Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ill-chosen adjectives

In today's New York Times is a long-overdue article by Brian Stelter on the Lou Dobbs menace to CNN's dwindling reputation and the network's continuing (and inexplicable) protection of his anchor status. It's a decent if short article, but contains this curious sentence:
Mr. Dobbs is known to be exploring an exit from CNN, and he is viewed as a potential hire for the Fox Business Network, an upstart channel owned by the News Corporation.
Yet here is the influence wielded by this so-called "upstart" network:
Fox Business averaged 21,000 viewers between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. in June, according to Nielsen Co.
Now, it's true that the train wreck known as Don Imus has recently given FBN a bump in viewership during the early morning hours. Since the network is available to more than 49 million homes, it must alarm Fox that someone with Imus's name recognition attracted only 177,000 viewers on the show's first day---most of whom are over 65, a poison demographic for advertisers. And viewership for the first week dropped to 149,000 viewers a day, indicating a rather significant decline on subsequent shows.

Finally, how many "business viewers" does FBN expect to watch Imus and Dobbs? As the Daily News article notes, Imus and CNBC "tap different audiences and are not really in direct competition." Fox's strategy seems to be to make FBN an annex for disgraced shock jocks from other networks--hardly a magnet for the personal investor.

Considering that this "business" network is now two years old, perhaps Stelter should have considered a more accurate adjective, along the lines of ailing or wannabe or money-sucking. To call the network an "upstart" at this point is akin to calling the kids' lemonade stand on the corner a threat to Snapple.