When Bernie Shaw left CNN several years ago I felt like I had lost a friend. The well-respected reporter, along with his co-anchor Judy Woodruff, made politics and campaigns pop and sizzle with insight and energy on the first all news cable network. Their program “Inside Politics” was truly must see TV. CNN has changed over the years as a result of downsizing and altering their news focus, and as a result the caliber of their political reporting has suffered.
Fortunately for political minded Americans there is another all news cable network that proved it had the reporters and analysts to program solid election coverage during the just completed midterm elections. To top it off they have continued their excellent coverage of events in Washington with solid political reporting, such as on the dust up between Speaker-elect Pelosi and new Majority Leader Hoyer.
I am speaking of course about MSNBC. They deserve a standing ovation for the credible way they reported the stories and covered the results of the midterms. They treated the public with respect as they interviewed candidates while other news networks were providing infotainment programming. While MSNBC was bringing in their top name reporters and anchors to do an hour of programming on the midterms during the daytime, the other all news networks were giving repeated versions of old news. Car chases and Hollywood sex are not serious news!
Chris Matthews is the power engine on MSNBC, and provides in my estimation a seasoned and balanced foundation for the overall coverage. His style may irritate some, but I find his energy and enthusiasm for the story very appealing. I also find him genuine as he approaches his coverage from the perspective of Middle America. While he is disgusted with the Iraq war and wonders how no one in the White House could miss the history lessons of the Middle East, he is also amused how quiet the Democrats are for putting forth any real concrete ideas about the conflict. Waiting for the Baker report does not appeal to him. (I share his view on this.) This reasoned and even-handed approach by Matthews and the other MSNBC reporters and talk show hosts is catching on with the viewing public.
In October MSNBC’s ratings were up 14% from a year earlier, while Faux News was down 17%. CNN was off 8% in that same time period. The national mood was ready for a robust election cycle and we were not short changed. I think with the open field for each party in 2008 the appetite for political news and talk will be enormous. MSNBC has proved it has the reporters and the know how to make elections a commodity that the viewers will be attracted to, and the advertisers lusty for with their ad buys. Unless CNN makes a much-needed correction in news/political strategy MSNBC will be the home for political junkies.