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Afternoon Reading List 07.11.13.

Why MSNBC’s ratings suck — MSNBC has been the subject of news rather than just a broadcaster of it lately, due to its sharp decline in ratings in the first half of 2013. National Journal’s Matthew Cooper examines why the network has been grasping for air and ratings and why they keep slipping away. To start with, the second quarter of 2013 was full of breaking news — the Boston Marathon bombings, Cleveland kidnappings and the Oklahoma tornadoes. Known as “The Place for Politics,” MSNBC was struggling to keep up with CNN, known as the place for breaking news, and the network’s ratings dropped 10 percent.. And with Jeff Zucker at the helm, CNN looks like it will continue to draw more viewers. MSNBC’s evening line-up, according to industry insiders, has become too sophisticated for their audience, as well as completely lacking in diversity. On Fox News, Sean Hannity, Greta Van Susteren and Bill O’Reilly are, while all conservative, very different. Some right-wingers are saying the network is falling apart or collapsing, but Cooper suggests it’s just in a vulnerable place at the moment.

Why you should read it: MSNBC’s struggles this summer have been making headlines, and Cooper offers insight into why the network’s ratings have plummeted.

Another fishy list of journalists — A year after the infamous JournoList was shut down (hello Dave Weigel and Ezzy Klein!), a new secret discussion forum made up of political journalists came into being. No, they’re not conspiring to create talking points for their political parties. In fact, they’re completely bipartisan and never discuss politics. The common thread holding them together is their undying and unquenchable love for the band Phish. As TNR’s Marc Tracy reports, the forum began two years ago by Bloomberg TV’s Jake Beckman after he noticed references to the band by political journalist Phishheads on Twitter. Called “Journophish,” its now made up of about two dozen political journalists—and only journalists, no political operators, press secretaries, etc. The group chats about upcoming shows, trades tickets and shares songs and Phish trivia. Some of the list includes National Review’s Robert Costa, Politico’s Jake Sherman (of course), CNN’s Stephanie Gallman, social media folks at MSNBC and The Daily Beast, along with a few others. In addition to his own application to be included in “Journophish” Tracy manages to slip in a “This Town” reference.

Why you should read it: Phishheads are relentless in their efforts to find other Phishheads, and this is quite an entertaining look something that some political journalists probably spend way too much time doing.

Politicians learning from Bill Clinton — In Tuesday’s reading list, we included a story by TNR’s Kevin Mahnken about the decline of the impact of the political sex scandal. The Daily Beast’s Russ Schriefer suggests that the reason for this is Bill Clinton. In a story headlined “Bill Clinton, the Original Sex Scandal Comeback Kid,” Schriefer chronicles the sex scandals that Clinton got tangled up in as governor and, years later, as President of the United States. With the same smooth charm that got him into the sex scandals, he became the first politician to make a clean break. Arguably at his most popular, with his wife on the shortlist for presidential candidates, Clinton is doing just fine. And it’s his experience that Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer draw upon in navigating their own comebacks. Sanford has successfully landed his old House seat, and Weiner and Spitzer are potentially on their way to being elected to New York City offices. Clinton wrote the book, these guys are just reading from it.

Why you should read it: I think I’ve said this before, and even though I’m an intern, I think it bears repeating: Everyone loves a good sex scandal, and Schriefer’s piece brings to light that sex scandals are essentially just nighttime material for John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Thanks, Bill.

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