One Speech, Many Different Approaches

By Alex Weprin 

This afternoon President Obama delivered a big speech on the issue of climate change. As it happens, the speech ended up making clear the  filters through which the cable news channels approach a news item.

When the President began speaking shortly after 1:45 PM ET, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and, yes, The Weather Channel, were carrying the speech. Bloomberg and Fox Business also carried it.

MSNBC cut away at 1:49 PM, and brought in correspondents Peter Alexander and Kelly O’Donnell, who went all-out on the politics behind the speech. The channel went back to the President at 1:52 PM as he formally announced his plan, before cutting away for good at 2 PM.

FNC cut away at 1:52 PM, instead choosing to have Megyn Kelly interview a climate change denier. Kelly and her guest didn’t actually cover the President’s plan, but rather focused on the issue.

CNN also cut away at 1:52 PM right after FNC did, Wolf Blitzer threw to political correspondent Jim Acosta, who focused primarily on the political ramifications of the speech. Blitzer then called the speech a “major address” by the President, and told viewers they could watch it on as he threw to a commercial. It may have been a “major address,” but not major enough for coverage on CNN TV after that point.

The Weather Channel–which has bet big on covering the effects of climate change in series and specials–covered the entirety of the speech in full and commercial free, saving its analysis for after the speech. Every single guest in the analysis portion accepted that climate change is real.

Bloomberg carried most of the speech, but cut away after 2:15 PM. Fox Business carried the entirety of the speech, before throwing to an analyst who argued that the policies the President proposed were harmful.

Weather, FBN and Bloomberg were the only channels to carry it in full (or in the case of Bloomberg almost full), without talking over the President. The proposals are definitely a big business story, so it is not surprising that FBN and Bloomberg covered (and it is surprising that CNBC chose not to). CNN, MSNBC and Fox News tended to focus on the politics, with MSNBC noting the challenges the President faces, CNN noting that his proposals were “generating controversy” among Republicans and FNC focusing on the politics of climate change, barely touching the proposals.