As the progenitor of CNN and the man who told the New York Times editorial board back in 1980 that CNN's editorial strategy was built based upon "live, live and more live," I should be the last person to say that CNN made a mistake by going live to the Tea Party protesters in Washington last Sunday. When I heard one of the protesters demanding that President Obama and his "kind" were leading us to Communism, I had little doubt what "kind" he was talking about. Giving an audience of millions to enraged extremists is too great a gift to qualify as "freedom of speech."
I have written before that as my news mentor, UP's Bill Higginbotham said, "We don't have to quote every word that we hear, or show every picture we get." We do not have to give voice to the haters among us. I suppose no one could've stopped a Congressman from calling President Obama a liar because the networks had to carry his speech live, but CNN did not have to give live access to the voices of hatred at the Capital this weekend. When I ran the company, their voices would've been fed live into our editing rooms, where editors would've picked out the sound bites that were worthy of airtime. It may take an extra 10 minutes to get it on the air, but it performs as a necessary filter.
I have just seen last week's numbers, and I am glad to report that CNN's open air practice didn't do them any good in the ratings. For the first time that I can remember, MSNBC beat CNN in every single one of the demographics in primetime and in two (18-34 and 25-54) of the three demographics in total day. MSNBC beat CNN in total primetime viewing, but CNN edged them in total day. Fox, of course, swept them both in every category, and in primetime finished in the top ten of "adults 25-54" for the first time in a long time. It also finished eleventh in total day 25-54s. We know where the passion lies, and it ain't coming from the liberals.
President Obama is suffering from over-exposure and under-performance. It's about time he stopped talking and started doing. Otherwise, CNN will have no ratings at all.