Slow news day?
A report that bombastic left-wing talk show host Rosie O'Donnell maydo a prime-time show on the cable network MSNBC merited front-page placement at the Times. Media reporter Jacques Steinberg's "Cable Channel Nods to Ratings And Leans Left " actually ended up being more of an excuse to talk about MSNBC's resident ranter and left-wing hero, Keith Olbermann, host of the talk show "Countdown With Keith Olbermann," and to compare the anti-Bush rants of Olbermann and fellow host Chris Matthews to Fox News.
"Riding a ratings wave from 'Countdown With Keith Olbermann,' a program that takes strong issue with the Bush administration, MSNBC is increasingly seeking to showcase its nighttime lineup as a welcome haven for viewers of a similar mind.
"Lest there be any doubt that the cable channel believes there is ratings gold in shows that criticize the administration with the same vigor with which Fox News's hosts often champion it, two NBC executives acknowledged yesterday that they were talking to Rosie O'Donnell about a prime-time show on MSNBC.
"During the nine months she spent on 'The View' before departing abruptly last spring, Ms. O'Donnell raised viewership notably. She did so while lamenting the unabated casualties of the Iraq war and advocating the right to gay marriage, among other positions."
The Times has been reluctant to elucidate those "other positions ," soft-pedaling O'Donnell's wack-job 9-11 conspiracy theories.
Steinberg went on to compare the vitriolic leftist Olbermann and the wacky O'Donnell to Fox News as a whole.
"Having a prime-time lineup that tilts ever more demonstrably to the left could be risky for General Electric, MSNBC's parent company, which is subject to legislation and regulation far afield of the cable landscape. Officials at MSNBC emphasize that they never set out to create a liberal version of Fox News....Fox News consistently denies any political bias in its programming. But whether by design or not, MSNBC is managing to add viewers at a moment when its hosts echo the country's disaffection with President Bush."
Steinberg lapsed into something close to pro-Olbermann cheerleading:
"The channel has done so much as Fox News did beginning in 1996, when the president was Bill Clinton, a Democrat. On some nights recently, Mr. Olbermann has even come tantalizingly close to surpassing the ratings of the host he describes as his nemesis, Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, at least among viewers ages 25 to 54, which is the demographic cable news advertisers prefer. Most of the time, though, Mr. O'Reilly outdraws Mr. Olbermann by about 1.5 million viewers over all at the same hour, according to Nielsen Media Research."
In July 2006, media reporter Bill Carteralso spun Obermann's ratings gainsin the 25-to-54 category as significant.
Steinberg ignored Olbermann's recent gaffe when he tore into Rudy Giuliani for allegedly claiming that Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would invite "Osama bin Laden" to the White House for negotiations. Giuliani in fact mentioned Syrian president Bashar Assad, not "Osama." Olbermann later issued a pathetic apology, then went on to attack Giuilani some more.
Brian Maloney has more on the NYT's spin at the Radio Equalizer .