Accuracy in Media

In the “What Were They Thinking?” category we may need to add CNN’s decision on Tuesday night to break away from the Wisconsin recall election shortly after the polls closed to air extended highlights of the network’s earlier coverage of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. And they paid dearly for the decision.

CNN, which after making a brief run at challenging MSNBC in the ratings has been buffeted by recent reports revealing that many of their shows have sunk to decade-low ratings, and in some cases multi-decade-lows, in their time slots, raising questions about the network’s programming strategy.

Now comes the decision Tuesday evening to break up their election coverage with highlights of the Queen’s jubilee, up against Fox and MSNBC’s non-stop coverage of the Wisconsin recall election.

The result was that for those first two hours after the polls closed, when CNN carried extensive highlights of their jubilee coverage, they were beaten badly by Fox and MSNBC, which saw their ratings soar over Monday’s, as viewers were left with just two choices if they wanted up-to-the-minute coverage.

But by the time CNN returned to election night coverage, the election was called for incumbent Governor Scott Walker, and viewer interest had begun to wane.

Up until now CNN has been competitive when covering the presidential election primaries, but for some odd reason they chose to break up their coverage of an election that was widely considered to be a barometer of the presidential election in November.

Plus, the primary in California, with the top two vote-getters facing off in November regardless of party affiliation, provided an interesting twist to the evening and a potential look at whether or not the Democrats actually have a shot at retaking control of the House this year.

But that was seemingly lost on the CNN brass, who made the decision to replay highlights of their coverage from across the pond rather than fully cover events in their own backyard.

CNN faces many challenges as they evaluate their primetime lineup and try to compete against MSNBC, but by passing up an easy opportunity to give them a one-night boost, it brings into question the judgment of those running the network and makes me think a more complete housecleaning is in order if the network is to ever become competitive again.

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