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Archives: December 2005

The Ticker: Year-End Edition

>’s Alex Johnson sums up the media year: “Jiggling their legs nervously, media barons watched newspaper readership figures and TV news ratings continue to fall in 2005. They wondered what was wrong. Well, let’s see…

> “Few televised events can make people drop what they’re doing like car chases,” the New York Post’s Don Kaplan writes in his list of The Post’s Wildest Televised Car Chases of 2005…

> The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a request to hurricane correspondents: “In 2006, make it a point to stop measuring the wind’s mph with your faces. Please?”

> Jeff McCall in the Indianapolis Star: “Many observers believe ABC paired Woodruff, 44, and Vargas, 43, to attract younger viewers to the news. Note to network execs: Anchors in their 40s are still considered old to the young audience.”

Controversial Conservative Bill Bennett Becoming CNN Political Analyst In ’06

bennettdec30.jpgFirst on TVNewser: Controversial conservative talk show host Bill Bennett will become a CNN political analyst early in 2006, TVNewser has learned.

This month’s departure of Bob Novak left the network without a high-profile conservative commentator. But Bennett, a former Education Secretary and drug czar, seems to be a strange choice to add a little red to the channel. Of all the conservatives CNN could sign, why Bennett? In September, he came under fire from all sides of the political sphere for his assertion that aborting “every black baby in this country” would reduce the crime rate. Many members of Congress asked Bennett to apologize. The White House condemned his remarks. (Bennett said his comments were mischaracterized.)

Bennett was a Fox News contributor, but his contract has expired. A CNN spokesperson couldn’t confirm the signing.

In addition to the “political analyst” role, Bennett is expected to appear on a culture show the network may launch next year. Could CNN be interested in simulcasting part of his Salem radio show, too?

2005: Broadcasters Air Heartbreaking, Chilling Images From The Gulf Coast


Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath was the biggest news story of 2005, and some see it as a defining moment for television. Here’s why:

> Sept. 16: Media coverage of Katrina “brought the country together”

> Sept. 15: NBC and CNN open bureaus in New Orleans

> Sept. 14: “This story has touched me more than any other. I watched fellow Americans dying, in my country, for lack of food and water,” Williams says

> Sept. 12: Variety says Katrina is a “turning point for TV’s new generation of reporters”

> Sept. 11: “This may be a Cronkite moment”

> Sept. 10: CNN’s Cooper “seems to have claimed first position on the misery and suffering and danger”

> Sept. 9: CNN obtains restraining order to prevent FEMA from excluding the media from the body recovery process

> Sept. 9: Cooper: “We want the world to know what happened here and the people of New Orleans want the world to know what has happened”

> Sept. 9: Reporters face restrictions in New Orleans

> Sept. 9: 70 percent of Americans are following the aftermath, according to a Pew study, and most give the press good marks


> Sept. 9: “Perhaps the finest coverage” in CNN’s history

> Sept. 7: Diane Sawyer volunteers with the Red Cross

> Sept. 7: “I don’t want to home,” Cooper says

> Sept. 6: FNCers do “housing placement work” for survivors

> Sept. 6: Olbermann tears apart the government’s credibility in a scathing Countdown commentary

> Sept. 5: Reporters face health hazards; two NBC employees have dysentery

> Sept. 5: Geraldo rescues 71-year-old woman and her dog

> Sept. 5: Howard Kurtz says “journalism seems to have recovered its reason for being”

> Sept. 4: Journalists become “advocates for the voiceless”

> Sept. 3: Katrina is a “career-maker” for Williams

> Sept. 3: “The networks were mostly AWOL just five days into the biggest natural disaster in American history”

> Sept. 2: Geraldo and Shep break down on Saturday night

> Sept. 2: CNN examines “what was said” by the federal government “versus what was happening;” Journalists do their jobs!

> Sept. 2: All three evening newscasts expand to an hour

> Sept. 2: Harrigan says “I’ve never seen anything like this in the United States”

> Sept. 2: Survivors use Roberts’ satellite phone to call loved ones

> Sept. 2: Joe Scarborough, in Biloxi, calls the lack of hurricane relief a national disgrace

> Sept. 1: Anderson Cooper berates Mary Landrieu on CNN. “For the last four days, I’ve been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi,” he says

> Sept. 1: Dan Bartlett makes a DVD of the evening newscasts so President Bush can comprehend the horror along the Gulf Coast [Reported on Sept. 12]

> Sept. 1: “As the week wore on, TV images were more and more chilling, even numbing, in their intensity”

> Sept. 1: NBC Nightly News expands to an hour. ABC and NBC run specials in primetime

