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CNN falls, Palin rises

Posted by Kara Miller, Culture Club  March 30, 2010 10:42 PM

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Is CNN slowly dying?

If you've watched the station's slow, death-spiral ratings slide - as I have - it's hard to avoid the question. Once, CNN was number one in cable news, the groundbreaker, the standard by which everyone else was judged.

But that was before Fox News' rise to glory - and numbers that eventually pummeled CNN. Soon, Fox News was winning every hour of the day, even 9 p.m., which had once belonged to the venerable Larry King.

Still, CNN's fall - and Fox News' rise - didn't stop there. In recent years, CNN has struggled to get more viewers than perennial also-ran MSNBC. Indeed, between January and March of this year, Larry King was beaten not just by Sean Hannity (Fox) or Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) but by (gasp!) Joy Behar, who has had her own show on HLN (formerly Headline News) for just six months.

"The losses at CNN," notes the New York Times' Bill Carter, "continued a pattern in place for much of the last year, as the network trailed its competitors in every prime-time hour. (CNN still easily beats MSNBC in the daytime hours, but those are less lucrative in advertising money, and both networks are far behind Fox News at all hours.)

"About the only break from the bad news for CNN was that March was not as bad as February, when the network had its worst single month in its recent history, finishing behind not only Fox News and MSNBC, but also its sister network HLN — and even CNBC, which had Olympics programming that month."

Meanwhile, over at Fox, the hits just keep on coming. This Thursday, Sarah Palin - a paid commentator for the network - will host "Real American Stories." The show will run in Greta Van Susteren's usual time slot, 10 p.m. Former GE CEO Jack Welch will appear on the show, as will L.L. Cool J and Toby Keith.

If Sarah Palin can sell a TV show as well as she sells books, CNN may want to assume the fetal position.

UPDATE: As of Thursday morning, L.L. Cool J (real name: James Smith) says he wants out of the Palin show. "Fox," he Twittered, "lifted an old interview I gave in 2008 to someone else & are misrepresenting to the public in order to promote Sarah Palins Show. WOW."

A Fox spokesperson retorted that "Real American Stories [guest hosted by Palin] features uplifting tales about overcoming adversity and we believe Mr. Smith's interview fit that criteria. However, as it appears that Mr. Smith does not want to be associated with a program that could serve as an inspiration to others, we are cutting his interview from the special and wish him the best with his fledgling acting career."

Sounds like all is not cool between LL and Fox.

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About the author

Kara Miller is an Assistant Professor of English, specializing in journalism, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She also serves as a guest panelist on WGBH-TV's “Beat the Press” and contributes to 89.7 FM WGBH (NPR). More »

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