By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Entwistle and excess

Is the Entwistle murder saga the biggest story of this or any other time? That was the rather overheated question tonight on “My TV Prime,” a New Hampshire talk show hosted by Democratic politico Deborah “Arnie” Arnesen. I was a guest along with Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan (sub. req.) and defense attorney John Swomley. Just as Eagan and I were wrapping up, we disagreed. “Take it outside,” Arnesen instructed us. So here I go.

I expressed the opinion that stories such as Entwistle are obsessively followed by just a small subset of viewers who gorge on cable news programs — and that, therefore, the end of civilization is not at hand. No, I heard Eagan say as we were fading out; the ratings for those shows are “huge.”

Well, then. Here are the audiences for such shows on Wednesday night (a big Entwistle night), as reported by the redoubtable TVNewser:

  • Nancy Grace, CNN Headline News, 8 p.m., 545,000
  • Rita Cosby, MSNBC, 9 p.m., 346,000
  • Greta Van Susteren, Fox News, 10 p.m., 1.26 million

Not chickenfeed. But the combined audience for the three network nightly newscasts is more than 20 million, and it can approach 30 million when there’s major news breaking. The Tyndall Report right now is a bit behind, but Entwistle was pretty big news at the beginning of February, which is when it gathered its most recent numbers. Yet it didn’t even move the needle on the nets.

Similarly, NPR claims that its drive-time newscasts, “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” are the second- and third-most-listened-to radio programs in the United States. And NPR has not exactly been a bastion of Entwistle excess.

So I’ll stick with what I said: Though there’s undoubtedly more Entwistle coverage out there than is absolutely necessary, it is primarily a phenomenon of low-rated cable news shows that get far more attention from media-watchers than they deserve given their small audiences.

Anyone who’s watching Entwistle coverage rather than presumably more nutritious fare is doing so by choice.

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  1. Al Toid

    I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but this sort of thing just drives me absolutely nuts. There’s big things in the world, or that this administration and congress are doing that affects each of us, but various news organizations are excessively giving us crap like this. Yes, it’s awful for the families and neighbors involved, but put the spotlight where it needs to be.

  2. Megan B

    Channel 4 is berserk for the story. Jack Williams wasted precious minutes trying to set a time on the ride from airport to town. Painful to watch and listen. The dreaded months ahead will be full of Entwhistle. Spouse suggests that if his name was Brown, or Smith the media would be less infatuated.

  3. tony schinella

    Personally, I wish the following stories got as much play as this murder has received: Published on Thursday, February 16, 2006 by USA Today Senate Aide’s Spouse Gets a Windfall by Matt Kelley WASHINGTON – Sen. Arlen Specter helped direct almost $50 million in Pentagon spending during the past four years to clients of the husband of one of his top aides, records show. Specter, R-Pa., used a process called “earmarking” 13 times to set aside $48.7 million for six clients represented by lobbyist Michael Herson and the firm he co-founded, American Defense International. The clients paid Herson’s firm nearly $1.5 million in fees since 2002, federal lobbying records show.Or, how about this one: February 14, 2006U.S. Has Royalty Plan to Give Windfall to Oil Companies By EDMUND L. ANDREWSWASHINGTON, Feb. 13 — The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years.New projections, buried in the Interior Department’s just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government.Based on the administration figures, the government will give up more than $7 billion in payments between now and 2011. The companies are expected to get the largess, known as royalty relief, even though the administration assumes that oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period. Sigh.

  4. mike

    On the flipside, there are loads of other stories out there that get limited or no coverage….How about right before Xmas of ’05 and a guy walks into the basement of a Dorchester house, shoots four people, and vanishes in the night…Despite the awful tragedy, they have Neil. Where’s this other guy? I can’t help but ask: does this have anything to do with race, I wonder?–mikeP.S. Keep up the good work, DK!

  5. Anonymous

    TV news truly sucks. These blow-dry types with their mobile uplink unit vans think that driving to some nice lily-white neighborhood like Hopkinton and standing in front of a suburban home is of value? To yak away while waiting for the money shot of some poor family member scrambling in and out of the house.And oh it has to be “live”. Here I am, “live” standing in front of so-and-so’s house. Who has the same name as the Who’s bass player. While real stories cry for coverage involving effort. They are pitiful. Get off the front lawn and go do some journalism. Dan you are right–nobody watches this crap, at least nobody with a brain.

  6. Anonymous

    What else would you expect from an airheaded ditz like Marg.Everytime I hear her name, I’m reminded of her constant and extremely annoying ditzy giggle.She is so under-informed and misguided and biases -to use a kind word- that she has no weight nor skill to deal with the serious ‘stuff.’ of course she needs the crime blotter to keep her somewhat useful to a minimum level in a useless paper and a useless radio station.I like Braude a lot, as one of the best media people in the state, but I just wonder how does he put up with her and go through grueling daily hours with her nearby, giggling. I ‘love’ it when she defends some indefensible postions in national and international politcs.She’d annoy the daylights out of me even if the show paid $10k per day. Much like the Raposas, Fees, Callahans, Sciaccas and Maceros of the world. In other words, people who are not concerned with what is useful and righteous, but what is moneymaking, sensational and popular at the time. Media bimbos.N.

  7. Anonymous

    Big surprise that you like the verbose Braude…

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