> Sept. 1: Objectivity goes out the window. The news media is angry, and rightly so

> Sept. 1: CNN rebrands their coverage “State of Emergency.” FNC calls it “America’s Challenge”

> Sept. 1: CNN’s Chris Lawrence is in shock. “People need to see this…people are dying at the convention center”

> Sept. 1: “People are dying, and will continue to die, on that freeway, right there,” Shep Smith reports. “We know, because we’ve seen it…In the United States of America, right now, there is an elderly man dead on the side of the freeway and authorities pass by him and he remains there”

> Sept. 1: CNN sends international correspondents Christiane Amanpour, Jeff Koinange, Karl Penhaul, and Nic Robertson to the Gulf Coast

> Sept. 1: NBC sends private security personnel to protect its crews; Later, all the networks do it

> Sept. 1: Meserve says “apart from 9/11 this is one of the most significant events that has ever hit this country”

> Aug. 31: CNN establishes “Victims & Relief” desk

> Aug. 31: The broadcast networks wake up. Every network airs a special report in primetime

> Aug. 31: Shep Smith says “there are no pictures to tell the vast majority of this story”

> Aug. 31: Nets send convoys of supplies to personnel along the coast; more on Thursday

> Aug. 31: Robin Roberts, at home in Mississippi, cries on GMA

> Aug. 30: The broadcast nets grossly underreport the devastation along the Gulf Coast. The lack of coverage is is embarrassing and inexcusable

> Aug. 30: Aaron Brown recaps the situation: “New Orleans is no longer safe to live in. It is that simple, and that stark”

> Aug. 30: Williams resumes blogging. He says “we may never be able to express the full magnitude of the suffering or loss”

> Aug. 30: FNC’s Jeff Goldblatt reports “palpable concern” in NOLA; “There are the hallmarks here of being in a war”

> Aug. 30: CNN’s Jeanne Meserve breaks into tears while describing the worsening situation in New Orleans. She describes people crying for help outside of the reach of rescue boats and bodies floating in the water

> Aug. 30: CNN breaks t
he news of a New Orleans levee break

> Aug. 30: FNC promotes “Hurricane Harrigan”

> Aug. 29: streams 5.8 million video streams. traffic triples

> Aug. 29: Shep Smith reports that “New Orleans has been spared the catastrophic devastation that many predicted;” Several media outlets offer conflicting reports about the levees

> Aug. 29: Gulfport looks like “hell on earth,” CNN’s Gary Tuchman reports; Later, debris damages Hurricane One

> Aug. 29: As the Superdome roof begins to leak, Williams transmits a photo via cell phone

> Aug. 29: Shep Smith is in the French Quarter. Anderson Cooper is in Baton Rouge. Brian Williams is in the Superdome

> Aug. 28: The anchors sound grim before Katrina comes ashore. “It’s hushed tones and somber moods all around,” an e-mailer says

Large photos courtesy CNN

2005: Remembering Peter

For the television news community in 2005, fewer stories were bigger or sadder than the death of Peter Jennings.

“Peter was a true anchor in every sense of the word.”

> Sept. 27: Jennings’ family says thanks

> Sept. 20: A veritable who’s who of television news gathers at Carnegie Hall for Jennings’ memorial service

> Sept. 20: “There is no way to express how much I miss him,” son Christopher says. “Each day is, above all else, a day without him”

> Sept. 20: Charles Glass: “He lived his life, his adult life, as the voice and the face of a television network, but more importantly, he was its conscience”

> Sept. 20: “Peter was in many ways a conductor,” Tom Nagorski says

> Aug. 26: Many in the WNT newsroom are wearing light blue wristbands that ask “What Would Peter Do?”

> Aug. 14: A summary of TVNewser’s coverage

> Aug. 12: “Journalism lost a champion”

> Aug. 11: “He really thought he was going to beat this,” ex-wife Kati Marton says

> Aug. 10: ABC broadcasts a profoundly moving tribute to Jennings

> Aug. 9: Awareness about the dangers of smoking was “the most important message he could ever pass on”

“Peter died with his family around him, without pain and in peace. He knew he had lived a good life”

> Aug. 9: “I don’t think [he] believed how much he was loved until this happened,” Dr. Timothy Johnson recalls

> Aug. 9: ABC News tried to avoid preparing an advance obituary

> Aug. 9: Aaron Brown says: For a thousand reasons, his death came too soon”

> Aug. 8: Charles Gibson: “It is with a profound sadness and true sorrow that I report to you Peter Jennings has died, tonight, of lung cancer”

