Lehrer faulted the broadcasters for "bad editorial judgment" in limiting convention coverage. "My God, we're talking about one of the most important presidential elections we've had in this country in some time," he said.
A sense of triumph seems missing at the cable networks, however. That's probably because they remain locked in the bitter ratings wars that have dominated so much of their energies this decade.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, September 09, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Convention coverage: The Channel Island column in the Sept. 1 Calendar section about coverage of the political conventions said that the Republican National Convention was in Minneapolis. It was in St. Paul, Minn.
CNN's Klein is reveling in the network's Democratic-convention dominance, with prime-time ratings up 82% compared with four years ago. He insists CNN is doing well because it has found a middle path to covering politics. "The other guys have staked out the extremes of the political spectrum, leaving reasonable Republicans and Democrats only one place to get reliable, non-spin information," Klein said.
But Fox News and MSNBC are posting ratings gains that are nearly as impressive. And Fox may do exceedingly well this week, if its record-breaking numbers from the '04 GOP confab are any indication.
ALTHOUGH MSNBC may be deliberately courting the liberal extremists with its star Olbermann and his on-air anti-Republican blasts, Fox News has actually been mending fences with Democrats, recently hiring former Hillary Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson as a commentator. And there is evidence that Fox News' audience is in fact far less politically skewed than either CNN's or MSNBC's. A survey this month from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 39% of Fox News' viewers were Republican, 33% Democratic. CNN was 51% Democratic and just 18% Republican, while MSNBC was 45%-18% in favor of Democrats.
But the political tilt of the cable audience might matter less than its size -- which is large and growing. The conventions play to cable's strength at saturation coverage and instant analysis.
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By the numbers
Viewers of Barack Obama's Thursday speech at DNC:
CNN: 8.0 million
ABC: 6.6 million
NBC: 6.1 million
CBS: 4.7 million
Fox News: 4.2 million
MSNBC: 4.0 million
PBS: 3.5 million*
*PBS' number is an average from 8 to 11 p.m. Some other channels not included.
Source: Nielsen Media Research