The Most Damning Part Of The NYT’s Larry King Takedown

“‘When we pick a brand, what we’re really doing is picking an element of ourselves that reinforces who we are,’ said Tom Dougherty, the president of the branding agency Stealing Share, who says CNN’s brand is in a ‘quagmire.’ ‘Until they decide who they’re for — which is an amazingly difficult thing to do, and includes deciding who they are not for — they will flounder.’”

A quote from the New York Times story on CNN’s declining prime time ratings, especially for Larry King

Brian Stelter of the New York Times takes a devastating look at Larry King, the host of the 9pmET CNN show that is in deep decline; the personality whose contract is up next year with the murky future; the 76-year-old who hosts an “old” program.

But what jumped out the most was a quote from Tom Dougherty that only loosely referred to King personally, and more broadly about CNN as a whole. It essentially asks: Who are you, CNN?

It’s fair to believe that we’re weeks away from getting the first peek at what that is. As Jon Klein and other execs are tasked with replacing Campbell Brown, who was granted release from her contract last week, the decision about what to put at 8pmET will be a good first indicator of who CNN ‘is for’ and who ‘they are not for.’

We laid out the options, but that’s just for 8pmET. If King is really heading toward, at the least, a changed, non-prime time role with CNN, that’s now two hours the network has to transform. Whatever they pick, it has to be a firm pick. As “some employees” told the NYT, “there is a tone-deafness at 9 p.m., evinced last week when an interview with Mick Jagger was shown on a busy primary election night. This week Mr. King covered Lindsay Lohan’s court case one night and the gulf oil spill the next, so viewers do not know what to expect.”

CNN may still be making money, but its brand is at a crossroads.

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CNN’s Kyra Phillips Apologizes For Coolio’s Use Of N-Word In Background Music

It’s rare that a news anchor has to apologize for the inappropriate language of guests—even rarer that they have to do so for their musical choices. CNN anchor Kyra Phillips had to do the latter earlier today after her producers decided to embellish a story about an elderly Pennsylvania woman’s love of fancy cars with 1990s rapper Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage,” which included, predictably, language that was a little offensive for TV.

The music was played in tribute to 103-year-old Gladys Flamer, who still takes her Coupe DeVille for rides out on the town, and has yet to kill anyone with her driving. Phillips turns to the camera and says “Gladys Flamer, this shoutout’s for you!” before a montage of Flamer set to Coolio airs. Moments later, she apologized for airing the clip, telling her audience:

“We aired some music a few minutes ago, and, obviously for those of you that heard it, it was the wrong music that aired. We apologize for that. It was a terrible mistake. And we’re working very hard to make up for it.”

We already know Bill O’Reilly regularly plays ’70s dance classics to cut to break, but primetime “Disco Inferno” and midday “Fantastic Voyage” are worlds apart in terms of what sensitive viewers would deem appropriate. And from her comment, one wonders whether “the wrong music” refers to a lack of judgment on someone’s part or whether the music was actually not what was slated to play. Did someone play an embarrassing prank on the CNN Newsroom by replacing, say, the “Golden Girls” theme song with Coolio? The video of the Gladys Flamer feature (warning: contains offensive Coolio music) and Phillips’ apology below:




[h/t TV Newser, Redding News Review]

Construction Worker Rick Sanchez Explains BP’s ‘Top Kill’ Oil Well Plugging Attempt

Rick Sanchez understands BP’s so-called “top kill” attempt to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, and he’s ready to share his discovery with the world, clad in an outfit that would make David Hodo proud. Too bad his production team doesn’t seem to agree.

In a video posted on Twitter moments ago, Sanchez uses a large black tube, a highlighter, and a straw to explain what BP is planning to do to the oil well– stick a tube over it and stuff it with mud from the sides. Yes, there is audible snickering. The explanation worked well enough for one of the laughing staffers to bet him dinner, then $5, then ten sodas that Top Kill won’t work, before someone in the background asks, “Is it lost on anyone how singularly unqualified Sanchez is to describe this?”

For the record, not everyone agrees: MSNBC’s Luke Russert thinks Sanchez does a better job explaining “than anybody I’ve seen so far.” Luckily for Russert (and, frankly, for us), the best thing about this clip is that Rick Sanchez promises “we’re going to do this on TV at some point.” We can’t wait!

Sanchez’s science lesson below:

James Carville Blasts Obama Again On BP Oil Spill (Is He Auditioning For CNN 8pm?)

Not to be a cynic, but it’s starting to feel like James Carville is attempting to restart his pundit career (or perhaps has an eye on the 8 o’clock CNN spot) on the back of the BP Oil Spill catastrophe.

Carville, who has been making the media rounds this week, was back on the air this morning talking to former Clinton campaign co-worker George Stephanopoulos about the lack of action and accountability on both the part of BP Oil and the administration. Actually he was less talking than railing.

Eleven hard working people blown up as a result of corporate malfeasance, maybe criminal negligence of inept bureaucrats…maybe blame the previous administration for this and the president doesn’t get down here in the middle of this! His approval ratings would be up seven points right now if he’d come down here.

Emphasis mine, because that’s the sort of talk that actually motivates politicians. Carville’s practical advice continues: “Very seldom do you get really good politics and really the right thing to do.” Also: “[Obama] can’t exactly be filling the hole himself, but he can be commandeering tankers!” There’s more. Carville gets quite steamed up over the course of the segment. So much so, it makes me wonder if there is a show to be had for CNN wherein Carville and his wife Mary Matalin give the president dueling strategy advice. You can get a sense of what I am talking about below.

Rachel Maddow Kicks Off Geek Week With Top Non-FNC Cable News Show

Cable news ratings, May 24, 2010: Check out the highlights, and see the full ratings below:

Rachel Maddow kicked off her “Geek Week” on MSNBC at 9pmET Monday, and her program was the top-rated cable news show (not on Fox News) in both the A25-54 demographic and total viewers. It was the only non-FNC show to have more than 1,000,000 total viewers.

Bill O’Reilly’s clash with Rep. Anthony Weiner gave the FNC host the best ratings on cable news…but no surprise there. He had more than 100,000 demo viewers than 2nd place Glenn Beck.

• The top CNN show in the demo Monday was Wolf Blitzer’s 5pmET Situation Room.

TV NEWS RATINGS: 25-54 DEMOGRAPHIC (L +SD)
Fox News CNN MSNBC CNN Headline News
5 pm

Beck

649

Blitzer

220

Matthews

107

Showbiz

87

6 pm

Baier

440

Blitzer

192

Ed Show

146

Prime

101

7 pm

Shep

463

King, USA

133

Matthews

160

Issues

121

8 pm

O’Reilly

763

Brown

185

Olbermann

248

Grace

201

9 pm

Hannity

613

King

175

Maddow

287

Behar

115

10 pm

Greta

570

Cooper

193

Olbermann

236

Grace

126

11 pm

O’Reilly

373

Cooper

133

Maddow

196

Showbiz

93

TOTAL DAY 331 141 123 111
PRIME TIME 649 184 257 146
Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.
TV NEWS RATINGS: TOTAL VIEWERS (L +SD)
Fox News CNN MSNBC CNN Headline News
5 pm

Beck

2096

Blitzer

677

Matthews

561

Showbiz

171

6 pm

Baier

1933

Blitzer

598

Ed Show

616

Prime

234

7 pm

Shep

1807

King, USA

428

Matthews

619

Issues

380

8 pm

O’Reilly

2821

Brown

500

Olbermann

951

Grace

521

9 pm

Hannity

2293

King

716

Maddow

1095

Behar

462

10 pm

Greta

2073

Cooper

605

Olbermann

690

Grace

336

11 pm

O’Reilly

1489

Cooper

378

Maddow

490

Showbiz

302

TOTAL DAY 1180 408 423 261
PRIME TIME 2396 607 912 431
Data by Nielsen Media Research. Live and same day (DVR) data.

James Carville: Obama Has ‘Been Misled By Advisers… Somebody’s Head Has To Roll”

As a native Louisianan, James Carville has been affected more than most TV pundits by the seemingly interminable Gulf of Mexico oil leak, and he has been appearing regularly on CNN pleading with President Barack Obama to become more involved in the efforts to stop it. Tonight on Larry King Live, Carville didn’t seem as upset with the Obama administration as before, but, rather, concerned for the President, who he says has been misled and, having the power to make a signficant difference, has not done so.

Asked how the story would end, Carville had two words for Larry King: “grand jury.” He admitted that he didn’t see an end to offshore drilling anytime soon– “I’m all for alternative energy, but we’re not going to do that overnight”– but that it was unsustainable giving the lack of oversight under which oil companies currently operate.

As for this specific disaster, rather than the issue of offshore drilling as a whole, Carville argued that “the American people need to see people in shackles go to jail” because of the intensity of the damage. As for his previous comments that the Obama administration seemed “inconvenienced” by the oil spill, he appears to have softened his stance, noting that the oil spill could be something incredibly positive for the President if he only did something about it, starting with firing some of the people who have directed him as of now:

“This could be a great success for the President… he can take charge of this. He can hold people’s feet to the fire. He can marshall resources. He can heal people’s feelings. He can explain to the nation what when on. He can do that. But he’s been misled by advisers. He needs to fire some people… When you have a screw-up of this magnitude, somebody’s head has to roll.”

Carville’s talk with Larry King below:

Axelrod and Sestak Grilled About Alleged Job Offer On… John King, USA?

If White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod and Congressman Joe Sestak were expecting a hard time from the press about Sestak’s claim that the White House offered him a job to dissuade him from running against Sen. Arlen Specter, they may not have been expecting it on John King, USA. But host John King refused to let either of them off the hook without an answer, asking both to clarify the issue in the interest of public trust. What he got in return was five minutes of non-answers and awkward question evasion.

“If nothing inappropriate happened, then what appropriate happened?” King asked Axelrod, to which the latter replied that the allegations had been looked into and nothing inappropriate happened. Sensing that he was not going to get anything substantive out of the White House adviser, King upped the ante and reminded Axelrod of a campaign promise that has seemed to come up with increasing frequency in the past year:

“Candidate Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration in history. If these conversations did happen, it marches up into the gray area, perhaps into the red area of a felony. It is a felony to induce somebody by offering them a job. Why won’t the White House just say either Congressman Sestak is lying, or somebody has some conversation with him about a job?”

Axelrod responded to the claim that either the Congressman was wrong or the White House was by saying he believed Rep. Sestak would agree with what he had to say. While he didn’t quite get an answer he wanted, King still added that “I’m not trying to be a jerk, here,” at the end of the interview. If he felt a little shy at the end of the Axelrod interview, however, he brought none of that to his short talk with Rep. Sestak, asking the same questions and receiving even more veiled answers like “I’ve said all I’m going to say on the matter” and “we should be talking about how people are being slammed in this economy.”

The sum of the interviews was not exactly a Crossfire-style shout-fest, but on a program that can be a safe haven for middle-aged political married couples to sit around on couches, it was something of an anomaly, and one gets the sense from both Sestak and Axelrod that they were not expecting the type of journalistic bite they got out of King.

Both interviews below: