Chris Wallace Had The Job That Nobody Wants
“His performance in an already-difficult job was no match for the president’s disruption strategy, and it showed.”
It’s the job nobody wants, but everyone thinks they can do better than you.
Chris Wallace had the unfortunate assignment of being the moderator of the first Presidential Debate of the 2020 campaign on Tuesday night, and it was a disaster. President Donald Trump disrupted the evening almost from the start, interrupting both Joe Biden and Wallace, in what appeared to be a strategic attempt to unnerve Biden.
Biden too interrupted Trump as the debate wore on, but it was his earlier frustration in the evening — leading to him calling Trump a “clown” and telling him to “shut up, man” — that showed Biden slipping into Trump’s sphere of influence. Trump has made his political career off of upsetting the establishment, and the country got a great reminder at how effective he is at that strategy in the first debate.
Wallace couldn’t control Trump and barely kept the debate itself on the rails, the embodiment of Trump’s first term in this singular event: a non-traditional candidate with no regard for the established norms disrupting the playing field to his advantage.
As a strategy, Trump was masterful in making it work. But the debate itself was a debacle, and the American people were the worse for it. But it’s clear the other big loser of the event besides Americans watching at home was Wallace. The son of a broadcasting legend, he has developed a reputation for being tough but fair, a true journalist at a network often-criticized for being overtly partisan.
His performance in an already-difficult job was no match for the president’s disruption strategy, and it showed. Now the debate commission is considering new rules to keep both candidates in line, as pundits call for an end to the debates or a reimagining of its format.
One thing is clear: there was nothing worth seeing in that debate that will help anyone undecided make up their mind.
Evan Donovan is the political anchor/reporter at WFLA in Tampa, as well as the host of its weekly political show “Battleground Florida.” His background before journalism includes ten years in the financial world, from Wall Street to London. He has lived and/or worked in four different countries but is happy to once again call the U.S. home. Compensation for his columns is donated to the National Press Photographers Association’s News Video Workshop at the University of Oklahoma. He can be reached on Twitter @EvanDonovan.
Cristina Mendonsa Left Television For Radio When Her Star Was Shining Brightest
Mozart completed his first piece of music when he was five years-old. Doogie Howser was a licensed doctor at 14 years of age. Cristina Mendonsa was working at a newspaper when she was 15 years-old. Perhaps it’s not as stunning as the other two, but Mendonsa was on a career path early.
“I was a columnist on youth issues for a local paper,” Mendonsa said. “I started working in radio before I was 17 years old.”
Then it was an internship at a television station, where Mendonsa baked a lot of cookies for people who helped her learn how to edit.
“I was a television writer when I was 19 years old. Got my first on-air job when I was 20 at KRCR-TV. I was at the CBS affiliate in Sacramento and then hired for a job at KUSA in Denver before I was 21, and I barely knew where Denver was on a map.”
C’mon, Cristina. Now you’re just showing off.
“Every radio station had some form of newsroom back then. All stations, including rock. Then there became fewer and fewer, especially at music stations. I bounced around in radio for three years.”
It took her a while to finish college, taking a class here and there.
“I started my classes at the same time I was working in broadcasting,” Mendonsa said. “I was moving around in radio, and I had to drop out of school when I made a move for my job. It took me nine years to earn the degree. I was going to school so I could afford to pay tuition.”
Mendonsa believes being a reporter made her a better student. Mendonsa was taking journalism classes with younger students who probably had no idea she was on the air locally. She went to eight different colleges and finished at Sacramento State.
“I earned a masters in communications and leadership at Gonzaga University,” Mendonsa said. “I decided if I was going to have a life after television, more schooling was in order. My choices were between Notre Dame, USC, and Gonzaga. I had dated a guy on the Gonzaga basketball team many years earlier, so I imagine that helped me decide. Gonzaga was a good Jesuit school and had a moral aspect to instruction. Turned out to be a great program.”
In early radio jobs, she had tough editors looking over her copy, brutal with their edits. Brutal in their criticism of Mendonsa’s on-air performance.
“I’ll always have a huge amount of respect for them. They helped me immensely.”
Mendonsa is an anchor on 93.1 KFBK in Sacramento and has been with iHeart nearly five years after serving 27 years as a television anchor.
Born in Oakland, California, her mother raised the family and taught genealogy classes. Mendonsa said her mother was a great writer, compiling books of the family’s history going back generations.
“My father was part of the dignitary protection services in California all the way back to when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as Governor. I spent a lot of time at the Capitol. Dad would have family and friends come and tour the Capitol, usually entering from backdoors.”
She hung out at the Capitol a lot. Listened to political conversations while waiting for her father to get off work.
“Our dinner conversations had a lot to do with classic California politics,” Mendonsa said. “I remember going to a couple of events, standing with my mom on the Capitol steps when Reagan was addressing a crowd. Governor Brown would hold a Christmas party every year. Governor Deukmejian did too.”
