for one of their own. There is not enough programming on both channels to fill one channel properly.

They should move Reagan's show to the night time. You know who i like? I don't know their names  - but there are two middle aged guys and one lady who host a day time show on CNN. One of them looks like an educated version of Robin Leach and tells it like it is and doesn't parrot the safe talking points.

Maybe MSNBC needs a show like Penn& Teller's Bullshit. How about some exposes into corporate greed. Make an interesting storyline out of it. Include corporate gossip to make it more palatable.

by Pravin 2005-08-09 01:59PM | 0 recs
MSNBC is part of the RWNM
Tweety and Scarborough and most cable talking heads parrot the RWNM because they are part of it. They get the WH talking points and parrot them just as much as Faux News.

There is very little substantive difference bewteen Tweety and Rush.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-08-09 04:26PM | 0 recs
MSNBC not too hot, not too cold. Just right.
My problem with MSNBC is that it has only a handful of shows, reruns them constantly, and lacks the money and resources to run news 24 hours a day. It's actually more of an 8 hour news network. Networks like Fox and CNN offer constant realtime news, so of course they're going to get a wider viewership tuning in.

But, for commentary I prefer MSNBC over all else for US cable news media. Countdown is great, Connected is ok because it has Ron Reagan, I like Hardball, and I even like Situation for humor -- Rachel Maddow kicks ass, as does Max. The conservatives on MSNBC like Tucker and Scarborough I can tolerate because they are paleo-cons. I even saw Scarborough switch positions on marijuana after an interview with Montel Williams. The one person I absolutely hate is that bitch Monica Crowley -- she is typical bushbot neocon trash.

I still prefer the BBC over all US media though.

by Vote Hillary 2008 2005-08-09 04:41PM | 0 recs

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