> Aug. 8: His battle with cancer was “an inspiration for millions,” Michael Eisner and Robert Iger say

> Aug. 8: “We are losing exactly the best of our craft at the worst possible time,” Jeff Greenfield says

> Aug. 8: ABC pays tribute on GMA, WNT, Nightline and radio

> Aug. 8: A life in photos

> Aug. 6: Please pray for Peter Jennings

> July 30: Staffers and viewers wish Jennings a happy birthday

> July 18: Jennings is “very involved” with WNT

> July 3: Jennings “has shown great strength and grace, but he’s battling a very, very difficult disease,” Westin says

“I will continue to do the broadcast on good days. My voice will not always be like this”

> Apr. 27: Jennings is shaping WNT “behind the scenes;” Jon Banner would not discuss his condition

> Apr. 13: Jennings begins chemotherapy treatments; the bracelets come out

> Apr. 5: Peter Je
nnings is diagnosed with lung cancer; He tells viewers; The outlook is grim

> Apr. 2: Jennings is MIA during coverage of the Pope’s death; He “hasn’t been feeling well,” a spokesperson says

> Feb. 24: Jennings’ final documentary, called “UFOs — Seeing is Believing,” airs on ABC

> Jan. 3: Peter Jennings can’t travel to the tsunami zone because of an “upper respiratory infection”

2005: Cable News Nets Make America “Safe For Rich White Girls”

The Natalee Holloway Obsession: Beth Holloway Twitty had no previous experience with the news media when her daughter Natalee vanished in Aruba in June, but she quickly realized that broadcasting her story would increase expectations to solve the case.

She “greets reporters with hugs, remembers their names and thanks them for taking the time to listen,” the AP reported in July. “The media have been nothing but respectful toward me. They have been the voice of Natalee.”

For seven months, the case has served as fodder for cable newsers who have obsessively tracked the non-story:

> Dec. 21: LR: “It was the missing Cute White Girl for more than 100 days of nightly coverage. Without Natalee, we might have had to cover the news”

> Sept. 1: Rita Cosby gets stuck in Aruba during Katrina

> Aug. 24: Greta’s latest Holloway excuse: America has a GROWING EPIDEMIC of missing persons cases

> Aug. 25: NBC enters an Aruban jail and tries to talk to one of the suspects in Holloway’s disappearance; a judge orders the network not to broadcast the footage

> Aug. 24: FNC has gravitated to the Holloway story because “it’s easy and it’s brainless,” Jon Klein says

> Aug. 24: We learn that in early July, CNN drops the subject from most shows in the absence of new developments

> Aug. 22: For the media in Aruba, any tidbit will do

> Aug. 14: You’d think this was the crime of the century

> Aug. 13: Dan Abrams responds to Cooper, and calls the case “just a fascinating criminal investigation”

> Aug. 12: The Natalee coverage is getting “downright ridiculous,” Anderson Cooper opines

> Aug. 12: WP’s Robinson: “Hey, who cares about Iraq? They’re draining the pond! They’re digging in the landfill!”

> Aug. 11: Holloway gets a THREE HOUR BLOCK in PRIMETIME on FNC

> Aug. 10: Bill O’Reilly, probably jealous of Greta’s ratings, says the case is a “long-running soap opera,” and “they’re almost scripting it at this point”

> Aug. 5: How do these stories gain traction? “Usually, there’s an involved family that tends to be sophisticated in how to use the media,” MSNBC’s Mark Effron says

> Aug. 2: Dateline examines TV coverage of missing persons cases

> July 25: Greta defends her obsession: “I see it as a lesson in how we collect evidence”

> July 5: The word Aruba is uttered 658 times in one week on Fox News

> July 5: Beth Holloway Twitty is a media star

> July 1: News alerts “about sharks attacking blond scouts in Aruba” are ripe for the mocking

> June 29: Greta investigates the case in Aruba

> June 29: WP: “Wonder why the cable news networks spend so much time on stories of white chicks in distress? Easy, silly: It’s because you lap it up”

> June 27: Thanks to Holloway, Greta is #1 three nights in a row

> June 23: Greta owns the Holloway case

> June 18: Fox has 20 people “on the ground” in Aruba, Greta says; “We would certainly like to be part of finding Natalee — especially finding her alive and well”

> June 11: The cable nets get excited about false reports of a confession

> June 7: While vacationing in Aruba, a Scarborough Country producer meets one of the kidnapping suspects

2005: Top Stories Covered On TV

2005: Charts, Demos, Gaps, Oh My

Cable ratings: In 2005, Fox News was still #1 and CNN was still #2 while MSNBC and Headline News battled for #3. Some of the more interesting ratings skirmishes happened along the sidelines, as this totally unscientific sample of ratings posts shows. For even more ratings goodness, click on the ratings section of TVNewser.

