Is it just me that thinks CNN is bad? Really bad? Before you think I am piling on CNN…hardly…I am simply amazed at the fall from grace of the once dominant news network. There was a time, not long ago, when the world really did get it’s news from CNN. Not anymore. Jeffrey M. McCall is a professor of communication at DePauw University in Greencastle and writes for the Indianapolis Star: The rearranging of deck chairs is under way at CNN as the flailing and formerly prestigious news organization tries to reverse its ongoing ratings slide into irrelevance.
Just how bad are CNN’s ratings? Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes was quoted saying he is “clearly not satisfied” with CNN’s dismal ratings and promised changes. The movement got going with the recent cancellation of “John King, USA” in the 6 p.m. slot, removing the longtime political reporter from his signature show. King’s ratings had dropped off the table, with fewer than 300,000 viewers on some evenings. By contrast, Bret Baier’s “Special Report” on Fox News Channel normally draws 2 million. CNN’s round-the-clock viewership is down more than 20 percent in the last year, even in a general election year. Prime-time viewership this spring averaged fewer than 400,000 on some nights, with Anderson Cooper’s show losing a fourth of its audience and Piers Morgan’s show more than that. It has been more than 20 years since so few people watched CNN in prime time.
Live + Same Day Cable News Daily Ratings for June 26, 2012
|P2+ (000s)||25-54 (000s)||35-64 (000s)|
|Primetime||P2+ (000s)||25-54 (000s)||35-64 (000s)|
CNN was once the go-to place for news hounds and helped create the 24-hour news cycle. CNN was the network of Bernard Shaw, Aaron Brown, Lou Waters and journalists…credible…real journalists. The channel distinguished itself covering breaking news and especially shined during history-making stories such as the Challenger disaster, the Tiananmen Square protests and the Gulf wars. But after media mega-giant Time Warner took it over from Ted Turner in 1996, CNN became just one part of a huge media conglomerate.
Fox News Channel and MSNBC entered the cable news competition in 1996 and divided the all-news audience. The increased competition only partially explains CNN’s decline. CNN had faced new competition in 1982 when ABC-backed Satellite News Channel debuted and fizzled in less than two years because of CNN’s dominance. Fox News, however, exploited CNN’s perceived journalistic imbalance and provided an alternative news vision that led to ratings superiority in less than 10 years.
CNN gets praise from critics at times for being more journalistically centrist than the politically charged MSNBC and Fox News. Many viewers, however, would have a hard time buying that after watching Sambolin’s confrontational interview with congressional candidate Joe the Plumber, or Wolf Blitzer’s recent fawning interview with Bill Clinton. Clinton needed a soft place to walk back his statements about tax cuts and Mitt Romney’s “sterling” business career, and Blitzer delivered, gushing about Clinton’s diet and praising his daughter, Chelsea.
Turning CNN around will take more than razzle-dazzle and new graphics packages. CNN doesn’t need a ratings doctor; it needs a journalism doctor. Somebody to say that a channel that prides itself on breaking news shouldn’t be interspersing coverage of the Wisconsin recall vote with hours-old features from Queen Elizabeth’s anniversary events. Somebody to say that maybe Anderson Cooper is no longer best suited to be the face of CNN. Somebody to say that you don’t enhance your reputation as a news organization by hiring a brash chef like Anthony Bourdain to fill time on weekends. Somebody to say that filling King’s lost hour with a third hour of Wolf Blitzer, as CNN plans to do, will be mind-numbing. Somebody to say that CNN is now wonkish, formulaic, tired and yappy.
CNN’s biggest mistake is its inability to assess the public’s priorities and interests. For example, this is the channel that took a disgraced politician, Eliot Spitzer, and gave him a prime-time show. Predictably, viewers had no interest in the political musings of a former governor who liked high-priced hookers. It is hard to undo that kind of image disaster.
CNN’s demise is also, in part, because of it’s desire to package entertainment crap as news. Television is, in a sense, it’s own worst enemy. Instead of focusing on their strengths…the ability to cover breaking news from anywhere in the world and bring the pictures into our homes, they are relying on crap that is available on hundreds of other outlets. I shouldn’t complain too much because it is precisely this lack of bona fide news coverage that is pushing more and more people to the blogs where journalists are free from corporate interference and have the ability to bring stories home. A friend of mine pointed out that CNN lost it’s luster when it became easy to turn off the network and not fear missing anything. He is exactly right.
