Fox-Hating NPR Reporter David Folkenflik Calmly Promotes CNN Max Like a CNN Employee

August 27th, 2023 6:46 AM

We shouldn't be surprised that the Fox News debate this week led inevitably to story number 45 and story number 46 for NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik on Fox News this year. 

And we shouldn't be surprised he talked loosely about Donald Trump as a felon: "And think of the other big story today -- Donald Trump is being processed for, you know, felonies in Fulton County, Ga., over trying to block the due election proceeds in the state of Georgia." Is that the way he would discuss a Democrat being indicted?

What's still surprising somehow is that Folkenflik can report on CNN and just sound like a publicist for CNN, and not a skeptical reporter.  On Friday night's badly named All Things Considered, the subject was CNN Max, a new streaming effort that looks a lot like CNN+, which was unceremoniously dumped by Warner Bros. Discovery just a few weeks after it began. This sounded more like advertising than reporting, as co-host Ari Shapiro asked how this was different: 

FOLKENFLIK: You're going to see some, you know, restreams of well-recognized shows from people like Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and some new ones from folks like Jim Acosta, Fredricka Whitfield and Jim Sciutto -- you know, people familiar to CNN but fresh shows, including some breaking news that Sciutto will anchor. They'll also livestream some of the shows from CNN International, and you'll still be able to see some of what are called the CNN Originals on there.

But it's not as fully fledged an offering. You know, CNN+ was envisioned by Jeff Zucker and Andrew Morse, two of the top officials there before last spring of 2022, as being really a full-offer, direct-to-consumer product that would be, like the BBC or The New York Times, kind of immersing people in not just the news but in a lot of cultural and other interests as well.

In the leftist media, they are all earnest "news" producers, and no one inside their doubly reinforced bubble questions whether their reporting looks hyperpartisan and devoted to conspiracy theories like Trump colluding with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton. They buy their own sloganeering, like Brian Stelter claiming “We’re not anti-Trump. We’re pro-truth.”

SHAPIRO: Why did CNN+ have the plug pulled on it?

FOLKENFLIK: So Jeff Zucker was the head of CNN, and he was fired in very early, I believe, February of 2022. And Chris Licht was brought in by the head of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav. And pretty much before Licht even entered the door, he killed it. And this was a way in which that Warner Bros. Discovery, among other things, could show to Wall Street that it was serious about getting its debt and costs underlined because this was going to be a very expensive proposition. But that said, it also - there were concerns about whether or not this would make the profits. Now Licht is gone, and there are, you know, other news organizations around the world, including our own, who have found ways to do things direct for consumer. A lot of other news outlets are doing sort of alternative livestreams. This is CNN's version of that to some degree.

Folkenflik can't stop talking about Fox's very expensive settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, but what about CNN's finances or CNN's struggling ratings? This is where NPR is doing more advertising than reporting. CNN's own media reporter Oliver Darcy was more candid about the parent company's finances!

► Dollars and cents: WBD (CNN's parent company, of course) reported a net loss of $1.2 billion, down sharply from the $3.4 billion during the same period a year ago. The smaller loss came as the company cut costs by $2.2 billion, or 16% compared to a year ago, and revenue rose 5% to $10.4 billion. 

► Streaming update: WBD said its total streaming subscribers slipped by 1.8 million to 95.8 million after launching Max, which includes content from Discovery+. The drop was expected, it said, as subscribers to Discovery+ migrate to the comprehensive Max service. The streamer is "tracking well ahead of our financial projections," said chief executive David Zaslav.

July's ratings didn't offer good news: "In primetime, Fox News averaged 1.57 million viewers, down 26% from a year earlier. MSNBC averaged 1.12 million, down 13%, and CNN posted 534,000, down 27%." These facts can be considered on um, All Things Considered. 

NPR -- more blandly promotional about CNN than....CNN.