CNN Finds a Way to Boost Ratings: Lou Dobbs on Immigration

The New York Times reports that CNN's Lou Dobbs is gaining viewers with his unceasing crusade against illegal immigration.

The nation's most prominent opponent of current immigration policy began his day yesterday on the "Today" show on NBC, debating a Hispanic defender of illegal immigrants. He moved on to "American Morning" on CNN to denounce a bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday as "an amnesty program."

By nightfall he was on a plane headed to Mexico, where he intended to assess critically the planned discussions on the issue between President Bush and President Vicente Fox of Mexico.

This central figure in the increasingly fractious debate over future immigration policy was not a senator or congressman, nor even a lobbyist on either side of the issue. It was instead, a television news anchor, Lou Dobbs of CNN.

In the course of insistently offering his ever more passionate views on immigration all across the television landscape in just one 24-hour period, Mr. Dobbs underscored that what works in cable television news is not an objective analysis of the day's events but hard-nosed, unstinting advocacy of a specific point of view on a sizzling-hot topic.

While its competitors, the Fox News Channel and to a lesser extent, MSNBC, have consistently built successful programs around aggressively opinionated hosts like Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann, CNN has maintained that its mission remains offering straight news coverage, unseasoned with sharp points of view.

So how have the ratings improved for "Lou Dobbs Tonight"?

CNN certainly has reason to celebrate Mr. Dobbs's expanding profile on the immigration issue. His program, which was up 24 percent in total viewers over the same period last year, is the only good news story in CNN's evening and prime-time lineup, which was otherwise down across the board in ratings for the past quarter.

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