Sometimes…many times…in the news business it is much more important to be right than to be first. I make it a point to be first with late breaking stories that may effect life or limb but when the details contained in a story are difficult to understand and make sense of, it is, in my opinion more important to be correct. I am disgusted today by the reporting on both CNN and FOX. Moments after the 193-page ruling was released by the court, several media outlets–including CNN and Fox News–erroneously reported on-air that the mandate had been struck down. “BREAKING NEWS: INDIVIDUAL MANDATE STRUCK DOWN,” CNN’s on-screen scroll blared. “Supreme Court finds measure unconstitutional.”
It was a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment for the 21st Century, New York Times reporter Charlie Savage tweeted, pointing to a screengrab of CNN’s premature scroll. CNN.com’s homepage mirrored the on-air report–inspiring at least one timely photo illustration: President Obama, as Harry Truman, proudly displaying the CNN homepage on his iPad.
The network later apologized:
In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts initially said that the individual mandate was not a valid exercise of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause. CNN reported that fact, but then wrongly reported that therefore the court struck down the mandate as unconstitutional. However, that was not the whole of the Court’s ruling. CNN regrets that it didn’t wait to report out the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate. We made a correction within a few minutes and apologize for the error.
“Fox News was so eager to see the healthcare mandate fail they forgot to read past the 1st page of the ruling,” Jason Keath wrote, pointing t a screengrab of the network’s breaking news stumble.
Fox issued a statement of its own:
We gave our viewers the news as it happened. When Justice Roberts said, and we read, that the mandate was not valid under the Commerce clause, we reported it. Bill Hemmer even added, be patient as we work through this. Then when we heard and read, that the mandate could be upheld under the government’s power to tax, we reported that as well—all within two minutes. By contrast, one other cable network was unable to get their Supreme Court reporter to the camera, and said as much. Another said it was a big setback for the President. Fox reported the facts, as they came in.
And late Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times accidentally published the shell of what their front page story would have looked likehad the voted against the individual mandate. On Twitter, Roberts, who joined the liberal wing of the court in upholding the mandate, began trending both in the U.S. and worldwide. “Judging by my Twitter feed,” Buzzfeed’s McCay Coppins write, “Chief Justice Roberts is now conservative public enemy number one.” “Roberts is the Severus Snape of the Supreme Court,” Jezebel.com’s Erin Gloria Ryan tweeted.
Conservatives on Twitter expressed their outrage in tweets. “Obama lied to the American people. Again,” former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin tweeted. “He said it wasn’t a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies.” An alarming number of Twitter users, Buzzfeed noted, declared their intent to move to Canada. “Don’t worry,” former head Onion writer Joe Garden write on Twitter. “Despite the health care ruling, America will still find a way to crush its poor.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — (DMN) – The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the critical component of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate. By upholding the individual mandate — the requirement for all Americans to acquire health insurance — the court kept what many described as the “heart” of the law. The decision creates some certainty surrounding federal health care policy, allowing federal and state rulemakers to, for now, implement the law. The decision was 5 – 4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the liberal justices and writing the majority opinion. The court ruled that the federal government does have the power to require all Americans to acquire insurance if the “fine” imposed on those who don’t is considered a tax.
The court found fault with one major provision of the law, which would have expanded Medicaid coverage. Currently, Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health care to certain poor Americans, such as children and the elderly. In 2014, the Affordable Care Act would have opened up Medicaid to anyone with an income under 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Several states argued the expansion of the program would have placed an undue burden on the states, and the court agreed, writing in its opinion that the provision was like a “gun to the head of the states.” If a state had chosen not to expand the program as the law required, it would have had to opt out of Medicaid completely — something no state could afford to do. The court ruled that the federal government’s ability to revoke a state’s Medicaid funding is limited — thus, the states can opt into the expansion, but they don’t have to.
The high court’s move hardly ends the political controversy surrounding the law; if anything, the decision to uphold most of the law is sure to renew calls for lawmakers to repeal the Affordable Care Act legislatively. Both President Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney are expected to address the court ruling later today. In a written statement, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said, “Today’s decision makes one thing clear: Congress must act to repeal this misguided law. Obamacare has not only limited choices and increased health care costs for American families, it has made it harder for American businesses to hire.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor, “Our Supreme Court has spoken. The matter is settled. It’s time for Republicans to stop fighting yesterday’s battles.”
The high court rejected the argument, advanced by the Obama administration, that the individual mandate was constitutional under the commerce clause of the Constitution. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the court’s four liberal justices – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan – in voting to uphold the mandate, ruling that a penalty for refusing to buy health insurance amounts to a tax.
Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010 capped decades of efforts to implement a national program of health care. The legislation is supposed to eventually extend health-care coverage to more than 30 million Americans who currently lack it. “No longer will Americans be a heart attack or a car crash away from bankruptcy,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday after the ruling. “No longer will Americans live in fear of losing their health insurance because they lose their job.”
Republicans in Congress and GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney have vowed to try and repeal the measure after the November elections. The health-care issue thrust the Supreme Court into the public spotlight unlike anything since its role in the 2000 presidential election. The court’s examination of the law received massive coverage — especially during three days of oral arguments in March — and its outcome remained Washington’s most closely guarded secret. The court reviewed four questions: whether it was within Congress’s constitutional powers to impose the individual mandate to purchase health insurance; whether all or any additional parts of the law must be struck down if the mandate is rejected; whether an expansion of Medicaid was unduly coercive on the states and whether all of those questions can even be reviewed before the mandate takes effect.
On the Medicaid question, the judges found that the law’s expansion of Medicaid can move forward, but not its provision that threatens states with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if the states declined to comply with the expansion. The finding was unexpected—every lower court that has ruled on the issue has upheld the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion. And it raises immediate questions as to how effectively the federal government will be able to implement a provision that is central to the law’s goal of substantially reducing the share of uninsured Americans.
Medicaid provides health insurance to the poor and disabled with a combination of federal and state dollars. Beginning in 2014, the health-care law significantly broadens the program’s minimum eligibility requirements. About half of the tens of millions of Americans who will be newly covered through the law will gain coverage this way. Initially, the federal government will foot the entire bill for covering the newly eligible. But its share will gradually drop to 90 percent by 2020 and beyond, with states required to pick up the rest. The 26 states challenging the expansion argued in court that this requirement would impose a crushing burden on their budgets.
The court rejected administration’s commerce-clause argument, but ruled 5-4 that Congress nevertheless “has the power to impose” the individual mandate under its taxing authority. The provision “need not be read to do more than impose a tax,” the opinion said. “This is sufficient to sustain it.” Neither the plaintiffs in the case nor the Obama administration had argued before the court that the individual mandate was a tax. Instead, the court asked a Washington lawyer to present the argument that lawsuits against the health-care law were premature under an obscure 19th-century law, the Anti-Injunction Act, which bars suits against a tax until the tax is actually paid.
Under the health-care law, penalties for refusing to buy health insurance do not kick in until people pay their 2015 income tax returns. In its ruling, the court did not accept that the Anti-Injunction Act precludes a decision on the health-care law, but it appeared to embrace the argument that the penalty amounts to a tax. No initiative has exemplified Obama’s progressive domestic agenda or inflamed his conservative opponents like the health-care law. The court’s decision will resonate throughout the election season, not only in the presidential campaign but in House and Senate races across the country.
The law provoked an unlikely debate about the Constitution. Opponents saw it as a trespass on individual and state’s rights by an omnipotent federal government, and supporters viewed it as a long-sought guarantee of health care to Americans regardless of where they live or work. Although the most controversial provisions of the law are not scheduled to take effect until 2014, a complex web of new rules has already extended coverage and expanded benefits across the country. As a mark of the case’s importance, the justices spent more than six hours over three days hearing oral arguments on the constitutional questions and related issues. It was the most time than the court has spent on any issue in nearly half a century.
At the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, two prominent Republican-appointed judges agreed that the law is intrusive but said it is within Congress’s powers. In Cincinnati, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a George W. Bush appointee, was the deciding vote to uphold the act. In Washington, Senior Judge Laurence Silberman, named to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, wrote an opinion saying that the question was political, not constitutional. “It certainly is an encroachment on individual liberty,” Silberman wrote. But then — alluding to other cases in which the Supreme Court has ruled that the commerce clause gives Congress power — he added that “it is no more so than a command that restaurants or hotels are obliged to serve all customers regardless of race, that gravely ill individuals cannot use a substance their doctors described as the only effective palliative for excruciating pain, or that a farmer cannot grow enough wheat to support his own family.”
Even as the legal wrangling grew to a crescendo, some aspects of the law were already being enforced. Those include requirements that many insurance plans allow young adults to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26; cover a range of preventive services, including birth control, without imposing co-payments or other out-of-pocket costs; eliminate lifetime dollar limits on coverage; and begin phasing out annual caps. The three cases the Supreme Court considered were National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius; Florida, et al., v. Department of Health and Human Services; and Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, et al.
More from The Washington Post:
“The bottom line: the entire ACA is upheld” That’s what SCOTUSBlog wrote moments after the Supreme Court announced its ruling on the health-care law. But it wasn’t upheld in the way most thought it would be. The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the Court’s liberals, and Justice Anthony Kennedy casting his vote with the conservatives. This will be covered, in many quarters, as a political story. It means President Obama — and Solicitor General Don Verrilli — are popping the champagne. It means that Mitt Romney and the Republicans who were fighting the health-care law have suffered a setback. It will be covered in other quarters as a legal story: It is likely to be central to Roberts’ legacy, and perhaps even to how we understand the divisions in the Court going forward. And, to be sure, it’s all those things. But those stories don’t capture the effect this decision will have on ordinary Americans.
The individual mandate, by bringing healthy people into the insurance market and lowering premiums, means health insurance for between 12.5 million and 24 million more Americans than if the mandate was struck down. And as Kennedy said in his dissent that the conservatives on the Court believed the entire law should have been invalidated, it means health insurance for 33 million more Americans than if Kennedy and the conservatives had their way. Those are big numbers, But behind them are real people. People like Eric Richter.
Richter, a 39-year-old resident of Ohio, works at a stone drilling company. He and his wife made $36,000 a year. That’s too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to easily afford insurance. So Richter didn’t purchase insurance. “It’s hard to pay for the unknown, when you’re struggling to cover the known,” he told Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times. “I know it sounds irresponsible, but that’s just the way it was. It’s a game of roulette you hope you’re going to win.”
Then Richter discovered a tumor growing up his leg. He first tried home remedies, cutting out sugar and eating beets, having read somewhere that it might help. But it kept growing. His wife sewed him new pants to accommodate the “melon-sized” lump. He stood in church, because it was too painful to sit down. He was turned away from a needed scan because he lacked insurance. In April, doctors in the emergency room told Richter his tumor was malignant. His wife desperately tried to find an insurer would would cover them. No one would. The tumor was, of course, a preexisting condition.
Perhaps nothing in Richter’s story speaks to the cruel reality of the American health-care system better than this: Richter’s wife, Dani, was recently let go from her job at an electronic records firm. For most families, this would be a tragedy. For the Richters, it might be a lifesaver. The loss of income pushed them well beneath the poverty line, and that might mean they qualify for Medicaid. “We’re back to crossing our fingers,” Mrs. Richter told Tavernise. Richter has had some good luck, too. A doctor eventually took an interest in his case and helped him get surgery. The family, however, still has no idea how they will pay the bill for the surgery, or for his needed follow-up care.
The passage of the Affordable Care Act means that, come 2014, people like the Richters get guaranteed health care coverage. If their income is less than 133 percent of the poverty line, they receive Medicaid (unless their state rejects federal Medicaid dollars for the expansion, something the Court made it easier for them to do). If their income is between 133 percent and 400 percent, they receive some level of subsidies. At $36,000, the Richters would be paying less than $200 a month, and no insurer can turn them away. If they are now below the poverty line, they get Medicaid, no questions asked. There is uncertainty between here and 2014. In particular, Mitt Romney could win the election and repeal the law entirely, meaning none of the 30 million Americans expected to gain coverage under the law get it. But the particular roulette wheel that began spinning when Republicans took to the courts to invalidate the Affordable Care Act has come to a stop. And the Richters have won. They can finally uncross their fingers.
Better information. Better health.