Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Media Geezer Alert

Trailing both the Fox News Channel and CNN in ratings, advertising dollars and awareness, MSNBC today will announce that it has signed Phil Donahue, left-wing gasbag and ranking media geezer, to lead it to the promised land of 1.0 Nielsen ratings. Roger Ailes must be really worried now.

MSNBC began, you may recall, as the "younger demographic" news channel. By installing Donahue, who was the Oprah Winfrey of the 1970s and who is a certifiable loon on issues of national security (which are not exactly unimportant these days), MSNBC President Eric Sorenson has essentially given up trying to do anything new or different or interesting. And yet another overpaid, aged white man who should have retired (and indeed, did retire) years ago is now air-hogging younger talent out of an anchor/host slot and money-sucking entry-level jobs out of existence.

It would be one thing if Mr. Donahue offered some hope of attracting an audience that advertisers cannot otherwise reach. But since most of the news menu is comprised of shows hosted by overpaid, aged white men who should have retired years ago, there is simply no evidence that he can or will.

It's probably true that more news outlets are better than fewer news outlets. But given MSNBC's management, and its utter lack of imagination, I'm not so sure. As a practical matter, the only successful show they have is Imus in the Morning. And Imus produces his own show.