gretadec30.jpg > Dec. 29: Greta is the #1 woman on cable news

> Dec. 28: CNN’s defunct NewsNight is the network’s #2 program of 2005

> Dec. 28: Several FNC programs post losses in the 25-54 demo, while several CNN programs post gains

> Dec. 28: MSNBC barely beats HLN for the year

> Dec. 15: Rick Kaplan says MSNBC is steadily growing its share of the demo audience

> Nov. 30: FNC is #1 by far, but many of the network’s viewers are older

> Nov. 22: MSNBC #1 in the demo in weekend prime

> Nov. 14: The ratings aren’t great for Cooper’s 10pm premiere week; 360 was more popular at 7pm

> Nov. 8: MSNBC occasionally beats CNN at 7 and 8pm in the demo

> Sept. 30: 123 of Donny Deutsch’s 168 Big Ideas have scratched; Later, its “slow and steady ratings rise”

> Sept. 27: A busy news cycle boosts all the cable nets in Q3

> Sept. 27: MSNBC takes third place back from HLN

> Sept. 13: Bill O’Reilly’s 200th consecutive week as the king of cable news

> Sept. 7: For the week of Katrina, FNC has 34 of the top 40 hours on all of cable

> Sept. 1: New record: FNC draws 4.9 million primetime viewers on the Wednesday of Katrina

> Aug. 31: Viewers flock to cable. On the Tuesday of Katrina, FNC averages 4.2 million viewers in primetime, while CNN had 3.7 million and MSNBC had 1.5

> Aug. 30: On the Monday of Katrina, FNC averages 2,815,000 in total day. CNN averages 1,837,000 and MSNBC has 679,000

> Aug. 30: On the Sunday before Katrina, FNC averages 2,341,000 total day viewers. In primetime, FNC averages 4,073,000, CNN averages 2,279,000, and MSNBC averages 1,021,000

> Aug. 9: Rita Cosby’s premiere night is MSNBC’s #1 program

> Aug. 3: The busy month of July is a “ratings bounty”

> July 27: Greta’s highest #’s of the year: 2,997,000 viewers at 10pm

> July 20: Viewers flock to Fox for SCOTUS nominee news

> July 12: CNN is competitive, especially in the 25-54 demo, during hurricane coverage

> July 1: TVNewser’s signature Scoreboard of daily ratings premieres

> June 27: Again thanks to Natalee, Greta tops The Factor three nights in a row

> June 22: Greta Van Susteren averages 2 million viewers a day thanks to Natalee Holloway

> June 14: As Jacko’s verdict was read, FNC averaged almost 5 million viewers and CNN had nearly 3.5 mil

> June 9: Countdown is MSNBC’s #1 program

> Apr. 26: FNC’s primetime 25-54 demographic ratings decline six months in a row

> Apr. 26: Nancy Grace beats every program on MSNBC in April

> Apr. 11: FNC gains the least and CNN gains the most during Pope coverage; Also, funeral ratings

> Mar. 29: “CNN Headline News has supplanted MSNBC as the third-place cable news channel.”

> Mar. 26: Nancy Grace is HLN’s highest-rated show ever

> Feb. 25: One FNC equals two CNNs; One CNN equals two MSNBCs

> Feb. 24: Nancy Grace is the top draw for the premiere night of Headline Prime

> Feb. 10: Comparing the ratings of CNN and FNC’s biz shows

> Feb. 8: FNC’s State of the Union coverage is the top-rated program on all of cable

> Feb. 1: Squawk Box’s ratings have been declining steadily for several months

> Jan. 20: FNC’s the big winner for Inauguration coverage

> Jan. 12: “MSNBC is clearly in CNN’s rearview mirror on primetime demos”

> Jan. 7: CNN up, MSNBC down post-tsunami

> Jan. 4: Thanks to tsunami coverage, CNN beats FNC all day in the demo on New Years Day

2005: “Fierce” Morning Show Wars

Good Morning America beat The Today Show in softball, but NBC beat ABC in the ratings. Here’s how the morning show wars happened this year:

> Dec. 26: Today was “rocked” earlier this year, but “we got our groove back,” Phil Griffin says

> Dec. 13: “It’s not a sexy story to report,” Jeff Zucker says, “but The Today Show” still dominates

