Thursday, June 5, 2008

MSNBC Had Best Coverage of the Primary Campaigns

This is not a statistical analysis, but the impressions of one viewer - me - who happens to be a Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City, and author of a whole bunch of books about the media.

I'm thinking MSNBC had far and away the best coverage of the primary campaigns - far better than its CNN and Fox competition.

Here's why:

1. Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams, and Tim Russert commenting on the nights when the votes are counted: No other cable station or network has that kind of fire power - the current network news anchor (Williams), the previous network news anchor (Brokaw), and, just for good measure the host of Meet the Press (Russert). CNN and Fox have no parent network such as NBC to draw upon.

2. The coverage of MSNBC during the day is top-notch, even extraordinary. Andrea Mitchell interviews movers and shakers whenever she is on, which is often. (Her interview with Manhattan Congressman Charlie Rangel yesterday broke new ground in what was happening with Hillary Clinton, to give just one example.) Meanwhile, Nora O'Donnell and David Shuster, who also have shows on MSNBC during the day, are first-class political reporters. At best, CNN and Fox's day people may be as good as Contessa Brewer and Monica Novotny on MSNBC - but usually not.

3. Chuck Todd is outstanding as a political and statistical analyst on MSNBC. CNN makes a good showing with John King at the magic board, and Bill Schneider's political analysis - call that a draw, maybe. Frank Luntz on Fox is a distant third.

4. The prime-time lineups are about the most equal. Larry King on CNN is in a (good) class by himself. Britt Hume and Bill O'Reilly on Fox are certainly powerful commentators, and Hannity & Colmes are ok. (I'm not taking political positions here, just assessing power on television.) But Chris Matthews on MSNBC is right up there, too. And Keith Olbermann right after Matthews is an imposing presence, too. And for politics, David Gregory and Dan Abrams on MSNBC are a lot better than Greta Van Susteren on Fox, and, for my money, better than Anderson Cooper on CNN, one of its stars.

5. All three cable operations get good guests for regular political commentary. David Gergen on CNN is probably the best - adviser to umpteen Presidents - but Pat Buchanan and Joe Scarborough on MSNBC hold their own, and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove on Fox News are nothing to sneeze at.

All in all: MSNBC is well ahead in two of the five categories above, and close to equal and sometimes better on the other three.

Prediction: If MSNBC keeps this up during the ensuing General Election campaign, it will be the #1 cable news network.

Advice: MSNBC has wisely moved its "Doc Block" to the midnight hour. I'd recommend removing it completely.
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