Monitoring media

This is shaping up as a great season for media-watchers. Viewers still go on vacation, but news and entertainment media are busier this summer than ever before, giving us plenty to slice and dice.

-- Zimmerman. Since the trial, cable-TV channels, most notably CNN, have done a remarkably effective job of covering and analyzing the controversial verdict and its broader social implications. Anderson Cooper's interviews with jurors, witnesses and family members have produced some of television's finest journalism. CNN's challenge as it struggles to recover from a prolonged ratings slump is how to convert its masterful job of covering big stories to a compelling presentation that will attract viewers during slower news periods.

-- Sharpton. Increased public activism and fundraising by Rev. Al Sharpton have prompted many to question MSNBC's decision to retain him in his daily hosting role. I think Sharpton's program is weak because he lacks skills as a telecaster, but I see nothing wrong with MSNBC giving him the forum. That's because MSNBC, like Fox News Channel, has long given up the pretence of being an objective news outlet. That's unfortunate. But if these channels want to have overt political identities, then they might as well hire people like Sharpton and, a click away, Karl Rove on Fox.

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