TVNewser had a brief conversation today with CNN’s Jonathan Klein and the subject of FOX News’ hurricane coverage came up…
“They’re just so far outclassed in an event like this,” he said, and news events like Hurricane Dennis demonstrate “vividly that they’re not a news organization. It is like night and day…They’re just not built to cover important news.”
There is some truth to this but also quite a lot of spin. Yes, FOX had some troubles today. A lot of satellite disruptions occurred on FOX. And it is true that FOX didn’t have the number of reporters in the field that CNN had and it didn’t have the weather technology that MSNBC had (neither did CNN though). In ICN’s opinion, today was not FOX’s best effort.
But “They’re just not built to cover important news.”?????
What about the Iraq war? They mounted a more than credible attempt at coverage and despite CNN’s predictions before the war, you guys didn’t own the coverage. And MSNBC bested CNN in the technology department with the Bloom Mobile. Was the Iraq war not an “important news” story? What about the election coverage? Was the election coverage not an “important news” story? FOX matched CNN and MSNBC’s coverage easily.
It’s obvious what Klein is doing here and has been doing for a while now. He’s trying to shift perception. As ICN argued a couple of weeks ago, FOX News has won the perception war in that that is the network more people tune in to get news first. What Klein is trying to do is seed doubts in the public’s mind through public quotes like the above and others like the now infamous “they’re nervous” comment. It’s a propaganda war Klein is conducting.
However there are some pitfalls to propaganda wars. Number one on the list is you have to back it up with facts that are indisputable otherwise you lose your credibility. This is what has gotten Klein into trouble. While today he could correctly claim that CNN outmaneuvered FOX on several fronts (though it wasn’t a decisive win because MSNBC came close to matching CNN on pure news delivery and beat CNN cold on breaking down the storms with ESP: Live), there have been times in the past where Klein’s rhetoric hasn’t matched reality; particularly the “they’re nervous” comment which came during a period where FOX’s Prime Time program demo numbers were beating many of CNN’s total viewer program numbers with great frequency.
Klein has yet to learn what Rick Kaplan knows too well….you crow when you can back it up. You don’t see Kaplan going around talking smack the way Klein does. There’s a reason for that. Kaplan knows he’d look silly and out of touch with reality if he tried to take on CNN or FOX with a verbal smack war unless he could prove what he was saying. Sometimes I think Kaplan is too gun shy and doesn’t point out some of the times when MSNBC clearly was the channel to be watching.
And a final note about CNN’s coverage today. The Anderson Cooper stuff sure was exciting but was it really the best way to inform viewers of the hurricane? It’s almost like a repeat of CNN’s 1990 Iraq War exclusive with Cooper channeling Bernie Shaw from downtown Baghdad. But there are some important differences between 1990 and now. First of all, CNN was the only player in Baghdad because of the 4 wire they had but it also meant that they could only broadcast from the 4 wire (and later a heavily Iraqi monitored/censored satellite uplink). They couldn’t cover anything else but what their technology allowed and their technology restricted them to one place. That was not the case today.
Today the coverage could come from anywhere there was a phone or power to a satellite uplink. CNN had lots of people in the field but seemed to get fixated on Cooper, particularly once that Ramada sign fell. This point was driven home all the more when the worst of the storm passed Cooper by yet they kept coming back to him. And Cooper wasn’t plugged in as well as say someone at CNN Atlanta would be and several times he admitted he didn’t have the latest information. Meanwhile other parts of the south were getting pounded while viewers were watching Cooper and John Zarrella standing in relative calm talking about leafs in eyes and pieces of signs that should be framed. Was that really necessary? It sure was exciting television. And from a comparison standpoint, it clobbered MSNBC’s coverage with Lisa Daniels which was at the exact same location as Cooper and Zarrella (yes MSNBC got the video of the sign coming appart but it was taped while Cooper and Zarrella were live when it happened). But was it really good journalism and was the public’s need to know being properly served to focus so much in one spot with a storm that size?
But perception wars are tricky things. You don’t necessarily have to be correct to win one. The Cooper/Zarrella footage will get tons of airplay on the local channels tonight. And that kind of PR, CNN can’t buy.
UPDATE: FOX officially responds to Klein on TVNewser. Nut quote…
Jon Klein should worry more about the natural disaster he’s created at CNN considering FNC has outrated them on every international news event since he took over