Cast not the first stone, CNN

Gene Mueller's Blog

Invincible. Durable. Once-untouchable.

Just some of the adjectives used to describe Bill O'Reilly in the hours since Fox News cut him loose as host of "The Factor", the prime-time ratings juggernaut now scrubbed of both his name and presence amid sex harassment allegations. A New York Times story about settlements being made to claimants sharpened the ax and sponsors let it fall as the fled the show in droves. 

The home of "the no-spin zone" would like us to believe the Murdoch boys want to scour the halls of O'Reilly, Roger Ailes and anyone else who grunts, groans or makes lurid comments to female colleagues. The skeptic in me says revenue losses greased the skids, along with the Murdoch empire's designs on the British satellite firm Sky, a buy London won't sign off on unless Fox's record is clean. Let the record show that O'Reilly's viewership remained strong amid prior dust-ups or the most recent revelations, They only dipped when he went on his previously scheduled vacation.

Seems every time you change channels, CNN is offering up fresh takes on their rival's troubles. That's what you see on-camera: one can only imagine execs doing back flips down the Atlanta HQ's hallways, now that the vampire it could never vanquish has a silver stake in the heart, the coup de grace applied not by Anderson Cooper or Jake Tapper but instead by someone at a Times' keyboard. 

O'Reilly lasted because he made Fox scads of money--as my partner, Jane Matenaer puts it, the dismissal isn't about conscience so much as it is cash. And, that's CNN's M-O moving forward: as good as O'Reilly was for Fox's ratings, his demise makes the meter move. A network without a mission for years found its voice by giving the people not the news they needed but the stories they wanted in the person of Donald Trump as his campaign began. Now that he's in the White House, CNN is sticking to that plan, ignoring the world for what sells in the moment using an ESPN approach

It's not good for the advancement of political thought, government or uniting a fractured country but it sure fattens a bottom line. Fox, CNN and MSNBC share differing viewpoints but don't believe for a second that they don't have a common mission: make money. Lots of it. It's why O'Reilly lasted, at least until the ads vanished. It's why Trump had the CNN control room hotline and unfettered airtime during his presidential bid. It's why MSNBC oversells a "scoop" about Trump's tax returns, even though it barely cracked the door on the story.

Red? Blue? Naw. They're all emerald green. It's why there's an empty office at Fox and a full stage of talking heads at CNN. It's never a good thing when a news gathering organization make headlines--unless it's winning an award--nor is it to be awash in red ink. Ratings are important but profit decides futures, coverage and sadly, what "news" is.

At least until we find better, and then make a habit of it. 

 

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