Could A Dan Senor Senate Run Mean Changes For CNN Prime Time? (Update)

The whispers that former foreign policy adviser during the Bush administration Dan Senor will be running for New York Senate as a Republican are getting louder – and that means preemptive follow-up questions.

Senor’s wife is CNN anchor Campbell Brown, and the New York Post is asking what may happen to her role if Senor decides to jump in the race.

The NYP’s Michael Starr writes about where things currently stand:

Senor is now being talked about in Republican circles as the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination after Daily News owner and real estate mogul Mort Zuckerman took himself out of the running Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Brown has been having her own problems with her nightly show, which airs opposite Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News Channel.

CNN isn’t talking (“We don’t comment on hypothetical situations” they told the Post), but the implication about Brown’s “own problems” relate more broadly to CNN’s lower ratings in prime time. While Brown’s 8pmET show has seen some historic lows recently, the entire prime time line-up, including Larry King and Anderson Cooper, are seeing major declines (and actually Brown’s show is down less year-to-year than the other two). And CNN’s 8pmET hour hasn’t seen strong ratings (when compared to the other cable networks) since long before Brown got there.

But if Senor does run, it could allow CNN the chance to change Brown’s role and try something new in prime time. It wouldn’t be unprecedented – Maria Shriver left NBC when her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger became CA Governor (but not while he ran). And Andrea Mitchell remained a reporter for NBC News while her husband Alan Greenspan was Fed Chairman. Still, Brown is tasked with covering politics an hour each night – and as CNN fights to remain purely objective, it could be viewed as a snag for Brown to continue in her nightly anchor role.

Where would CNN go to find a replacement? If it’s short-term (the span of Senor’s run), it would have to be internal, and there are no immediately obvious fill-in anchors. American Morning anchor John Roberts sometimes fills in, as does Ali Velshi, now anchoring in the afternoon. Or maybe the CBS/CNN partnership could expand further – and a CBS anchor could temporarily step in.

Of course, with the way things are going here in New York, the better likelihood is Senor won’t run anyway.

> UpdateGreta Van Susteren defends Campbell Brown:

All she has to do is from time to time remind the viewers her husband is running for office. Viewers are smart. Viewers can make their own decisions as to what weight to give what Campbell Brown has to say on a particular political issue or story – they just need to be informed that her husband is seeking office. Once it is common knowledge that her husband is running, she can trim back the reminder to the viewers. A conflict is hidden information, not disclosed information. The only ones who think she can’t do the job are the ones who think viewers are stupid or simply don’t like her.

PS – women, believe it or not, don’t take marching orders from spouses (neither do men!) You don’t get to where Campbell Brown is by not having your own thoughts and your own will.

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Firebrand Reps. Bachmann And Grayson Go Mild On King

Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson wonders if Dick Cheney collaborates with Satan and throws around the word “Holocaust” when discussing the other side’s health care plans. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has Super Bowls of Freedom and holds Prayercasts to stop the health care bill.

So when they faced off on Larry King Live last night, why was it so…calm?

“My esteemed colleague from Minnesota is entirely wrong,” said Grayson early in the debate, which was billed in the lower third as a “Health Care Showdown.” But beyond that, it stayed entirely focused on the key points from each side. “Why can’t you come together on this?” asked King, as each member of Congress stuck strong to their talking points.

The one point of contention came when Bachmann asked about why the White House gave a “judgeship to a brother of a member of Congress,” while Pres. Obama was “twisting his arm” about his health care vote. (Politico sheds more light on this.) Grayson called it a “weapon of mass distraction” while Bachmann cut in: “Corruption isn’t a distraction, corruption is an issue, we need to know if he’s corrupt.”

CNN has made it a point to continue as the only non-partisan, hard news cable news network during prime time hours. But it doesn’t mean there can’t be some fireworks when two very partisan (and previously unafraid to go a little off the talking points reservation) guests come on to debate an issue both are certainly passionate about. King kept each in check, and the result was a reasoned, but talking point-filled discussion. Maybe with the health care bill almost reaching a boiling point, this is the tone each side wants to set. But it wasn’t the showdown anyone expected.

Here’s the interview:

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Sex Slaves in the Suburbs & FOX Report

Cable news ratings, February 28, 2010: Check out the highlights, and see the full ratings below:

• Well here were your two gold medal winners in the ratings on the final night of the Olympics: In the A25-54 demographic, it was Sex Slaves in the Suburbs on MSNBC at 8pmET. And in total viewers, FOX Report with Julie Banderas at 7pmET on FNC was #1.

Check out all the ratings below, and leave your own thoughts in the comments:

Fox News CNN MSNBC CNN Headline News
5 pm 114 38 179 76
6 pm 266 81 214 106
7 pm 301 101 298 92
8 pm 157 85 422 143
9 pm 177 72 331 98
10 pm 165 84 343 72
11 pm 101 88 242 105
TOTAL DAY 221 116 218 138
PRIME TIME 166 81 365 104
Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.
Fox News CNN MSNBC CNN Headline News
5 pm 701 268 351 206
6 pm 1363 420 392 238
7 pm 1400 390 568 218
8 pm 905 384 646 379
9 pm 790 457 564 221
10 pm 684 391 556 169
11 pm 430 360 484 267
TOTAL DAY 907 430 422 315
PRIME TIME 793 411 589 256
Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.

CNN Is Top Network For Saturday’s Earthquake/Tsunami Coverage

Cable news ratings, February 27, 2010: Check out the highlights, and see the full ratings below:

• When it came to breaking news last weekend, CNN was the place viewers turned to the most. The network was #1 on cable news in total day and prime time in the A25-54 demographic, and #1 in total viewers for total day (FNC was #1 in total viewers during prime time). The top hour in both categories was 5pmET for CNN.

Check out all the ratings below, and leave your own thoughts in the comments:

Fox News CNN MSNBC CNN Headline News
5 pm 1257 2008 519 100
6 pm 684 1067 281 84
7 pm 546 602 154 100
8 pm 334 370 152 111
9 pm 361 266 177 92
10 pm 229 309 405 96
11 pm 247 295 531 94
TOTAL DAY 485 628 265 116
PRIME TIME 308 315 245 100
Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.
Fox News CNN MSNBC CNN Headline News
5 pm 3571 4891 1405 225
6 pm 2016 2640 634 278
7 pm 1849 1725 369 260
8 pm 1543 1185 371 327
9 pm 1167 853 497 295
10 pm 920 831 874 233
11 pm 733 859 982 230
TOTAL DAY 1567 1668 638 280
PRIME TIME 1210 956 581 285
Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.

Are Photos by Aid Workers an Invasion of Privacy in Haiti?

I recently spent a week in Port au Prince, Haiti, helping in a tent hospital set up at the airport.

michelle.jpgWhen I arrived back in San Francisco, I wrote about my experience in Haiti on my blog and posted pictures I had taken. I also posted photos on my Facebook profile, including images of smiling children who had just been operated on, long lines of patients, and even some "fun" photos, such as a few of me letting off some steam with a brigade of Portuguese firefighters at their camp (see photo at left).

Now, a rumor is circulating among volunteers that we should remove any photos of our time at the hospital from Facebook and other websites, unless we had received permission to take photographs.

On one hand, it seems like a reasonable request. Some of the photographs posted by volunteers seem invasive: There are photos of an anonymous leg being cut into, an un-named mother giving birth, people who are clearly sedated, and bleary-eyed volunteers drinking beer at the UN café. They have attracted attention and criticism at the hospital, and among some of our Facebook friends.

One friend of mine, who put a strange mix of suffering, surgeries, and drunken party photos on Facebook, posted a rant defending her right to post whatever she wanted. Her logic: If CNN can film a woman giving birth, then why is it wrong for her to do the same? She pointed out she is saving lives, and had the cojones to drop everything to help in Haiti in the first place, unlike her critics back home.

This ethical debate is inspired by the ability of anyone to easily create and distribute media such as photos, videos or blog posts. Professional media have long been training their cameras and mikes on the victims of natural disasters, but now anyone can do it, too. Is it more invasive just because some of us don't have a press pass?