> Dec. 5: Today celebrates ten years in first place

> Nov. 9: Matt Lauer goes around the world for ratings

> Oct. 17: NBC introduces stunts to keep the gap from tightening

> Sept. 29: Today & GMA in a “compassion competition” post-hurricanes

> Sept. 28: Jon Friedman says “morning shows have become a joke”

> Sept. 15: GMA is married to Desperate Housewives

> July 22: GMA comes from behind to beat Today in annual softball game

> July 14: Today celebrates 500 weeks in first place; ABC sends balloons

> June 24: Today is more “off-the-cuff,” not so scripted

> June 23: The gap widens week after week

> June 15: Today is “demonstrably better” post-Touchet, Zucker says

> June 9: Fox & Friends is more popular than the CBS Early Show, a Zogby poll says

> June 7: NBC notices an upward trend as the gap starts increasing

> May 29: New York Mag’s “Divas at Dawn” article profiles the “catfight”

> May 23: Today hits rock bottom but squeaks by with another win; Meanwhile, a staffing shakeup continues at NBC

> May 23: Ben Sherwood says: “They will fight most fiercely. We will fight most fiercely”

> May 19: 40,000 viewers separate Today and GMA

> May 12: Zucker says Today needs to be “freshened”

> May 10: GMA tops Today for two straight days of sweeps

> May 5: Imagining the perfect morning show

> May 2: “In talent terms, the scales tip towards GMA,” Tom Shales says

> Apr. 26: “Battle of the bands” between Today and GMA

> Apr. 25: Alessandra Stanley files her infamous column about Katie Couric and Today; an “enraged” NBCer responds; The NYT public editor calls it “gratuitously nasty”

> Apr. 21: The NBC/ABC gap tightens to 270,000 — the smallest since 1996

> Apr. 20: An NBC exec says: “Let’s be honest, we don’t like to see numbers that are that low. We don’t like that the gap is get
ting smaller”

> Apr. 18: Good Morning America is on a “steady rise”

> Mar. 28: Jeff Zucker is “spending a lot of mornings in the control booth at Today”

> Mar. 14: Police have to restrain a booker for GMA during a Today interview; It was the booker’s first assignment ever for ABC; Later, an NBC producer explains what happened

2005: FNC Adds Talent, CNN Loses It

As I reviewed twelve months of TVNewser blogging this week, something became very clear: As CNN said goodbye to its talent this year, FNC added new hosts and analysts to its payroll. Bill Hemmer is only the most prominent example, and the trend is undeniable:

FNC’s gains:

> Dec. 16: Bob Novak

> Nov. 29: Tiki Barber

> Sept. 6: Dr. Manny Alvarez

> Sept. 5: Laura Ingle

> July 19: Bill Hemmer

> June 20: Marvin Kalb

> June 15: Wesley Clark

> June 9: Gretchen Carlson

> Mar. 9: Julie Banderas

> Feb. 15: Martin Frost

Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom was rumored to be on the way to CNN, but in December she joined FNC.

CNN’s losses:

> Nov. 2: Aaron Brown

> Sept. 12: Walter Rodgers

> Aug. 1: Ken and Daria Dolan

> June 25: The Capital Gang

> June 22: Maria Hinojosa

June 6: Bill Hemmer

> June 3: Judy Woodruff

> Mar. 28: Charlayne Hunter-Gault

> Mar. 12: Myron Kandel

> Jan. 5: Tucker Carlson

…And I’m sure I’m forgetting someone…

2005: TV Types Turn Into Bloggers

> Dec. 2: WNT’s blog, The Blue Sheet, will be expanding in 06

> Dec. 1: NBC launches “Blogging Baghdad”

> Oct. 11: launches Hurricane Blogs and enjoys record blog traffic

> Sept. 29: Jake Tapper’s “Down & Dirty” becomes the “most personal, raw example of blogging by a television news personality”

> Sept. 19: launches several blogs by correspondents

> Sept. 12: launches the Public Eye blog

> Aug. 28: During Katrina, FNCs’ Steve Harrigan, MSNBC’s David Shuster and CNN’s Miles O’Brien blog from the Gulf Coast

> Aug. 26: FNC’s GretaWire celebrates its two year anniversary

> Aug. 25: NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams says: “I don’t have a therapist. I have my blog”

> Aug. 18: The Daily Nightly is becoming a “running narrative” of NBC’s reporting day

> July 20: GretaWire, FNC host Greta Van Susteren’s blog, gets more than 150,000 hits a day

> July 19: NBC’s broadcast standards producer blogs on

> June 20: An update on CNN’s “Inside the Blogs”

> June 9: Sean Hannity launches the HanniBlog

> May 27: CNBC launches a “Squawk Blog” to connect viewers with hosts