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5 Questions for… Michael Smerconish

Smerconish304CNN’s Michael Smerconish prides himself on not following party lines. He’s liberal on certain issues, conservative on others and often polarizing nonetheless. A diverse career has included substituting for both Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews on MSNBC. Yes, he’s filled in for both O’Reilly and Matthews.

While many people know him from radio, Smerconish has written numerous books and currently hosts “Smerconish” Saturdays on CNN.

TVNewser: The most recent Pew Research poll focused on political polarization and media habits. Where does CNN fit in today’s world of media polarization?

Smerconish: The Pew data is a total confirmation of what I’ve been saying for years – the 80% of us who are not guided by a doctrinaire ideology have ceded the debate to the 20% who are consistently conservative or consistently liberal, and it has taken the country in a hyper-partisan direction We need to take it back. Real political power in this country rests in the middle, not in the extremes, but right now, “rests” is the operative word. CNN is perfectly situated to be the go-to source for this segment of society, and indeed, in Pew’s category of those with “mixed” political views, CNN is their main source for news which is why the network is a perfect fit for me.

TVNewser: Why do some partisan political shows have a hard time making it in this landscape?

Smerconish: Hard time? I’d argue the partisan political shows that push a singular point of view have too easy of a time making it in this landscape. The rote, paint by numbers form of broadcasting gets rewarded by cultivating support from very loyal, not necessarily very numerous, supporters. Passion takes precedence. That’s the same problem we have with the electorate.

TVNewser: How does your show serve a purpose to viewers? Read more

Ebola Arrives in New York; Cable News Clears the Decks for Rolling Coverage

B0rMF7DIgAAD5i0Well, Canada, it was nice, but, well, we’ve got Ebola in New York. You could almost hear the cell phones ringing with news executives’ re-worked plans: We’re going to pull you guys out of Ottawa as soon as you’re off the air. Everybody to New York.

The cable news networks reacted with a frenzy of reporting Thursday evening in the wake of New York City’s first confirmed case of Ebola.

As New York is home to the nation’s major media, the emergence of Dr. Craig Spencer was enough to send producers pulling the keys from around their necks to unlock the nuclear launch codes. This, my friends, was big. Sorry, Dallas and Atlanta, I mean, well, do we really have to explain this to you?

CNN and MSNBC devoted wall-to-wall coverage to Ebola ahead of a planned news conference in New York, while planning extended coverage into the night and for Friday morning. Fox News announced it would air a live edition of “Hannity” at 10 p.m., followed by a live hour of “The Kelly File” with Megyn Kelly at 11 p.m. “Fox and Friends First” will begin live coverage at 4:30 a.m.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, at the Ebola news conference that was carried live on cable news and streamed online, said New York, essentially, had been ready and waiting for this. “What happened in Dallas was the opposite,” the governor said. “The more facts you know, the less frightening the situation is.”

So on with the intense coverage then–and no panic, okay? writer Erik Malinowski grabbed a photo of CNN’s Ebola 7-box (above), about which author Adam Sternbergh noted “there are more people on that screen than have contracted Ebola in the USA.”

The Ticker: BBC America, Costello, Al Jazeera

  • B&C reports, AMC Networks has agreed to purchase a 49.9 percent stake in BBC America from BBC Worldwide for $200 million. AMC Networks, which will have operational control of BBCA, will look for greater distribution for BBC World News in the U.S.

  • CNN’s Carol Costello has apologized for laughing at audio of Bristol Palin‘s account of being assaulted by a man which sparked the now infamous Palin family brawl. “Over the past few days I have been roundly criticized for joking about a brawl involving the Palin family. In retrospect, I deserve such criticism and would like to apologize,” she tells Politico.

  • Al Jazeera America’s investigative documentary program “Fault Lines” will air an episode on Saturday at 7pmET focusing on why the FDA approved a controversial new opioid painkiller, Zohydro.

Pot the Focus of New CNN Original Series

CNN is getting in the marijuana business… sort of.

The network today announced a new original series called “High Profits,” which will focus on a Colorado couple who hope to be the first ever “moguls of marijuana.”

“High Profits,” debuting in 2015, features Brian Rogers and Caitlin McGuire — apparently former Alaska news anchor / marijuana enthusiast Charlo Greene wasn’t available — who own the Breckenridge Cannabis Club.

The eight-part series, produced by Bat Bridge Entertainment, will examine the booming industry that is legalized marijuana. We’ve seen in the past the marijuana-related programming does very well with viewers. Here’s a preview:

“High Profits” joins “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” “This is Life with Lisa Ling,” “Somebody’s Gotta Do It with Mike Rowe,” and “The Hunt with John Walsh” as part of CNN’s acquired series programming.

CBS News Releases Election Coverage Plan

PelleyScott“CBS Evening News” anchor Scott Pelley and “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell will lead CBS News coverage of the midterm elections on November 4. The network provide hourly updates at 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., followed by a one-hour election special at 10:00 p.m.

CBS will live-stream network coverage on, and provide additional original reporting online. The network also promises to make extensive use of Twitter:

As the coverage unfolds, CBS News will use the Twitter account @CBSPolitics to communicate all election projections and characterizations. CBS News will use Twitter and other social media to introduce a new level of transparency into all CBS News political reporting, revealing internal guidance on competitive races as soon as the information is reportable.

The Scoreboard: Wednesday, October 22

25-54 demographic (Live +SD)

  • Total day: FNC: 283 | CNN: 154 | MSNBC: 104 | HLN: 85
  • Primetime: FNC: 384 | CNN: 171 | MSNBC: 162 | HLN: 82

4p: 5p: 6p: 7p: 8p: 9p: 10p: 11p: 12a:








































































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ABC News Reaches 10 Million People on Facebook With Ebola Town Hall

10675956_10152382812852061_10152382804457061_1474_670_bThat’s a lot of likes. A George Stephanopoulos-hosted town hall, designed to answer viewer questions about the threat of Ebola in the U.S., was a major hit for the network on Facebook, reaching more than 10 million people.

ABC says the effort was a response to overwhelming interest in the story. “We’ve been inundated by questions about the Ebola virus on all of our platforms and wanted to connect and answer what we could,” said Subrata De, ABC News VP of Multi-Platform Newsgathering.

“The network’s newsroom was able to react quickly to the public’s demand for more information about Ebola and produced this event in just a few days,” writes Facebook’s Beth Loyd:

George Stephanopoulos anchored the event and guests including ABC News Chief Medical Editor Richard Besser answered more than a dozen questions asked by people on the ABC News and Good Morning America Facebook Pages. ABC News promoted the town hall on-air during Good Morning America, posted a call-out for questions on its Page, and then streamed the event live on , and Facebook.

Diane Sawyer’s Mother Passes Away

SawyerMother1Diane Sawyer‘s mother Jean Sawyer Hayes passed away Wednesday in Louisville, KY. She was 94.

Sawyer told the Courier-Journal this morning that her mother “was a force of nature, optimistic, spunky and energetic.”

Sawyer Hayes, was a longtime elementary school teacher and, later, civic leader. “Her students by the hundreds were jolted into the possibilities of their lives,” Sawyer said.

A visitation is planned for this weekend in St. Matthews, KY with a private funeral next week.

ABC News president James Goldston sent a note to ABC News staff this morning, writing that Sawyer “is with her Kentucky family now, and her ABC family will embrace her when she returns.”

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Jeff Jarvis Asks Reuters CEO Andrew Rashbass: ‘Does TV News Have to Suck?’

Reuters CEO Andrew Rashbass was at The Paley Center for Media yesterday, and he took on a blunt but entertaining question posed by moderator Jeff Jarvis: “does TV news have to suck?”

Rashbass conceded the news business faces a myriad of challenges, but rooting out the less newsy bits amid the serious reporting isn’t necessarily a good idea:

I think there are lots of ways people find out what’s going on in the world and I think that if we, on the supplier end, get too earnest about the “eating your vegetables” side of news, then I don’t think we are actually fulfilling, actually, our societal purpose and…if that’s what you mean by TV news sucking, then as I say…I think the issue for TV news is a slightly different one which has resulted in some of the characteristics you’re leading to there. And it’s because a lot of the role, TV news has traditionally done, is now being done in other ways. And therefore, I think it’s more a question of relevance rather than anything else. So, as I say, the sort of fun side of TV news or the entertainment side of TV news, I actually rather like.

Sunday Show Ratings: October 19

sunday shows_304CBS’s “Face the Nation” was first among Sunday shows in viewers last week despite being down -11% in total viewers and down -16% in the A25-54 demo compared to the same week last year.

NBC’s “Meet the Press” was slightly down: -3% in viewers and down -1% in the demo vs. the same Sunday last year but “MTP” had its biggest audiences in both total viewers and the demo since Chuck Todd’s debut on September 7.

ABC’s “This Week” was slightly down in total viewers but up +13% in the demo. Univision’s “Al Punto” was also up +13% in the demo compared to last year.

Cable rebroadcasts of “Fox News Sunday” averaged a combined 1.82 million total viewers and 367,000 A25-54 viewers. ”Fox News Sunday” on broadcast was up +4% overall and and up +26% in the demo.

“Meet the Press” drew an additional 1.27 million total viewers and 554,000 demo viewers with rebroadcasts on NBC and MSNBC.

“Face the Nation” is based on the first half-hour only, as the full contiguous hour aired in just 55% of the country.

The numbers for October 19:

Network Program Total Viewers A25-54
“Face the Nation” 2.95M 750,000
“This Week” 2.54M 769,000
NBC “Meet the Press” 2.74M 760,000
FOX “Fox News Sunday” 1.31M 480,000
UNIV “Al Punto” 791,000 329,000