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Jon Stewart’s Revenge

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CNN to kill Crossfire – Tucker “Dick” Carlson to leave for the 9pm weeknight slot on MSNBC.

Though Jon Stewart’s approach left much to be desired in the courtesy and interpersonal relationship departments, his basic contention that hyped-up confrontational debate shows like Crossfire do not contribute to public discourse and primarily serve the purpose of polarization appears to have been swallowed whole by new CNN president Jonathan Klein:

    “I guess I come down more firmly in the Jon Stewart camp,” Klein told The Associated Press.

    Klein said all of the cable networks, including CNN, have overdosed on programming devoted to arguing over issues. Klein said he wants more substantive programming that is still compelling.

    “I doubt that when the president sits down with his advisers they scream at him to bring him up to date on all of the issues,” he said. “I don’t know why we don’t treat the audience with the same respect.”

    “Crossfire” began in 1982 and was once a mainstay of CNN’s prime time. Pat Buchanan from the right and Michael Kinsley from the left were two of its most prominent hosts.

    But as Fox News Channel perfected the format with popular hosts Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, “Crossfire” lost favor among CNN executives and was moved to the afternoons in 2002. It averages 447,000 viewers each weekday, down 21 percent from the previous season, according to Nielsen Media Research. Carlson rotates as host with conservative columnist Bob Novak. Paul Begala and James Carville are the left-leaning ringleaders.

    Klein said he hoped Novak, Begala and Carville would continue with meaningful commentator roles at CNN. [AP]

Howard Kurtz has some interesting additional information:

    Carlson told CNN last April that he was through as a co-host of “Crossfire” but agreed to continue while trying to negotiate a new role before his contract expired next week. He praised the show but said that he felt constrained by its left-right format and that “when my opinions diverged from those of the White House it was difficult” to conduct the expected debate, particularly when he opposed the Iraq war.

With the moves, Klein seems to be saying if you can’t beat ‘em (Fox News that is) then run in the other direction.

See Kevin Holtsberry’s interview with Carlson here.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/djradiohead DJRadiohead

    The proof is in the pudding. It’s great Klein says he wants to create thoughtful, compelling programming. But I have heard that from network executives before and they have not delivered. We’ll see.

    I won’t miss “Crossfire” either way.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Eric –

    I’m not sure if you’re presenting this story the right way round. From my understanding, Carlson was looking to jump ship (likely to MSNBC… who can use another “affable conservative” like they can use a hole in the head) before Crossfire got canceled.

    Carlson may have been angling for his own prime-time slot on CNN, but in the end, I think this is a story of Carlson’s ambition and not about the death-knell of the cable talk-show scream-a-thon.

    Full disclosure: I largely agree with Jon Stewart. And I love Hardball on MSNBC. Go figure.

    Eric Berlin
    Dumpster Bust: Miracles from Mind Trash

  • Eric Olsen

    You are right as well – he wanted out of Crossfire and wanted a prime time talk show of his own and CNN wouldn’t give it to him so they didn’t renew his contract but he was leaving under the circumstances anyway. There doesn’t appear to be any particular animosity either way, however.

    I thought the most interesting part was the explicit agreement with Stewart by the president of the channel that the whole approach doesn’t work (for them anyway)

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    I think CNN and MSNBC have absolutely no idea what will or won’t work for them at present. Fox is King of the Hill, and everyone else is scrambling for the bread crumbs of market share.

    You’ve got to think that the Internet and blogosphere are increasingly to blame for this, no?

  • Eric Olsen

    I think Fox’s success can be attributed to the fact that a large number of people really do believe most of the mainstream media is biased against the U.S. government in general and this administration in particular – that Fox’s obvious bias in the other direction is a corrective tonic.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    I agree with comment 5, but what is strange is that so many paople are willing to accept biased misinformation as a counter balance to biased information.

  • Eric Olsen

    that’s how the scales of justice work, my friend

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    They should have just closed Crossfire down when they got rid of Buchanan.

  • Eric Olsen

    although I have very little confidence that these moves are based upon philosophy changes rather than ratings, perhaps the result will still be a better CNN

  • http://www.filteringcraig.com Craig Lyndall

    That is always what gets lost in these conversations about the cable news channels. At the end of the day, the shows are judged just like sitcoms. Ratings, ratings, and um, oh yeah… ratings.

    I am sure Carlson wanted something better. I am sure CNN needs something better than Crossfire due to its waning popularity. Stewart’s comment and the ensuing tidal wave of murmuring from around the internet probably just paved the way for the president of CNN to decide that the show wasn’t salvageable ratings-wise.

    Either way, I agree with Eric’s last point that it could create a better CNN

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Craig, it has always astounded me that with all of that time to fill, the news channels still do such a shallow, headline-oriented job rather than using the opportunity for at least SOME depth

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    i guess the question is, do people, enough people, care about depth?

  • Eric Olsen

    they claim they do – I don’t think they could lose with a few high-profile examples of it

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    When I “discovered” NPR a number of years back, I was astounded by the quality and depth of its programming. And, it usually managed to be interesting and entertaining. It is astounding to me that cable news can’t seem to turn this trick… maybe they feel it costs too much money to produce content that’s substantive? Easier/cheaper to let two dudes from two think tanks scream at each other about the topic-of-the-day for an hour?

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Jon commented on the ‘demise’ of Crossfire’, quite gleefully, on show last night. No transcript handy, but he evidently enjoyed setting a fire under the collective ass of the media.

  • Eric Olsen

    I’m not sure Jon’s best move is gloating right now since he was such a dipshit when he made the point.

    Eric, the NPR comparison is apt but may say more about the importance of NPR than the parameters of commerical news broadcasting, but it’s a comparison they are going to have to live with.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Jon Stewart wasn’t really “gleeful”, he did the story straight, with the punchline “you mean all you have to do to get a show cancelled is ask?”, and then noted where all the shouting heads are going to new jobs, noting it was like musical chairs, when when the music stops, everybody has a chair. Later in the show, he had two little boys reading transcripts from Crossfire, and they kept breaking up at how stupid it was (a similar gag to Lettterman’s “Pat & Kenny read Oprah”).

  • Shark

    Tucker Carlson is doomed no matter what he does; there is some extremely frightening Jungian stereotype that kicks in when one witnesses a young right-wing Republican in a bow-tie.

    What’s strange is: the viewer’s political orientation isn’t important; one can even sympathize with Tucker’s opinions, but regardless, one wants to either flee from the tie or kill the wearer.

    Seriously. It’s been studied.

  • http://www.morethings.com/senate Al Barger

    Carlson is just such a limp noodle. Yuck. Who the hell would EVER want to watch him? I can’t imagine many conservatives thinking of this guy as representing them.

    I feel about Carlson probably somewhat the way Al Franken and some other liberals feel about Alan Colmes.

  • http://podbaydoor.com randy

    I’m not unhappy to see Crossfire canned, and with it, jerks like Tucker Carlson. I’m weary of watching political debate and discussion, so-called, that has evolved into half-hour or hour long shouting matches. Nothing intelligent is offered, no creative discussion ensues. Good riddance to bad rubbish, and if Jon Stewart’s jab at Carlson began Crossfire’s downfall, well, good for him.