Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Pew notes that African-Americans have been far more focused on the George Zimmerman trial than whites:
... the story has consistently attracted far more interest among blacks than whites – and that remained the case in the trial's final days. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to say they tracked news about the Zimmerman trial very closely (56% vs. 20%).

Moreover, fully 67% of blacks say they watched at least some live coverage of the Zimmerman trial, compared with 38% of whites. About one-in-five blacks (21%) say they watched "almost all" of the trial coverage; just 5% of whites reported watching almost all of it.
And yet MSNBC, which (at least in primetime) focused heavily on the trial and shared the widespread outrage at what Zimmerman did, had lousy ratings on the night of the verdict:
When the jury announced it had acquitted Zimmerman of all charges, MSNBC found itself in fourth place in the ratings, behind, Fox, CNN and HLN.

According to preliminary numbers, Fox News was #1 in total viewers with 3.862M. CNN came in second with 3.407M, followed by sister network HLN with 2.203M. MSNBC was fourth with only 1.298M, ... far behind their major competitors.... CNN came in first in the 25-54 demo with 1.716M viewers, while Fox was second with 1.113M. Again, HLN was third with 980K in the demo and MSNBC was last with 510K.
Fox and talk radio have made right-wing politics fun for a white but economically diverse audience that might otherwise turn to non-political media content. Fox and the radio talkers have turned politics into entertainment, with heroes and villains and morality plays.

MSNBC, besides not being ideologically consistent from day to night the way Fox is, has done a lousy job of reaching viewers beyond its target audience of well-educated people who are mostly white. So when the verdict came down, black viewers didn't tune in. MSNBC hasn't tried very hard to reach them. It doesn't have much interest in appealing to the white working class, either -- yes, I know working-class whites skew right, but they're disgruntled, yet only the right and the bland center are trying to speak to them. I always regarded Ed Schultz as a faux-working class guy, someone who plays a working-class guy on TV, but at least he was trying, and now he's been banished from MSNBC prime time, in favor of Chris Hayes, whose ratings are worse.

Well, it's the long-standing problem with progressives: an awkward, rickety coalition that comes together harmoniously mostly on Election Day. And no, I don't have an easy solution.


Victor said...

MSNBC on weekend mornings, is the ONLY channel which consistently has minority members as guests.
AND has minority hosts, after Steve Karnacki's show.

The panels include white women, black men and women, Hispanics of both sexes - and, even the occasional Asian guest.

Outside of that, MSNBC goes all over the spectrum, from Cup O' Shchmo's GOP Show in the mornings, to Liberals like Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes on in the evening.

I wish the channel was ideologically consistent in its Liberalism, but that's probably never going to happen.

I hate Cup O' Schmoe's GOP Show, but it's probably the thing most DC political and media Villagers watch, so it's probably not going anywhere.

I'm thankful that, at least if I'm of the mind to turn on Cable TV news - which is rare - I can, with reasonable "safety," turn to MSNBC - as long as it's not from 6am to 9am, and not have to watch all-GOP all of the time.

Bert Caradine said...

As an educated Black man who watches MSNBC almost exclusively, I think Steve that you give the cable channel short shrift for at least trying to diversify its guest/topics in order to attract a wider audience. I think this Media Matters research can inform further:


Kathy said...

I agree with Bert re: short shrift. I wish MSNBC had left Chris Hayes on Saturday morning in his 2-hour slot. Nothing against Steve Kornacki at all, but Chris thrived in that environment, and it was not-to-be-missed TV for us. Along with Melissa Harris Perry, who broke my heart over and over Saturday night and Sunday morning. Both Chris and Melissa (and Steve too) bring in people whose voices aren't at the table on other cable news stations. I don't expect to see Maya Wiley on CNN anytime soon (she's amazing and brilliant, and her discourse on implicit racism on MHP Sunday morning should be required viewing ).