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Erin Burnett Gets OutFront on Wrong Foot

Erin Burnett flanked by her CNN bosses, EVP and managing editor Mark Whitaker, left, and EVP in charge of CNN Ken Jautz, right.

We’re thinking CNN’s Erin Burnett is eying a large Margarita when she gets of the air at 8pm tonight. Maybe during the show. Maybe right now.

Her premiere week — at least from where the critics stand — was not good. As for the ratings, more on that in a minute.

It was about :30 seconds, of a three minute story, in her (so far) four hours of programs on CNN. But if you printed out the criticism of Burnett’s coverage Monday from Occupy Wall Street, it could stretch from one end of Zuccotti Park to the other.

“Erin Burnett was way too dismissive and condescending of these protesters,” wrote Forbes’ Eric Jackson, who, 24 hours after posting his story, Tweeted that his take on Burnett was his 8th most popular story ever on Forbes.com.

The pile-on was swift.

  • From the Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik: “Burnett’s problem runs much deeper from what I have seen — it runs straight through to the persona, if not the person herself.”
  • Variety‘s Brian Lowery writes: “Burnett does appear to have been a terrible choice for her new role, on a program oddly titled ‘Erin Burnett OutFront.’ Out front of what, exactly?”
  • Salon’s Glenn Greenwald called Burnett, a “spokesperson for Wall Street; it’s basically what her ‘journalistic’ career is.”

After all the criticism Atlantic Wire‘s Adam Clarke Estes got this statement from CNN: “We support Erin and the OutFront team and we respect that there will be a range of opinions on any given story.”

Burnett and crew couldn’t even catch a break on the title of segment they like to call “Seriously!” Watch this NYMag.com clip for more on that. MediaMatters thinks Burnett should apologize.

Don’t count on it. We hear the plan is full-steam ahead; taking pride in what else happened during her debut week: interviews with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner; talking politics with GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman and women’s health issues with model Christy Turlington.

As for those ratings…

Burnett improved the 7pmET and the 11pmET timeslots in the first four days in both Total Viewers and younger viewers, compared to the numbers from last week and last year.

From Monday to Thursday of this week, “Erin Burnett: OutFront” at 7pmET has averaged 495K Total Viewers and 166K A25-54 viewers. Week-over-week, that’s a +23% improvement (404K last week) in Total Viewers and a +38% improvement (121K last week) in younger viewers when “John King USA” was in the timeslot.

Compared to last year, the show has improved the timeslot +24% (399K in 2010) in Total Viewers and by +44% (115K in 2010) in younger viewers .

The 11pmET re-air is also up compared to last week (+7% in Total Viewers, +7% A25-54 viewers) and last year (+17% in Total Viewers, +24% in A25-54 viewers), when AC360 ran in the timeslot. It should be noted Wednesday’s 11pm “OutFront” was preempted by AC360 which covered the death of Steve Jobs.

So, while Burnett and company got a heaping helping of bad PR in week one, her team can look toward next week. And considering Occupy Wall Street doesn’t seem to be disbanding anytime soon, there’s still that story to cover. Just leave that “dismissive” and “condescending” tone at the door.

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