Glimpsing Freedom -- And TV Cameras

Recently, a man who was rescued after being trapped for 27 days glimpsed the sky and the CNN cameras at almost the same moment. This isn't surprising. At one point, when I was in Haiti, I was counseling a traumatized mute boy at the hospital when all of a sudden he and I we were swarmed by a U.S. news network camera crew. Their lenses were inches from the boy's face as a doctor I had not met before talked about the boy's needs and his "thousand-yard stare." I remember thinking, "What this boy needs is for you to get the camera out of his face."

haiti2.JPGLater, a reality show doctor showed up and demanded that doctors operate on an 87 year-old woman with a broken pelvis that the TV doctor had "rescued" from her home. A real doctor accused the TV doctor of exploiting a disaster for her own interests.

Perhaps this is why blogs, Facebook posts, and tweets from citizens can sometimes do a better job of putting a human face on the suffering in Haiti, and bring it home to people who may not otherwise pay attention. We've become desensitized to the way traditional media portray events like the recent one in Haiti; it's possible that the authenticity contained in the accounts of non-journalists on the ground have a greater impact on folks back in the States.

Like most of those who have responded so generously to the crisis in Haiti, even the grandstanders probably had good intentions. But they can get in the way of those working to help the victims, and they can make it appear as if all of us on the ground are being insensitive, heedless of privacy, and are pumped up by our own do-goodedness.

Not surprisingly, the day after the reality TV doctor made her dramatic visit, strict media guidelines were put in place at the camp. Reporters needed to be vetted, sign in, and wear "authorized" media badges.

To Remove or Not?

So will I take all my Facebook photos down? Well, they have always only been accessible to my friends -- but I did remove a few photos and stories from my blog. I will not, however, take down all my stories and photos. Even though I am returning to the hospital and don't want to jeopardize my chances to do so, I feel certain that nothing I've posted is an invasion of someone's privacy.

Then again, maybe I am simply desensitized and part of the system myself.

Haiti Return Trip

UPDATE (3/8/10): The above post was written after my first trip to Haiti, and since then I returned for another stint helping at the hospital. When I returned, relief workers weren't allowed to board the plane in Miami until after we signed a declaration regarding photography: We would only take photos with permission, none of them would show someone suffering and only if they were for academic and medical purposes. This February visit was far more formal than my first visit to the tent hospital in January just weeks earlier.

I refrained from taking photos during my first day back at the tent hospital, which was not an easy task as I am someone who loves photography. Interestingly enough, I observed volunteers shooting pix, mainly on their iPhones. Later that night, a doctor showed me a photo of a patient's foot -- a case of Elephantitis -- a condition that causes enlargement of certain extremities.

"This is the stuff you only see in textbooks," the doc commented, making it clearly a legitimate educational photo. He went on to show me more photos, until he landed on one of a woman covered in surgical scrubs holding the hand of a patient in the ICU: "This one's my favorite." He did not realize that was me, under the surgical scrubs. Now the shoe was on the other foot, but in this case of course I did not mind. It showed me in my best condition -- not sedated or suffering. I think some of us forgot that while showing us at our best we may be showing others at their most low points.

As the week went on I began taking photos -- always with permission, and usually only patients who were on the upswing, with the exception of a patient who was on the brink of death who I worked very closely with. It was not for academic or medical reasons. I simply wanted to remember his kind face and his angelic eyes. The few days before that I had posted his story, using a fake name "Jean," on my Facebook page. I was encouraged that his story moved poeple and that friends wanted to send money down to help him. Jean was happy to have his photo taken to remember our time together; he had a grace about him that I am sure I would not have in such a state.

Little did he know I was setting up a fund for him and his family. Even though Jean never said it, he was suffering. He was shot in the spine and was newly quadrapelegic. He was fighting infection and we had nearly lost him earlier that day. He and his family survived the quake, although their home did not. They felt lucky, but then an attempted carjacking left him paraliyzed.

Once back in San Francisco I spoke to one of my friends who had influence in the tent hospital. I made a general statement that there were "too many rules now." She asked me to be specific. I was talking about photography. She had a strong retort letting me know that she did not aprove of the photos I posted on Facebook. She told me all the very obvious privacy rights of patients. If it was not me who had done it, I would be lecturing just the same. But when you are there, and it gets so personal, we tend to bend the rules, making exceptions for ourselves that we would not make for others.

