Actually, CNN's Zucker Is Right and Politico's Byers Is Wrong

No one enjoys pointing and laughing at CNN more than I do*. But you have to be fair about it, and Dylan Byers, a media reporter at the left-wing Politico, is taking a cheap shot at CNN that isn’t backed by the facts.

In a Friday post, Byers quotes CNN chief Jeff Zucker defending his network’s obsessive coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner: “I think that if people want to be critical of CNN for over-covering a story, that’s totally fine with us. Clearly, the audience has spoken and said that what CNN did was correct.”

Byers calls this the “shot” and then labels as the “chaser” a report about CNN falling into fourth place this week, as though that somehow contradicts Zucker or undermines his point:

CNN’s ratings in the 25-54 demo during primetime dropped to an average of just 81K Wednesday night, putting the network in last place behind Fox, MSNBC and HLN. With 88K viewers in the demo, Anderson Cooper 360 led off CNN at 8 p.m., followed by CNN Tonight with Bill Weir, which had 71K and CNN Special Report with Don Lemon, which had 83K. Just last Wednesday, CNN was averaging more than double those numbers with 170K in the demo.

While there’s no question that CNN’s ratings have decreased this week as the story of the missing plane petered out (I covered CNN’s ratings drop myself a couple days ago) , there is also no question that Zucker is 100% correct. For somewhere around a month, CNN’s ratings improved dramatically thanks to the story. The audience did speak. And Wednesday’s ratings do not undermine that point.

If you want to mock CNN for being obsessive and exploiting tragedy for ratings, I am right there with you. If you want to claim Zucker is undermining the long-term credibility of his network for short term gain, have at it.

What cannot be disputed is that for a time, enough of an audience spoke to make CNN’s missing plane coverage a ratings plus. Zucker’s correct. That might be a sad statement about our society, but it is still a true one.

*The great Jake Tapper excepted.