Has CNN Started to Go Totally Tabloid to Goose Its Ratings?

Last Updated Jul 2, 2009 11:24 AM EDT

Based on ratings for the second quarter just released by Nielsen, I guess I can believe what I was seeing Tuesday night on CNN: an example of a respected news network going totally tabloid.

The just-released second quarter Nielsen figures show that CNN trails both MSNBC and Fox in the 25-to-54 demographic. Silicon Alley Insider's Nich Carlson points out that two of its primetime stars, Campbell Brown and Anderson Cooper, have seen declines in viewers for three straight quarters. One data point I found on another site particularly jumped out: "The O'Reilly Factor" averaged 3.2 million viewers to Brown's 800,000. If you're scoring from home, that means that Bill O'Reilly gets four times as many viewers!

With that as context, let me recreate the tabloid moment I witnessed Tuesday night during Anderson Cooper 360, involving, of course, Michael Jackson. (I have looked for the video online but can't find it.) The news angle of the evening was whether or not MJ had actually fathered his children, based on a report in USWeekly that Beverly Hills dermatologist Arnie Klein was the sperm donor for MJ's two oldest kids. US Weekly, that bastion of journalistic integrity! If that's not tabloid enough, it gets better. CNN sent its reporter to the dermatologist's offices, where, of course, its interview request was declined.

But, wait, I'm not done yet -- because there was seemingly no one else around to interview, the reporter ends up interviewing Jim Moret, the chief correspondent of Inside Edition, an authority if ever there was one. Once the show cut back to Anderson Cooper, he explained, as if to apologize, that the reason all this mattered is because it raises custody questions.

Naw -- the reason all this matters is that CNN is in the ratings toilet, and this is one way to get out of it. As this post points out, breaking news benefits CNN more than it does the competition, and it has led in MJ coverage. I told ya, this death is, unfortunately, the gift that's gonna keep on giving to the media business.

Previous coverage of CNN, the Michael Jackson story on BNET Media: