Over the years, we’ve written a lot about long, slow ratings collapse of broadcast news. But ABC, CBS, and NBC aren’t the only ones experiencing this decline. As reported by David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, the ratings for PBS NewsHour show are almost in a freefall, even compared to their commercial competitors.
By its own count, NewsHour had 2.5 million viewers in 2005. This year the show is at 1.3 million. That’s an astonishing drop, nearly 50 percent, unmatched by any of the commercial broadcast evening news shows.
In a recent interview with Salon, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell candidly revealed just how much he dislikes his current job as the host of MSNBC's prime-time commentary show The Last Word. In fact, the former actor who just so happens to have a cameo in the new movie Olympus Has Fallen as a news anchor admitted that he still has no idea what he's doing.
O'Donnell had recurring roles in the past on TV dramas like HBO's Big Love, USA's Monk, and NBC's The West Wing, writing and producing the latter as well. When comparing the two experiences, he said working for a cable news network is "tragic" for him. And the very thought of doing his show with an unrehearsed first draft every night is just "horrendous" and "offends (his) artistic sensibilities in some ways," he explained.
PBS journalist Jim Lehrer chastised CNN's Candy Crowley for the assistance she provided Barack Obama during his presidential debate with Mitt Romney. Lehrer appeared at the Clinton School of Public Service on November 13 and critiqued, "As a general premise, I believe debate moderators are not there as fact-checkers...They are there to facilitate the exchange between the candidates."
Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard highlighted the "rebuke" of Crowley. Describing the role of a presidential moderator, Lehrer insisted, "You have to put a different cloak on, over your mind and your mouth and everything else. When you moderate something, you are a moderator, you are not functioning in a journalistic capacity." During her October 16 debate, Crowley famously– and incorrectly– backed up Obama's claim that he had referred to the attack in Libya as a terrorist act.
Tonight’s town hall-style presidential debate will ostensibly feature questions from undecided voters, but the evening’s agenda will really be decided by the moderator, as CNN’s Candy Crowley will select which of the more than roughly 80 voters in the room will actually get a chance to talk to the candidates.
Reviewing the five previous town hall debates, the journalist-moderators have tended to skew the agenda of these so-called citizen forums to the liberal side of the spectrum, but not always. Overall, questions have been twice as likely to favor liberal causes versus conservative ones.
It is one thing to trash Jim Lehrer’s moderating behind his back. It’s even worse when you then bring him on your show to praise his performance after you trash him. No one does this better than Morning Joe’s Scarborough who did a complete 180 on his analysis of Lehrer’s moderating skills.
On the morning after the first presidential debate, Scarborough claimed that “Jim Lehrer got rolled over” as moderator on October 3rd. Fast forward to Monday’s Morning Joe when Lehrer appeared in person and Scarborough had suddenly wiped his hands clean of any such criticism. [See video below break. MP3 audio here.]
As Matt Vespa at NewsBusters noted earlier this morning, MSNBC's Howard Fineman was extremely unhappy with Jim Lehrer's performance as moderator in last night's first presidential debate. Vespa reports that Fineman "seemed agitated to the point of calling Lehrer 'useless' and equated his moderating of the debate to 'criminal negligence.'"
In what may be seen as a surprise, the same network's Laurence O'Donnell didn't share that sentiment, as Mackenzie Weinger reported this morning at Politico:
MSNBC contributor Howard Fineman lamented how the president was on the defensive in his first bout with Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Jim Lehrer, who moderated the October 3 debate, has a history of bias that is usually cloaked with his soporific disposition. However, Fineman seemed agitated to the point of calling Lehrer “useless” and equated his moderating of the debate to “criminal negligence.” Fineman’s ire seems to be indicative of liberals’ reaction towards Obama’s poor debate performance.
Mitt Romney recently told CBS’s Scott Pelley that a leader would “say which of those things that you should take out of the budget that are no longer essential,” and when pressed to be specific, Romney nominated "the subsidy for PBS,” and subsidies for Amtrak, the NEA, and the NEH. This raises one obvious question. In moderating tonight's first general election debate of 2012, can longtime PBS star Jim Lehrer be fair to a candidate who wants to zero out the subsidy for PBS?
In his 1992 memoir A Bus of My Own, Lehrer confesses he could sound like a “PBS superpatriot” in lauding his own newscast. For his own career at PBS, Lehrer professed he loved how Watergate “crumbled” Nixon’s plans to “crumble us” in liberal taxpayer-funded broadcasting:
Can we stop calling the hosts of the presidential debates "moderators"? They're left-erators. It's time for the old media godfathers to end the pretense that they're fair and neutral observers of the American political scene. And it's time for the GOP to stop perpetuating these rigged exercises in futility.
Last week, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the names of 2012's chosen referees: CNN's Candy Crowley, PBS's Jim Lehrer and CBS's Bob Schieffer will preside over the three presidential debates; ABC's Martha Raddatz will host the sole vice presidential debate. While the debate panel trumpeted the gender diversity of its picks, the chromosomal diversity is far outweighed by the political uniformity, class conformity and geographical homogeneity of the group.
If you thought the Democrats would be satisfied with the fact that a solid phalanx of liberals have been chosen to moderate the presidential (and vice-presidential) debates, you would be wrong. Now they want to dictate what questions will be forbidden from being asked at the debates. I kid you not. The Politico reports on the question that the Democrats want to make taboo:
Some Democratic lawmakers want to make sure that one question does not get asked at the upcoming first presidential debate - about Simpson-Bowles.
Conservative author Glenn Beck on Sunday took to Twitter to blast New York Times columnist David Brooks for comments he made last year about the talk radio host's predictions concerning Egypt without President Hosni Mubarak.
On PBS's Newshour last February, syndicated columnist Mark Shields mentioned Beck in a discussion about how people attending the CPAC convention viewed the goings-on in Egypt from a domestic political perspective (transcript via LexisNexis):