Ok, here is the list of the hottest and not hottest cable news related stories for 2007. I hope I haven’t overlooked anything. These are not prioritized by the way…
What’s hot for 2007:
The Fall and Rise of Don Imus - Don Imus’ controversial comments about the Rutgers’ women’s basketball team, either rightly or wrongly, eventually led to his ouster from MSNBC TV and CBS Radio. Imus stayed under the radar for the next several months before re-surfacing with a new radio and TV gig.
FBN launches - Rupert Murdoch’s long speculated about stab at a business news channel finally came to fruition this fall with the launch of the Fox Business Network. Which leads nicely to…
Defections and defectors - One of the first battles between the new upstart FBN and the established battle tested veteran CNBC was over talent, with FBN drawing first blood. This first manifested itself with a ridiculous battle over a “business news talent minnow” named Eric Bolling for which CNBC lawyered up big time with some high priced Manhattan attorneys to keep Bolling sitting on the sidelines and off FBN’s air until the last possible second. This however came on the heels of the news that CNBC’s “non-minnow” Liz Claman had decided to jump to FBN when her contract expired with CNBC (co-incidentally it expired within days of FBN’s launch).
So long Secaucus - MSNBC finally moved in to 30 Rock with a slick news studio. And with that came…
Another change at the MSNBC top - Dan Abrams stepped down as MSNBC GM to host his nightly program and NBC News VP Phil Griffin assumed a greater role in overseeing the network.
Campbell Brown joins CNN - In an interesting play which may be dissected in the years to come depending on how it all unfolds in 2008, Campbell Brown jumped from NBC to CNN.
Keith Olbermann renews with MSNBC - Despite rumors circulating that CNN wanted to entice Keith Olbermann, only to have that reportedly quashed by Jim Walton before an offer could be made, Keith Olbermann re-signed with MSNBC to a lucrative deal which spread Olbermann’s visibility beyond the cable network. Which leads me to…
The death and rebirth of Olbermann Watch - Seeing the writing on the wall, so to speak, Olbermann Watch decided to pack it in. But then the critics of Olbermann Watch danced a little too hard on its grave so it was brought back, much to the consternation of all.
Olbermann admits leftward slant on Countdown - You could see him taking tentative steps towards outting his program as leftward leaning but in 2007 Keith Olbermann finally admitted that Countdown does tilt left.
Erin Burnett - I’m still not sure exactly what triggered it but Erin Burnett emerged in 2007 as a successor to, and chief rival of, Maria Bartiromo. Whether there is any actual rivalry or not is conjecture, but that didn’t stop the press from playing up that angle.
FNC commits to Shepard Smith big time - With his mega mega uber deal with FNC, rumored to be around 7 million a year, Shepard Smith enters the big money league of broadcast network news anchors and FNC makes a huge commitment to a talent it could ill-afford to lose.
Kiran Chetry jumps ship (or was pushed?) - Depending on which story you believe, Kiran Chetry (and her agent) made herself persona non grata at FNC or FNC was the villian and Chetry was the victim. Whichever the case, the result was Chetry was on CNN’s air within 24 hours and on American Morning within weeks.
American Morning gets overhauled - For all intents and purposes, CNN President Jonathan Klein blew up American Morning and started over. American Morning was still the program’s name but at the end of 2007 there was little resemblence to the show that started 2007. Carol Costello? Gone to The Situation Room. Soledad O’Brien and Miles O’Brien? Taken off the program. Story selection? A move towards emphasizing hard news and more of it.
The Situation Room and Lou Dobbs Tonight flip positions - The 7pm ET edition of The Situation Room changed places with the 6pm Lou Dobbs Tonight. This gave CNN three uninterrupted hours of The Situation Room and put Dobbs up against The Fox Report.
Rick Sanchez’s star rises - He was called in to just pinch hit at 8pm until Brown could take over but he exceeded expectations for CNN. Some nights Out in the Open generates more email feedback than either Jack Cafferty or Lou Dobbs. The question heading into 2008 is what does CNN do with its star on the rise?
Super Tuesday on MSNBC - When it was announced I thought it was a stretch. I didn’t believe MSNBC could sustain coverage like that for such an extended period and keep it interesting and fresh. I was wrong. It may not have shot up in the ratings but it did manage to assosciate MSNBC and politics.
What’s not for 2007:
Cuts to NBC News - 2007 ended on a dour note for MSNBC. After having barely had time to settle in to its new 30 Rock digs, MSNBC was rocked by a bunch of cuts that came down to NBC News. Morale plummetted and rumors circulated about people looking for new stable places to work.
Paula Zahn Now gets euthanized - It was long overdue but watching the decline and fall of Paula Zahn Now at CNN and how that program was left twisting in the wind for years left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. The definitive takedown on the Paula Zahn mess remains Eat The Press’ Rachel Sklar’s devastating must-read critique on the matter.
Chetry and Roberts replace O’Brien and O’Brien on American Morning - The main excuse given for replacing Soledad O’Brien and Miles O’Brien on American Morning was a lack of chemistry. That may or may not be accurate. I thought Miles was a good fit for the show but I didn’t see a lot of chemistry between the two O’Briens. However it became immediately apparent to me from day one that CNN had repeated the mistake with Kiran Chetry and John Roberts. Roberts will always be a hard news primetime type of personality to me and I can’t get used to him on the mornings, even with the renewed emphasis on hard news. And the chemistry between the Roberts and Chetry pairing is worse than what CNN had before with the two O’Briens.
Maria Bartiromo - I’m not sure her star really fell much in 2007, the Todd Thompson incident non-withstanding. But in the court of public opinion and that of the media, it did. Between Citigroup and the surge in popularity of Erin Burnett, Bartiromo was no longer viewed as the unquestioned star of CNBC, even though Maria did trademark “Money Honey”. Though Burnett has not achieved Bartiromo’s penetration outside of CNBC (Business Week columns, her own NBC syndicated program, etc…) so while the press has made a lot of hay about Bartiromo’s star allegedly setting as Burnett’s rose, this competition, if it can be called that, is still far from settled.
The rise of Courtney Friel - Maybe all the criticism is unfair and unjustified and maybe it isn’t. But I have never seen such universal animosity directed towards someone…and by the very people who watch FNC the most. I wasn’t going to mention her at all but after seeing half the comments on the submissions list specifically mention her and all by FNC fans, I couldn’t ignore it. It’s almost as if someone at FNC is pushing Friel out on the viewing public with a damn the torpedoes mentality; as in, “You’re wrong and I’ll show you. I will make her a network news anchor and you will watch and you will learn. And you will see that we were right in choosing her.” And yet FNC continues to send out confusing signals regarding Friel because she’s still doing Lips & Ears segments. And whatever happened to the political blogging? I haven’t heard a whit about it since the announcement.
Tucker Carlson - The story took shape from rumors and by reading between the lines some of the public statements by MSNBC execs, that Carlson’s MSNBC show is on the chopping block. Some stories say it’s already been axed and it’s just a matter of finding something to replace it with.
AC 360 loses an hour - It actually began early in the summer but it wasn’t until after Labor Day that CNN publicly acknowledged that the two hour Anderson Cooper 360 was going to be mostly one hour live going forward. This leaves HLN’s Showbiz Tonight as the only original topical programming on cable news at 11 pm.
We’re not concerned - In what I would argue to be the PR blunder of the year, all the feigned indifference by NBC and CNBC to FBN prior to launch was the gift that has kept on giving…to FBN! Every time CNBC has done anything that could even remotely show interest in what FBN is up to, and there have been plenty of examples including a user survey of business talent including FBN’s, FBN has thrown that now infamous quip about not being concerned back in CNBC’s face. Over and over and over again.
Tammy Haddad - First she loses her position as EP of Hardball, then she
is eased out at quits NBC as the VP of Washington for MSNBC.
Base pandering by the Democratic candidates against FNC - It was all BS. We all knew it was BS. They did it to pander to their base. But now that it’s crunch time look who is showing up on FNC in the closing days…
Questions about MSNBC’s focus and branding - I heard weeks after the fact that this Jossip leak caused a huge uproar inside 30 Rock. Maybe it hit a little too close to home? And then there was this little noticed shot by Jonathan Klein at MSNBC which basically called them out publicly on their over-emphasis on crime blocks and abandoning news…
“When they do that, they’re really competing with Court TV,” Mr. Klein later told NYTV in an interview in his office overlooking Columbus Circle. “They’re saying, in effect, we give up trying to cover the news in any meaningful way. It enhances our brand. We’re the last man standing in terms of covering the news. We love that.”
Overindulging in trash TV - Anna Nicole’s death, the custody battle that followed, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, O.J. Simpson. If there was one universal low point in cable news it was the overabundance of pandering to the tawdry.