This year, I gave up reporting cable news ratings every month. The numbers and spin tell us about the horse race to some extent. But what they mainly do is distract us from the important moral and cultural stories of the way these channels are warping our view of the world with their ideological and show biz priorities rather than any genuine commitment to news and information.
But there are ratings, and then, there are ratings. And the October numbers that just came out offer a sobering snapshot of just how badly CNN's misadventures in programming are going -- even as they cheapen their news brand identity to try and find larger audiences.
At 9 p.m., Piers Morgan drew an overall audience of 589,000 viewers, with 176,000 of those in the prime news demographic of 25 to 54 years of age.
At his absolute lame duck low after his departure had been long announced, Larry King was drawing 657,000 overall viewers and 168,000 in the prime demographic.
And when King's departure was announced -- that is when CNN felt his decline was too steep for him to continue -- the venerable talk show host was averaging 771,000 viewers during the hour. That's almost 200,000 more than Morgan is now.
I wonder if CNN might not welcome a revelation in the UK phone hacking scandal that Morgan was involved, despite his claims of innocence. It might offer the people who hired and relentlessly promoted him an easy way out.
As for Erin Burnett at 7 p.m., who launched Oct. 3 with that defining (in all the wrong ways) trip to Occupy Wall Street, she drew 490,000 viewers overall with 146,000 in the key news demographic.
I won't even compare that to first-place Fox News. A better of sense of what a weak launch that amounts to is found in the fact that MSNBC's “Hardball with Chris Matthews” at 7 p.m. drew 769,000 viewers with 176,000 in the prime demo.
This is old-old-old-school, Democratic-Party-hack Chris Matthews who on a good night is somewhere between a surly state of somnambulism and borderline comatose. That's the guy who not only trounced her in overall viewers, but beat her with younger audience members.