After my piece published on MediaShift, a nurse I worked with wrote to me, wondering out loud if the photos she had posted on Facebook were inappropriate. I thought that they were. She went on to rationalize that she felt it was okay to be sure that the world knows what is happening there. Is it really neccesary for me to see how bloody bed sores can be on someone's naked bottom, or actual blood dripping out of a just-amputated limb?

As someone thoughtfully commented on this site, it boils down to our own personal moral compasses. I would never think it's okay to post such things, but for some reason this woman thinks that by us seeing blood coming out of a patient it will keep Haiti in the news and keep money coming in. Maybe she's right and I just need to watch more of the Surgery Channel to get used to such images? Or maybe, like me, she became personally involved with these patients and wanted to tell their stories back home?

Michelle May is a San Francisco-based relief worker, traveler and school psychologist. Follow her travels on her blog.

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MSNBC And CNN February Ratings: The Good News And Bad News

It’s that time of the year again – ratings.

Here’s a look at CNN and MSNBC, the good and the bad news, while we’ll focus on Fox News (yeah, it’s just good news over there) in a subsequent post.


Good News- MSNBC topped CNN by 75% in total viewers and 138% in the A25-54 demographic in prime time.

Bad News- Morning Joe finished fourth in the demo, behind CNN and HLN.

Good News: Keith Olbermann finished 2nd at 8pmET in both categories. Rachel Maddow finished 2nd at 9pmET in both categories. Chris Matthews at 7pmET finished 2nd in total viewers.

Bad News: All MSNBC programs were down double digits year-to-year in both categories.


Good News- CNN topped MSNBC during day time hours (9am-5pmET) and in total day in total viewers and the demo. MSNBC was fourth or fifth during these hours.

Bad News- CNN finished fifth in prime time in the demo, behind even CNBC, for the first month ever (it happened to be a month that had a lot of Olympics on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC).

Good News- CNN’s The Situation Room finished 2nd for all three hours in the demo.

Bad News- CNN was down big in prime time (54% and 57% in total viewers and the demo), the most of any cable news network.

More Bad News- All of CNN’s prime time shows individually had their worst months ever in total viewers, while in the demo, it was Anderson Cooper’s worst and Larry King and Campbell Brown had their second worst months ever.

Oh, also HLN:

Good News: Robin Meade had her best ratings in history in total viewers and the demo. Joy Behar at 9pmET was the only program that hour to grow year-to-year in total viewers.

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Sea World Captivity Debate Has Animal Rights Activists Running Wild On CNN

The Sea World tragedy that took the life of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau continues to wreak havoc on the typically civil world of zoology. Last night on Larry King Live, Jack Hanna once again assumed his position as spokesman for the marine biologist community and, with the help of former Sea World head trainer Thad Lacinak, debated a second round with Jane Velez-Mitchell and fended off some personal attacks from animal rights activist Ric O’Barry.

The segment on whale rights more closely resembled a rerun of Crossfire than an Animal Planet special. The highlight of the discussion was easily the rapid deterioration of the discussion between O’Barry and Hanna from a reasoned debate to a competition between the two to see which would more effectively be able use personal attacks to brand the other an animal abuser. O’Barry — who was once a trainer himself but left the “spectacle of dominance” because he felt the practice of keeping a whale in captivity was cruel — opened the show with his side of the story, but the tone of the discussion quickly shifted when, in his response, Hanna noted that O’Barry “is one of the few people in the world– the Marine Mammal Protection Act– that had to pay a $60,000 fine for trying to release two dolphins into the wild, one of the few people ever fined by this institution.”

O’Barry didn’t mince words in his response. Rather than address Hanna’s point, he nonchalantly noted called Hanna “a dyed in the wool PR hack for zoos and dolphin abusement parks,” to which Hanna replied: “I’m very proud of it, too.”

Is it good news for the political world (and bad news for cable news ratings) that political talk show debates are being eclipsed in their personal offensiveness by a bunch of biologists?

Watch the video below: