Media Matters: The End Is Near For Glenn Beck (The 5AM Rerun)

Media Matters celebrated Tax Day yesterday by penning an optimistic take on Glenn Beck’s seemingly unstoppable ratings success: the glory days are over. In an analysis aided by Daily Kos, Eric Boehlert asks readers, “Did Glenn Beck Just Post a New Ratings Low for 2010?” Well, if you include weekend rerun data and holidays in the study, then yes.

Boehlert argues that Beck’s program has been falling in the ratings all throughout early spring, hitting a non-vacation ratings low for the year on April 9th but on track for the month to be one of the worst in Glenn Beck history. Here’s Boehlert’s data (x-axis is dates; y-axis is total viewers):

Boehlert is fair enough to point out both an artificial peak (the day after the health care bill passing, March 22) and an artificial low (March 31st, during which Beck was on Easter break). What Boehlert doesn’t highlight is that his chart also includes weekends (Glenn Beck repeats at 3 PM Saturdays and 5 AM Sundays). Since April is only halfway done, adding in the extra four days of weekend ratings along with the March vacation dates makes the situation look significantly more dire for the program than it is.

The Daily Kos chart he uses to back up his claims, which shows a rapid decline in mid-March, is also misleading. While it attempts to be fair by giving Beck a pass on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, it does not acknowledge Beck’s Easter vacation. This artificially inflates the ratings in October and December without doing the same in late March.

And as for the day Boehlert is highlighting as the day Beckmania died, abnormal ratings usually mean some sort of disturbance in the news cycle. Let’s see what was happening on April 9th… Gay Jim Carrey, Alan Grayson terrorizing some Republicans… and Sarah Palin giving a wildly popular speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. We’ve already noted how pretaped Palin has an adverse effect on Beck’s ratings– and ratings in general– before, but Pom-Pom Palin (Dave Weigel’s term, not mine) is such a massive draw that she can take the air out of any show and siphon it over to her event. The episode of Beck competing against her for attention was also a special in-studio audience edition on young conservatives, which, combined with a busy news day, could easily deflate the program.

What Boehlert’s carefully-selected statistics don’t show is that Beck is on his way to his best summer ever, even if he suffered a bit of a dip thanks to greater conservative influences and his own temporary departure from the show. Coming off SRLC, Beck’s ratings this week during new, non-rerun programs are back up past the 2 million viewer mark. In fact, his March average was above the 2 million mark, also, 18% higher than March 2009 according to the Nielsen ratings (his ratings in the 18-35 demographic are up 23% this year, as well)– and, no, that doesn’t include the Sunday 5 AM repeat, unfortunately. And with Beck now taking aim at foreign policy (and foreign political journalists?), it’s probably a little early to claim that his ascent into media superstardom is starting to wind down.

WikiLeaks Soldiers Write Open Letter to Victims’ Families

Two former soldiers who were in the Army unit shown in the now infamous WikiLeaks “Collateral Murder” video have written an open-letter to the families of those hurt and killed in the 2007 incident. The letter, which they say is one of “Reconciliation and Responsibility,” not only apologizes for the events in the video but also claims that there were many more like them in Iraq. It is important to note that neither soldier was in the Apache helicopter shown in the video although one, they claim, can be seen taking an injured child out of the van that was shot. The full letter is below.

From Current and Former Members of the U.S. Military

Peace be with you.

To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the “Collateral Murder” Wikileaks video:

We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.

We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.

There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize what have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.

We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and carried out in the name of “god and country”. The soldier in video said that your husband shouldn’t have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the value of our nation’s leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won’t lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation’s importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.

With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.

Solemnly and Sincerely,
Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army”

At a time when the American people were more interested in the problems on the home front, the WikiLeaks video brought attention screaming back to the ongoing military conflict in Iraq. The reactions were heavily polarized, with many condemning the Army as having committed a war crime in both the initial incident and a possible cover up, while many others claimed the event was just an example of the terrible accidents that are unavoidable in war. Others still (including people as diverse as our own Colby Hall and Stephen Colbert) acknowledged the atrocities while criticizing the perceived manipulation on the part of WikiLeaks in their presentation of the video. This letter will assuredly prove equally divisive. On one hand, it is an account from someone who was actually there who puts blame on themselves as well as the Army and US government. On the other hand, cynics will be quick to question the motivations of the two authors (a press release accompanying the letter makes a point of mentioning the two soldiers are “available for interviews”).

It is clear that the events of 2007 will not be vanishing from the public’s consciousness any time soon.

Sarah Palin’s Facebook Page Fears For the State Of American Exceptionalism

Sarah Palin is back on her Facebook page (arguably the most newsworthy Facebook page of all time), this time calling out Barack Obama for reminding 47 foreign leaders that America could still turn their nations into a pile of ash 30 times over. This behavior is not hawkish enough, she argues, and threatens the health of “American exceptionalism.” 6,754 people like this post!

How Palin’s Facebook became the most influential policy blog in America remains a mystery, but it keeps throwing grenades into the national public discourse at a record pace. While her indictment of Obama’s “whether we like it or not comment” is not exactly new, she has now rejuvenated the issue and made it prominent to an entirely new set of actors. The comments on this post alone proves she is one of– if the not– most powerful blogger in America.

So why is the most powerful blogger in America willingly tethered to a frivolous social media site? Perhaps she’s trying to avoid being branded a member of that “media elite” that she loves to hate so much, though someone whose only employ is to make television appearances and write posts on national policy sure sounds like a member of the media to me.

Read her full analysis of the Obama administration’s diplomatic philosophy below:

Asked this week about his faltering efforts to advance the Middle East peace process, President Obama did something remarkable. In front of some 47 foreign leaders and hundreds of reporters from all over the world, President Obama said that “whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower.”

Whether we like it or not? Most Americans do like it. America’s military may be one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever seen, liberating countless millions from tyranny, slavery, and oppression over the last 234 years. As a dominant superpower, the United States has won wars hot and cold; our military has advanced the cause of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and kept authoritarian powers like Russian and China in check.

It is in America’s and the world’s interests for our country to remain a dominant military superpower, but under our great country’s new leadership that dominance seems to be slipping away. President Obama has ended production of the F-22, the most advanced fighter jet this country has ever built. He’s gutted our missile defense program by eliminating shield resources in strategic places including Alaska. And he’s ended the program to build a new generation of nuclear weapons that would have ensured the reliability of our nuclear deterrent well into the future. All this is in the context of the country’s unsustainable debt that could further limit defense spending. As one defense expert recently explained:

The president is looking to eliminate the last vestiges of the Reagan-era buildup. Once the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “ended” (not “won”), the arms control treaties signed, and defense budgets held at historic lows while social entitlements and debt service rise to near-European levels, the era of American superpower will have passed.

The truth is this: by his actions we see a president who seems to be much more comfortable with an American military that isn’t quite so dominant and who feels the need to apologize for America when he travels overseas. Could it be a lack of faith in American exceptionalism? The fact is that America and our allies are safer when we are a dominant military superpower – whether President Obama likes it or not.

Bill O’Reilly Really Hates NBC…But Does He Love Comcast?

It’s not exactly breaking news to say that Bill O’Reilly doesn’t like NBC. He’s made quite a few allegations about their news programs in the past and has caused them so much grief that a General Electric chief executive joked that O’Reilly might have made them sell NBCU. So, when O’Reilly started in on another anti-NBC rant last night, viewers could have settled in for just another bit of the same ol’, same ol’. However, the folks at the Atlantic Wire noticed that things got a little weird when O’Reilly paused his monologue to give a plug for NBC’s new owners Comcast, whom he called an “honest corporation” that could turn the company around. Video of the strange comment is below.

As the Atlantic Wire pointed out, few people have such nice things to say about Comcast. In fact, it had the country’s worst customer service rating in both 2004 and 2007. So why would O’Reilly go out of his way to compliment them? We looked into finding a connection between the anchor and the cable company (if only we could just check the common friends on their Facebook pages!) and may have found the origins of O’Reilly’s Comcast camaraderie.

In 2008, Barry Nolan, an anchorman for the Comcast owned CN8 tried to start a protest of O’Reilly after the New England chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which he was a member of, decided to present its Governor’s Award to the Fox News anchor. Nolan began handing out leaflets with inflammatory quotes from O’Reilly at the event in an attempt to drum up anti-Factor sentiment. Comcast then promptly fired Nolan, a move which must have earned some amount of respect and gratitude from O’Reilly.

Was that what caused O’Reilly to make to make his comments last night or is there a much more sinister connection. Personally, we hope for the latter because sinister connections always make more interesting posts. In any case, with O’Reilly’s endorsement and the three-way WiFi deal yesterday, perhaps public opinion about the cable giant is going to swing upwards. Maybe they can even hope for second worst customer service rating in 2010!

Rachel Maddow Exposes Corporate Funding Of Tea Party Protests

The Tea Party Tax Day protests yesterday got wall-to-wall coverage yesterday on the different news channels, from Fox News’ heroic depiction over to MSNBC where Rachel Maddow seemed even smirkier that usual. Maddow looked into the major corporations like Exxon and Phillip Morris that have ties to the Tea Party and yesterday’s protests in a segment called “Caught Red Handed” (we see what you did there, Ms. Maddow).

While big businesses funneling their money into different political groups either conservative, progressive, or the Whig Party is nothing new, the story gets interesting when it deals with Koch Industries who sent an e-mail to Talking Points Memo claiming they had nothing to do with the Tea Party. The weird thing is, no one had said they did. To quote a stuffy old playwright, it seems Koch doth protest too much. Video below.

How weird is that? If Koch wants to fund the Tea Partiers, that’s one thing, but what’s with the random e-mail? Didn’t they know that anyone who read it would instantly start investigating their claim? And as Maddow shows, it’s just a quick Google search to prove they’re lying. Just read what they wrote, it’s about as suspicious as you can get.

“Koch companies value free speech and believe it is good to have more Americans engaged in key policy issues. That said, Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. In addition, no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties. Thanks for your consideration.”

We certainly hope that whoever wrote that e-mail never commits a crime any time soon because they are terrible at covering it up. We can see it now: they would randomly wander into a police station saying, “Guys, just so you know, I totes didn’t kill a prostitute last night.”

You can read the full story of the e-mail over at TPM.

Is Wired The Biggest Loser In The Apple Vs Adobe Battle?

Just a few months ago, the video demonstration of Wired magazine’s vision of a tablet-based iteration of their magazine made a lot of waves. In fact, one of the most talked about moments at SXSW last month was a presentation made by Wired’s Scott Dadich and Adobe’s Jeremy Clark. But in light of the recent battles between Apple and Adobe over Flash and the iPad platform, did Wired make a strategic error in putting so much into their Adobe partnership? Yes, it appears so.

Much has been made of the recent battles between Apple and Adobe, but to recap:

Apple recently announced restrictive new guidelines for the software platform that will run on their iPad. Most notably, the new tablet-based computing device does not allow Adobe’s Flash, claiming that it drains a devices battery life, slows down mobile access, and most importantly, is far too buggy a plug-in which causes Apple computers to crash far too often. Adobe responded by creating a work-around, which Apple has since forbade, essentially putting Adobe out in the cold from what seems to be a potentially lucrative new media platform.

How does this relate back to Wired? Well, the SF-based magazine was aggressive in pursuing a tablet based version of their title by partnering with Bay Area neighbor Adobe, which at the time, seemed to be a wise decision. In fact, we’ve lauded the efforts of both Editor-in-chief Chris Anderson and Dadich as providing a vision in an industry that has been sorely lacking one.

However, now it appears that the Wired’s eggs are placed in the Adobe basket, a basket that will likely work on many other tablet devices, just not the one that is breaking sales records and defining the next wave of media consumption. Its too early to call it a blunder, but it does call to question the strategic leadership at Wired, a magazine that is perfectly suited to both report on, and exist on, the new device.

In a piece entitled Apple’s New Guidelines Won’t Stop Wired Magazine for Ad Age, Nat Ives reports:

Condé Nast ’s Wired magazine app will indeed work on the iPad despite the restrictive new guidelines Apple issued this month, Condé Nast said this evening. That’s depending on Apple’s actual approval, of course, but Conde is at least confident it can meet the new guidelines that had worried many observers.

Wired has been working with Adobe, which provides many magazines’ publishing software, to develop interactive editions to run on tablet computers including the iPad. Its goal was to integrate publishing the print edition with publishing the tablet edition as closely as possible, minimizing the need for additional steps or systems to produce a tablet edition.

Without any specifics provided, and in the context of this bleeding-edge era of tablets, software, and vaporware we now find ourselves, its hard to put any real stock in a comment claiming that they expect Wired to work on the iPad, depending on Apple’s actual approval. When reached for comment about how the battle between Apple and Adobe would effect Condé Nast titles (especially Wired) a spokesperson at Conde Nast declined comment.

Sources close to the situation claim that the research and development phase for Condé’s tablet version has two product tracks, one using technology developed in-house by Condé Nast Digital specifically for iPhones and iPads, and the other using technology developed with Adobe for multiple devices and operating systems. This is a smart approach, especially given the heightened rhetoric between Apple and Adobe.

It’s theoretically possible that Apple will approve their next app — Condé is not asking for special treatment, they’ve just said that they’ll work within Apple’s restrictions. But right now, it’s honestly hard to imagine an Adobe-powered version of Wired (or any title for that matter) showing up on an iPad anytime soon.

Of course, none of this means that Condé Nast wasn’t smart to partner with Adobe, its just that no one, not even Wired, predicted Apple’s incredibly restrictive guidelines coming. It also means that their Adobe partnership does not really mean much of anything at this point, essentially putting at least this development track back to square one.

Wired rocks audience at SXSW with iPad demo from Mangrove on Vimeo.

Following is the original demo of the Wired tablet version released in February.