The election of Barack Obama does not seem to have ushered in a kinder, less-polarized environment in politics — or television.
And that’s not a good break for CNN, a network whose strategy is to steer the middle course in its news coverage. CNN’s competitors have been finding more success pounding away at those poles — at least during prime time.
Since the beginning of March, CNN has fallen behind both the longtime ratings leader, Fox News Channel, which, as the voice of disaffected conservatives, again has an imposing lead, and the upstart MSNBC, which has tried to mirror Fox’s success by steering to the left.
CNN often cites its cumulative audience — that is, the number of different viewers who come to the network. CNN says it reaches a total of about 74 million viewers a month, as opposed to about 61 million for Fox News and about 56 million for MSNBC.
Mr. Griffin of MSNBC finds CNN’s attitude a bit newsier than thou — and unjustified. “They’re trying to play games,” he said. “They’re not living up to the brand.” He dismisses the cumulative audience figures because he says no advertisers buy on that basis. (Fox News executives declined to comment for this article.)