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Chris Cuomo Controversy Creates Viewership Challenges For CNN

“The controversy has put CNN in a bind at a critical time. While CNN currently draws far less than their Fox News competition, it is cable news’ runner-up outlet among the key 25-54 demo.”

Douglas Pucci

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Cable news made news itself during the week of Nov. 29 with the unexpected conclusion of “Cuomo Prime Time” on CNN.

For the better part of the 2021 calendar year, the show, hosted by Chris Cuomo, had been under scrutiny as its host is the younger brother of ousted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. On the air, “Cuomo Prime Time” did not cover Andrew’s scandals concerning multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, Andrew’s alleged misuse of governmental resources for his book about leadership in the midst of the crisis, and the falsified data of those who perished in New York nursing homes during the early months of the pandemic in 2020. A “Washington Post” article published this past May which detailed Chris Cuomo’s involvement in strategy sessions for Andrew had presented a conflict of interest but had not yet risen to the level of termination for Chris.

The Aug. 16 edition of “Cuomo Prime Time” finally addressed Andrew’s news which occurred almost a week following Andrew’s governor resignation announcement. Chris then admitted he “tried to do the right thing” in attempting to help his older brother while placing his journalistic integrity in jeopardy. That night drew 1.46 million total viewers and 393,000 in the key adults 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Chris assured the public that his role in assisting his brother Andrew had been minimal. In addition, that assurance seemed enough to satisfy the higher-ups at CNN who still valued his presence on the network. Nonetheless, a document dump on Nov. 29 from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James which had led the investigation on Andrew Cuomo put Chris’ claims of limited involvement into question. It was revealed that Chris had used his connections within press circles to investigate the women who had accused Andrew of misconduct.

Monday, Nov. 29 was the unexpected final edition of “Cuomo Prime Time”. That night, which was absent of any talk about that day’s document dump, delivered 758,000 total viewers and 158,000 adults 25-54. On the following day, CNN suspended Chris Cuomo. Then, on Saturday Dec. 4, he was ultimately fired as new allegations of sexual misconduct upon him had arisen during the week.

The controversy has put CNN in a bind at a critical time. While CNN currently draws far less than their Fox News competition, it is cable news’ runner-up outlet among the key 25-54 demo. Chris Cuomo’s program was the main reason CNN held on to runner-up status in prime time, as the previous two months’ of their lineup had showed (most of the following “Don Lemon Tonight” data includes the show’s full two-hour 10 p.m.-midnight slot):

“Anderson Cooper 360” (Oct. 4-8): 807,000 total viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54

“Cuomo Prime Time” (Oct. 5-8): 849,000 total viewers; 154,000 adults 25-54

“Don Lemon Tonight” (Oct. 4-8): 534,000 total viewers; 126,000 adults 25-54

“Anderson Cooper 360” (Oct. 11-15): 765,000 total viewers; 168,000 adults 25-54

“Cuomo Prime Time” (Oct. 11-14): 788,000 total viewers; 165,000 adults 25-54

“Don Lemon Tonight” (Oct. 11-15): 527,000 total viewers; 125,000 adults 25-54

“Anderson Cooper 360” (Oct. 18-20 & 22): 834,000 total viewers; 139,000 adults 25-54

“Cuomo Prime Time” (Oct. 18-22): 867,000 total viewers; 168,000 adults 25-54

“Don Lemon Tonight” (Oct. 18-22): 518,000 total viewers; 119,000 adults 25-54

“Anderson Cooper 360” (Oct. 25-29): 681,000 total viewers; 139,000 adults 25-54

“Cuomo Prime Time” (Oct. 25-26 & 28-29): 717,000 total viewers; 130,000 adults 25-54

“Don Lemon Tonight” (Oct. 25-29): 507,000 total viewers; 119,000 adults 25-54

“Anderson Cooper 360” (Nov. 1 & 3-5): 774,000 total viewers; 178,000 adults 25-54

“Cuomo Prime Time” (Nov. 1 & 3-4): 685,000 total viewers; 156,000 adults 25-54

“Don Lemon Tonight” (Nov. 1 & 3-5): 496,000 total viewers; 118,000 adults 25-54

“Anderson Cooper 360” (Nov. 8-12): 762,000 total viewers; 170,000 adults 25-54

“Cuomo Prime Time” (Nov. 8-12): 757,000 total viewers; 165,000 adults 25-54

“Don Lemon Tonight” (Nov. 8-12): 523,000 total viewers; 148,000 adults 25-54

“Anderson Cooper 360” (Nov. 15-19): 844,000 total viewers; 178,000 adults 25-54

“Cuomo Prime Time” (Nov. 15-19): 844,000 total viewers; 186,000 adults 25-54

“Don Lemon Tonight” (Nov. 15-19): 555,000 total viewers; 135,000 adults 25-54

“Anderson Cooper 360” (Nov. 22-24): 744,000 total viewers; 164,000 adults 25-54

“Cuomo Prime Time” (Nov. 22-24): 776,000 total viewers; 166,000 adults 25-54

“Don Lemon Tonight” (Nov. 22-24): 639,000 total viewers; 148,000 adults 25-54

Only twice within the past eight weeks had “Anderson Cooper 360” topped “Cuomo Prime Time” in total viewers; only three times among 25-54. The one week where they each tied in total viewers (Nov. 15-19), “Cuomo” had won in adults 25-54.

Back on Nov. 29, “Anderson Cooper 360” was CNN’s top prime time program with 760,000 total viewers and 175,000 adults 25-54, barely edging past its aforementioned lead-out.

Chris Cuomo’s suspension on Nov. 30 caused a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity as Cooper’s show was unexpectedly extended to two hours that night, from 8-10 p.m. The controversy caused a spike in CNN’s ratings: “AC360” drew 946,000 total viewers and 203,000 adults 25-54 in the 8-9 p.m. hour; 897,000 total viewers and 222,000 adults 25-54 in the 9-10 p.m. hour. “Don Lemon Tonight” also rose on Nov. 30 to 842,000 total viewers and 239,000 adults 25-54 in the 10-11 p.m. hour.

The brief uplift continued on Wednesday, Dec. 1 but sandwiched in between “AC360” (911,000 total viewers; 188,000 adults 25-54) and the 10-11 p.m. portion of “Don Lemon Tonight” (711,000 total viewers; 165,000 adults 25-54) was an original installment of the global town hall entitled “Coronavirus: Facts and Fears” (861,000 total viewers; 196,000 adults 25-54).

Then, ratings seemed to have settled to a new lower normal beginning on Dec. 2 and thru to Dec. 8:

Thursday Dec. 2

8 p.m. — “Anderson Cooper 360”: 690,000 total viewers; 133,000 adults 25-54

9 p.m. — “Anderson Cooper 360”: 611,000 total viewers; 150,000 adults 25-54

10 p.m. (thru 11 p.m.) — “Don Lemon Tonight”: 654,000 total viewers; 144,000 adults 25-54

Friday Dec. 3

8 p.m. — “Anderson Cooper 360”: 822,000 total viewers; 175,000 adults 25-54

9 p.m. — “CNN Special Report: China’s Iron Fist” (repeat): 600,000 total viewers; 127,000 adults 25-54

10 p.m. (thru 11 p.m.) — “Don Lemon Tonight”: 578,000 total viewers; 132,000 adults 25-54

Monday Dec. 6

8 p.m. — “Anderson Cooper 360”: 708,000 total viewers; 0.09 A25-54 rating*

9 p.m. — “CNN Tonight”: 626,000 total viewers; 0.10 A25-54 rating*

10 p.m. (thru 11 p.m.) — “Don Lemon Tonight”: 502,000 total viewers; 0.09 A25-54 rating*

Tuesday Dec. 7

8 p.m. — “Anderson Cooper 360”: 706,000 total viewers; 0.13 A25-54 rating*

9 p.m. — “CNN Tonight”: 659,000 total viewers; 0.14 A25-54 rating*

10 p.m. (thru 11 p.m.) — “Don Lemon Tonight”: 645,000 total viewers; 0.13 A25-54 rating*

Wednesday Dec. 8

8 p.m. — “Anderson Cooper 360”: 717,000 total viewers; 0.13 A25-54 rating*

9 p.m. — “CNN Tonight”: 674,000 total viewers; 0.15 A25-54 rating*

10 p.m. (thru 11 p.m.) — “Don Lemon Tonight”: 619,000 total viewers; 0.15 A25-54 rating*

  • note: a 0.10 rating in adults 25-54 equates to approximately 121,670 viewers within the demo

CNN may be able to keep its 25-54 demo prime time runner-up ranking in cable news for now. But of course, their margins with MSNBC have suddenly become narrower.

Over on the broadcast network side, George Stephanopolous’ prime time interview of Alec Baldwin on ABC on Dec. 2nd posted 4.22 million viewers and a 0.8 A25-54 rating. Those figures ranked fourth for the 8-9 p.m. hour on a more-competitive-than-usual Thursday night due to NBC’s live telecast of the musical “Annie” (5.77 million total viewers from 8-9 p.m.). It was Baldwin’s first exclusive interview since the accidental shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and director Joel Souza on the set of Baldwin’s western “Rust”. Hutchins died from the shot that was fired from the gun held by Baldwin during filming which he claimed had not had its trigger pulled.

Cable news averages for November 29-December 5, 2021. Fox News Channel extended their streaks to 42 weeks as cable’s most-watched network in total viewers..

Total Day (November 29-December 5 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.489 million viewers; 245,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.704 million viewers; 80,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.524 million viewers; 111,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.203 million viewers; 61,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.142 million viewers; 31,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.122 million viewers; 19,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.105 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.104 million viewers; 23,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (November 29-December 4 @ 8-11 p.m.; December 5 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.472 million viewers; 375,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.203 million viewers; 140,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.676 million viewers; 151,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.232 million viewers; 70,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.168 million viewers; 48,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.145 million viewers; 30,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.120 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.047 million viewers; 7,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top MSNBC and CNN programs with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.653 million viewers

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 12/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.586 million viewers

3. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 12/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.527 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 11/29/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.510 million viewers

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 11/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.500 million viewers

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 11/29/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.413 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 12/2/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.353 million viewers

8. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 12/3/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.276 million viewers

9. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 11/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.256 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 12/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.250 million viewers

25. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Wed. 12/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.280 million viewers

158. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Tue. 11/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.946 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top MSNBC, CNN and HLN programs with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/30/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.631 million adults 25-54

2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 12/1/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.615 million adults 25-54

3. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 11/30/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.568 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 12/2/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.562 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 12/1/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.557 million adults 25-54

6. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 11/29/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.532 million adults 25-54

7. Hannity (FOXNC, Wed. 12/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.521 million adults 25-54

8. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 12/2/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.505 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 11/30/2021 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.500 million adults 25-54

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 11/29/2021 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.476 million adults 25-54

33. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Wed. 12/1/2021 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.339 million adults 25-54

82. Don Lemon Tonight (CNN, Tue. 11/30/2021 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.239 million adults 25-54

144. Forensic Files “Fishing For The Truth” (HLN, late Wed. 12/1/2021 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.164 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

BNM Writers

Christopher Gabriel Isn’t Crazy About Politics, But Is Crazy About Making People Laugh

“We’ve been number one in  Fresno for the past 19 months, one of the top stations in the state. We must be doing something right. When we’re not doing news, we’re light-hearted.”

Jim Cryns

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Talk about conflicted youth. Christopher Gabriel grew up a couple of miles from Wrigley Field, even though his father was a devoted fan of the White Sox.

“My dad was a southside guy,” Gabriel said. “I was a White Sox fan like him. My mom was the anomaly, a Cubs fan, but now she’s a Philly fan. We had a divided household. I was in the first row in the upper deck for the last game at Comiskey. It was gut-wrenching saying good-bye to it.”

Yup. Conflicted.

As a kid, Gabriel watched Dick Allen in the red stripe era Sox uniforms. “I saw Allen hit one so far up in left field, it hit the lip of the roof before flying over and out,” Gabriel said. “That’s the kind of power Allen had.”

Gabriel was a basketball standout in high school, recruited by several schools including Tennessee. He had a lot of connections with the school. His uncle attended Tennessee, but he ultimately didn’t think the academic program was right for him.

He said the film Hoosiers was emblematic of everything he was. “I think it mirrored everything I could have been if I’d stayed with basketball. I always knew I had the talent but admittedly didn’t put in the necessary effort. I should have stayed there. At the same time, I never would have had the other amazing experiences in my life if I had stayed.”

His father was a shrewd businessman. Living in the Chicago area, along with McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, his father  recognized the promise of the Golden Arches early.

“It cost 100 thousand dollars in liquid cash to get into a McDonald’s franchise back then,” Gabriel said. “My father had 9 thousand, far short of the money he needed. He kept borrowing more and finally Ray Kroc put up the difference himself. When my dad was concerned about how he was going to be able to pay Kroc back, Kroc just told him to pay it back by giving back to the community.”

Wow. Good deal for the Gabriel family.

Gabriel’s radio career  has encompassed both sports talk and news talk, from Fargo to Fresno. He is the host of Fresno’s Morning News on KMJ 580 AM/105.9 FM and has a ton of fun on his show. He’s not crazy about politics, but he’s passionate about his opinions.

“When I started on this show, I wanted to make people laugh on their morning commute,” Gabriel explained. “It was my goal to keep people in their car to hear the end of a story. Deliver heart-wrenching stories. I think we do that. We’re interesting, engaging, funny. We take the work seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s a fine line.”

Gabriel said there’s no screaming on his show, no agenda, no attempt to make listeners lean a certain way. “We’ve been number one in  Fresno for the past 19 months, one of the top stations in the state. We must be doing something right. When we’re not doing news, we’re light-hearted.”

Gabriel did his homework before accepting the job.

The story goes like this; Gabriel had been working at another station. They canned him despite his being responsible for raising most of the revenue the show generated. He refused to play the game.

“It was the only job I ever got fired from in radio,” Gabriel said. “The reason–I wasn’t a cheerleader. I told them I’d rather be fired than become a cheerleader for anyone. I told them I wasn’t the right fit. They eventually agreed.”

KMJ program director Blake Taylor was familiar with Gabriels’ work at the previous station.

“I don’t know how he got my phone number, but the same day I was let go, he called me,” Gabriel explained. “Blake told me he was a fan of my work and wanted me to do guest-hosting. After months of guest-hosting, he insisted one day he was going to hire me. Five years later an opening came along and I had two interviews. I turned it down twice. When they offered the job a third time it made me think perhaps they really wanted me.”

If you’re keeping score at home, it was basketball, theater, and then radio. Here’s the theater part. In high school, he met Regina Gordon, who ran the theater department.

“She grabbed my arm in the hallway and asked me to audition,” Gabriel said. “I was open-minded in school. I was never afraid to walk the line between all groups of kids. I didn’t hang out with only one group. It wasn’t like I only hung out with jocks or theater kids. I didn’t give a damn about sitting at a popular table.”

After Regina Gordon’s interest in Gabriel’s possible acting future, he was working at the college radio station. A temporary wall had been put up in between the radio studio and the theater office.

“Someone in the theater office would bang on the wall when they felt I got too loud on my show,” Gabriel explained. “The banging would ruin my show. I got so pissed, I burst into the theater office and was raising hell,” Gabriel said. “The girl who had banged on the wall was apparently impressed with my anger and said I’d be great for a part they were looking to fill.”

A sign? Probably. It gets better. At USC, he studied under John Housman. Yes, the John Houseman.

“He told us stories about working with Orson Welles,” Gabriel explained. “Mr. Houseman was one of the greatest people I’ve ever met, a classical theater guy. I was on campus reading my lines for Barefoot in the Park. It was hot as hell and he was dressed in a tweed jacket and bow tie, just like he would be in the film, The Paper Chase. He saw the script I was reading and seemed dismissive. He grabbed my script and said, ‘commercial crap Mr. Gabriel.’ I’ll never forget, he walked 30 feet, turned and said, ‘Don’t ever forget. Commercial crap pays the bills.”

During Gabriel’s first year of theater studies he was starting to get it. Understand the craft, as thespians say. One day John Houseman took him aside and explained it to him this way:

“He said I was talented, but raw. He said I needed a lot of work but believed I could become a good actor and ‘join him on the boards.”

That’s such a thespian thing to say, but also greatly encouraging. In order to do that, Gabriel would have to give up basketball. He did. 

“I was going to be a walk-on at USC, and I realized the theater season was almost exactly the same duration as the basketball season. One of them had to go.” Basketball bit the dust.

Gabriel takes time to talk to theater groups and tells them a simple truth–if they want to pursue acting, they have to be dedicated. Work as hard as they can. He tells them he’s been in 105 plays in his career, but auditioned for more than a thousand.

He was a stellar athlete, but now his acting talent was gaining recognition. Mitch Albom went to see him in the play he penned, Tuesdays With Morrie in St. Paul, Minnesota. The stage play was adapted from Albom’s hugely successful book of the same name.

“Mitch Albom came to see me in Tuesdays with Morrie in St. Paul,” Gabriel said. “He liked the work and came backstage after the show. He said he’d like me to do another play he’d written. I thought he was bullshitting me, just being nice.When Mitch went back on the air on WJR in Detroit, someone told me he’d said he’d attended the best production of Tuesdays with Morrie he’d ever seen. That was our show.”

The accolades just kept on coming.

Gabriel worked with a director in Minneapolis by the name of Don Stolz. He ran the Old Log Theater, the oldest continuously run theater west of the Mississippi.

“He was a WWII veteran and was a theater major at Northwestern,” Gabriel said. “The guy who was running the Old Log once told him if he ever wanted to take over the theater, to send him a dollar. Stolz sent him a dollar and ran the theater for 50 years. He once told me, ‘You know what my idea of success as an actor is? You get that paycheck every Thursday. You get paid for doing what you love to do. I’ve always seen that as a critical message.”

Months later, Gabriel got a call from Albom. Turns out Albom was being sincere, and he wanted Gabriel to replace a guy in his play, Duck Hunter Shoots Angel.

“It’s a play about a couple of knucklehead brothers in Alabama who go duck hunting and actually wind up shooting down an angel,” Gabriel explained. “After a while, I told Mitch as much as I loved doing the show, I was burnt out. Mitch told me he thought I’d be good in radio, a good talk show host. He essentially pushed me into this business.”

Another door opens for our hero.

Gabriel had what could be called an apprenticeship at KFAN with Doug Westerman. “They didn’t need anyone on-air, but they were talking about starting a news-talk station,” he said. “Doug told me they were going to need someone to screen calls,” Gabriel recalled. Gabriel was apprehensive. “I thought I’d done too much in my career to start that low. Answering phones. I really didn’t know any better though so I asked him if I could have the weekend to think about it. Doug Westerman is a big and burly guy with a quick trigger. “F***that,’ Westerman screamed, ‘I need an answer now.’”

Whether Gabriel was intimidated or recognized a good opportunity when he saw one is only known by Gabriel himself. That’s where he started working with Pat Kessler, a TV political reporting legend in Minneapolis.

“Pat was like an older version of me,” Gabriel said. “He was a  real newshound. Pat was doing some speech on the air and I recognized it as the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. He paused for a moment so I chimed in with several lines and quickly felt I’d made a huge mistake.

“At the commercial break I thought I’d just blown this new career, and was anticipating Pat yelling at me. Instead, he loved it. He told me to go crazy, to create characters for his show. I did liners for the show as Kim Jong-il. There wasn’t a ceiling. He gave me the latitude to create. He allowed me to grow quickly. I couldn’t have asked for a better pro to learn from. And Doug, he is simply the man who gave me this awesome career. I’m forever grateful to him.”

Throughout his stage career, Gabriel has worked alongside some big names like Julie Harris and James Earl Jones. He said he was incredulous when he learned he’d be working with James Earl Jones.

“The first time I saw him I introduced myself and said, ‘Hello Mr. Jones.’ He said, ‘Call me Jimmy.’ I thought he had to be kidding. How the hell do you call James Earl Jones, ‘Jimmy?’”

With actors like Julie Harris and James Earl Jones, Gabriel recognized how much they cared about and respected their work. For them, it wasn’t about celebrity, it was about the craft, the work. They were so sure of themselves.

Gabriel is the father of two daughters. He was thrilled when one of their school principal’s insisted the students practiced their interpersonal skills.

“He had the students shake hands, make eye contact with each other,” he explained. “I saw it as an attempt to counter the phone culture. It forced the girls to communicate with aunts and uncles and be present. I’m grateful for his efforts.”

While he concedes no child is perfect, including his own, there was one incident he felt should be brought to my attention. When one of his daughters was 15, she sent Gabriel a text message.

“It began, ‘Hey Bruh.’ I wrote back, ‘Hey Bruh? Do you think this is your boyfriend?’ I told her ‘Here’s the thing. As your grandpa would certainly tell you, if you want to make it to 16, don’t ever text me ‘Hey Bruh’ again.”

In yet another Forrest Gump-ian moment, Gabriel worked with Andrew Zimmern, the host of Bizarre Foods on The Travel Channel.

“A lot of people don’t realize he was homeless and a drug addict,” Gabriel said. “He turned his life around and became an award-winning chef. He was a food critic on television and is a good friend to this day. He always made me feel important.”

Gabriel said when Zimmern visited a city, he didn’t want to eat in the heart of the city on the main street. The popular restaurants. Instead, he wanted to eat at the restaurant on the street behind the street. The family-run joint with real recipes.

“It’s kind of like how I approach sports,” Gabriel said. “I don’t care about batting averages, I look at the nuance and depth.”

You know, the sport behind the sport.

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BNM Writers

Are Fast Food Sandwich Stories News or Free Advertising?

The majority of these stories that make air seem to involve chicken but even then, hiding behind the latest “sandwich wars” justification seems a bit thin.

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Scarcely a week goes by where we don’t have an opportunity to watch, read, or listen to a “news” story concerning the latest menu item introduced or returned by a chain restaurant or fast food outlet. Yes, “news” is in quotations because I question just how this type of information finds its way into a legitimate rundown.

I’ve always wondered about this and nobody has ever successfully explained, argued, or come close to justifying this practice is legitimate. It’s advertising without the commercial spot break and I don’t know why we continue to do it.

First, let’s lay down the disclaimer that this is no criticism or finger pointing against any particular food, franchise, corporation, or drive-thru operation or employee. Additionally, no blame or negative evaluation is to be inferred against any news station, outlet, publication or staff member.

Frankly, you’re (we’re) all culpable and equally to blame.

I have sat in the control room and watched as a fast-food restaurant graphic popped up in between the anchor team or over the solo anchor’s shoulder as the prompter rolled out copy I myself would fight not to write.

And yet there it is, Murrow and other award-winning journalists enthusiastically telling us about the new chicken sandwich this place is rolling out next month or the latest two-for-one offer at that place if you go and eat there on a Tuesday.

“It’s their new olive burger…now with more olives!”

Actually, the majority of these stories that make air seem to involve chicken but even then, hiding behind the latest “sandwich wars” justification seems a bit thin.

So, again I ask why?

What makes this information suddenly become part of an article or news copy that costs a business nothing and not an ad campaign they should be paying for?

Seriously, we’re at the point where the lines have been blurred by mayonnaise or special sauce or two kinds of lettuce or several kinds of cheese if we’re really lucky.

I am on a soapbox here but not on either a pedestal nor an altitudinous mare. In other words, I myself have tasted the forbidden fruit. Often that fruit has come in the form of a free breakfast sandwich, flavored coffee, pizza or bacon double cheeseburger that found its way to the newsroom before suddenly becoming a topic discussed on the air.

Hey, I can’t review it if I don’t try it, right?

Well, yes and mostly no. I’m not advocating for it and unless I’m being compensated to extoll the wonder that is the addition of guacamole or coleslaw it’s not getting into my headline set.

On radio, the talkers can do it all they want. They’re about other stuff like fun and music and nobody is calling them out on credibility.

The newsroom is different.

When an individual does something good we go to cover it and a business, large or small should be afforded the same courtesy. So many fast-food chains and restaurant franchises do great things for charities and local people in-need and that is part of what we regularly like to showcase.

We get press releases, sometimes distributed as “news releases” from the food chains letting us know about the new offerings. “We’ve Added Wings!” This is not an ad copy, it’s meant to get in our shows and someone, somewhere decided this is okay and not to be questioned.

I tend not to read those memos that say, “don’t ask”.

In a different direction, there are legitimate incidents, developments and news stories that often must go through a screening process because the business involved is a paying sponsor or advertiser for news programming.

I’ve had and seen accurate and justifiable copy stricken, “massaged” until unidentifiable or outright killed because somebody’s commercial ran during the show or one of the dayparts.

No naiveté here, one understands the concern. However, if a pizza joint is facing a class action sexual harassment suit and good journalism has been practiced do we run from it because they’ve bought air time or worse yet have now added cilantro to the cheesy-bites?

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BNM Writers

ABC’s “The Light We Carry” Special Draws 3.5 Million Total Viewers

Bestselling author and former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama was the focus of ABC’s Nov. 13 special “The Light We Carry.”

Douglas Pucci

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With the 2022 midterm elections almost entirely in the rearview mirror (save for extended vote counts in selected areas and the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff), a few notable figures from elections of years past took the spotlight on November 13-15.

Bestselling author and former First Lady Michelle Obama was the focus of ABC’s Nov. 13 special “The Light We Carry”. Sharing the same title of her newest book release, Obama offered new life stories as well as coping strategies for surviving stress and uncertainty, especially since the early days of the COVID pandemic. “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts interviewed Obama in Chicago and hosted a lunch with Michelle’s mother and their close circle of friends.

For its original telecast, it drew 2.8 million total viewers on Nov. 13 from 10-11 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research. The special ranked fourth in the hour, behind NBC’s “Sunday Night Football: Chargers at 49ers”, Paramount’s “Yellowstone” season premiere and CBS’ “NCIS: Los Angeles.” Within the following seven days, it picked up an additional 710,000 viewers bringing the tally for ABC’s “Michael Obama: The Light We Carry” to 3.5 million.

On the next night (Nov. 14), ABC televised “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir’s exclusive interview with former Vice President Mike Pence. It was Pence’s first sit-down interview since the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the Capitol and the subsequent committee hearings that investigated the day. It delivered 3.93 million viewers, which nearly doubled its “Bachelor in Paradise” lead-in (2.27 million) and ranked third in the 10-11 p.m. hour (behind ESPN “Monday Night Football: Commanders-Eagles” and CBS’ “NCIS: Hawai’i”). In Live plus seven-day viewers, the Pence interview added another 1.3 million to its audience figures, totaling 5.23 million overall.

Then, on Nov. 15, as expected, Donald Trump announced his run for the 2024 U.S. presidency. The three major cable news outlets plus two newer news channels all saw an uptick for that announcement within the 9 p.m. ET hour, although CNN and MSNBC only checked in on the event periodically.

Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” drew the biggest crowd with 5.16 million viewers — the program’s top mark since Trump spoke with Hannity on Aug. 26, 2021. CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” was a distant runner-up at 2.43 million. “Alex Wagner Tonight” on MSNBC (1.83 million) was a decent third; its lead-out “Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (1.99 million) built upon Wagner’s show that evening.

Newsmax devoted two hours to Trump’s announcement, from 9-11 p.m. ET, drawing 1.13 million total viewers — normally, the outlet averages about 1/8th that amount in prime time.

Upstart NewsNation posted 234,000 viewers. It was preceded by “Cuomo” (193,000) at 8 p.m. and succeeded by a post-analysis hosted by Chris Cuomo at 10 p.m. (122,000). The night helped propel NewsNation to another 100,000+ weekly viewer average in prime time, a mark that was in far distant reach for almost all of its two years in existence.

Cable news averages for November 14-20, 2022:

Total Day (Nov. 14-20 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 1.567 million viewers; 216,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 0.818 million viewers; 94,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.625 million viewers; 131,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.156 million viewers; 40,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.135 million viewers; 16,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.123 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.122 million viewers; 29,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.108 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54

Prime Time (Nov. 14-19 @ 8-11 p.m.; Nov. 20 @ 7-11 p.m.)

  • Fox News Channel: 2.399 million viewers; 319,000 adults 25-54
  • MSNBC: 1.312 million viewers; 144,000 adults 25-54
  • CNN: 0.877 million viewers; 205,000 adults 25-54
  • Newsmax: 0.277 million viewers; 43,000 adults 25-54
  • CNBC: 0.170 million viewers; 51,000 adults 25-54
  • HLN: 0.162 million viewers; 37,000 adults 25-54
  • The Weather Channel: 0.110 million viewers; 20,000 adults 25-54
  • NewsNation: 0.103 million viewers; 14,000 adults 25-54
  • Fox Business Network: 0.069 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54

Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:

1. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 5.157 million viewers

2. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.869 million viewers

3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.662 million viewers

4. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 11/17/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.629 million viewers

5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 11/17/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.629 million viewers

6. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 11/14/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.560 million viewers

7. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 11/16/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.546 million viewers

8. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.531 million viewers

9. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 11/18/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.318 million viewers

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 11/16/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.299 million viewers

23. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 11/14/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.650 million viewers

28. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Tue. 11/15/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.430 million viewers

221. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 620” (HBO, Fri. 11/18/2022 10:00 PM, 57 min.) 0.834 million viewers

348. The Daily Show (CMDY, Thu. 11/17/2022 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.501 million viewers

395. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 11/20/2022 11:06 PM, 40 min.) 0.387 million viewers

399. Varney & Company (FBN, Wed. 11/16/2022 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.382 million viewers

444. Fast Money Halftime Report (CNBC, Tue. 11/15/2022 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.296 million viewers

453. Forensic Files “To The Viktor” (HLN, Thu. 11/17/2022 12:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.288 million viewers

500. Weekend Recharge (TWC, Sat. 11/19/2022 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.247 million viewers

526. Newsnation Special Report “Trump Potus 2024 Speech” (NWSN, Tue. 11/15/2022 9:00 PM, 69 min.) 0.234 million viewers

Top 10 cable news programs (and the top  programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:

1. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.929 million adults 25-54

2. Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN, Tue. 11/15/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.656 million adults 25-54

3. The Ingraham Angle (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 10:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.637 million adults 25-54

4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.573 million adults 25-54

5. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.546 million adults 25-54

6. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 11/16/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.506 million adults 25-54

7. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 11/17/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.501 million adults 25-54

8. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Tue. 11/15/2022 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.481 million adults 25-54

9. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 11/16/2022 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.479 million adults 25-54

10. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 11/17/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.465 million adults 25-54

35. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 11/14/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.298 million adults 25-54

147. The Daily Show (CMDY, Thu. 11/17/2022 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.172 million adults 25-54

158. Real Time With Bill Maher “Episode 620” (HBO, Fri. 11/18/2022 10:00 PM, 57 min.) 0.167 million adults 25-54

221. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 11/20/2022 11:06 PM, 40 min.) 0.128 million adults 25-54

261. Forensic Files “Kidnapping” (HLN, late Fri. 11/18/2022 4:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.113 million adults 25-54

386. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 1005” (CNBC, Tue. 11/15/2022 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.075 million adults 25-54

450. Weekend Recharge (TWC, Sat. 11/19/2022 11:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.063 million adults 25-54

570. American Built (FBN, Mon. 11/14/2022 11:30 PM, 30 min.) 0.048 million adults 25-54

644. Cuomo (NWSN, Wed. 11/16/2022 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.038 million adults 25-54

Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research

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