When Brown first took office Mendonsa said she was surprised at how austere his office was. Definitely not what you’d expect a higher level politicians’ office to look like.
“That’s what struck me when I was a kid doing homework in Governor Brown’s office.”
Mendonsa’s father had a profound influence on her life, and people who knew him. “I run into people all the time who remember him, his integrity,” she said. “My father had a strong sense of loyalty and justice. He was a good man. Ethical, hard working. I’d like to think I took on some of those traits and passed them on to my children.”
She said as a television anchorwoman in her late 40s, she considered herself an endangered species in television.
“I started to think about some options, considered teaching,” Mendonsa explained. “I was impressed with the concept of leadership and entrepreneurship, but I also knew I had to up my skill sets.”
Sacramento is her hometown and a place she said is beautiful. Mendonsa said a lot of places call themselves the ‘City of Trees,’ but Saramento certainly lives up to that.
“We have two rivers that come together, the American River and the Sacramento River. That’s also why we have similar flooding risks of New Orleans. People describe Sacramento as the Midwest of California. We have very friendly people.”
Mendonsa said it was an idyllic place to grow up, but Sacramento does have its issues. She said Sacramento has more homeless people than San Francisco.
“I remember taking a helicopter tour over the river and was stunned at how many there were. There’s a lot of pressure from businesses to get things straightened out. California has 30 percent of the homeless in the country. We’ve thrown a ton of money at it, and they’ll throw more. It doesn’t seem to make much of a dent.”
She said Sacramento simply doesn’t have enough housing.
“A small percentage of the homeless work regular jobs but live in their car. The majority of homeless have mental health issues or are drug abusers. It’s easier to be homeless in California because there are so many assistance programs.
Mendonsa once spoke to an advocate who said when someone has mental illness it doesn’t mean they are violent. If someone is a drug abuser, it doesn’t mean they are violent. But when you get a mentally ill person who is also a drug addict, you’ll see some serious problems.
‘It’s harder for cities to find police officers all over the country,” Mendonsa explained. “We’re constantly trying to train more. People don’t want to be police officers any more.”
Mendonsa said she was talking with her co-anchor and discussed a poll citing Donald Trump’s popularity has gone up in the past few days.
“Our station is news/talk, and we love political stories like that,” she said. “Trump has his ardent followers. He has tapped into a discontent and for many people, they believe his first presidency was a better time for them and the country, so they’re sticking with him”.
Mendonsa also knows people who feel betrayed by Trump. Abandoned by the ex-president.
“They are tired of his mean tweets. Trump is at his best when he’s focused on other people. He’s at his worst when he’s complaining how the world is against him. I swear if he ever gets arrested, he’s going to make T-shirts with his mugshot and sell them. They’ll do great.”
As a kid she’d help her mom when she researched at libraries. She loved writing and talking.
“I was always bending my mother’s ear,” Mendonsa explained. “She’d say to me, ‘You talk so much I think you should get a job where you could do that for a living.”
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his new book: Talk To Me – Profiles on News Talkers and Media Leaders From Top 50 Markets, log on to Amazon or shoot Jim an email at email@example.com.
Leading Local Is Convenient, Except For When It’s Not
Everybody comes from somewhere and everyone certainly has people in other places. Calamity and misfortune happen everywhere.
ABC’s World News Tonight obviously had other plans in place for the evening newscast Monday. David Muir had the tornado devastated Mississippi city of Rolling Fork in the background as the show began, an umbrella lead later there was a switch and toss to the latest in the nation’s school shooting tragedies.
The shuffling of course was successful because the networks have a different focus and generally possess the ability to overcome the challenges of breaking and shifting national topics.
For the local markets there is often a tug of war between news operations and administrations over the push to lead local. The tried, true, and often tired philosophy of giving the neighborhood’s news first in favor of the broader national interest because — once again — people behind desks are sure they know what the audience wants.
For the radio folk, there is the often-available luxury of leading with the network newscast at the top of the hour — and the bottom as well, in desperate times — which leaves the responsibility for national news to someone else.
A community devastated by a weather event like an EF4 tornado in Mississippi or horrific violence like the Nashville school shooting are already all consumed by the tragedies. It is a local story that has become national by its sheer magnitude.
In other words, there is no justification needed to bring it to the top of the news block nationally so why are there even discussions about doing the same outside of where it happened. Community is community, there is no requirement that it happen here first for us to care, to be engaged.
I’ve encountered an arrogance often associated with local content that seems to set aside or even ignore the degree of those happenings outside the individual broadcast area. As if for some reason, our targets were not going to care about Russia and Ukraine until the local hook could be identified. Storms and shootings have pretty much happened everywhere so how hard is it to relate, even be transfixed when we’re given the particulars on something that’s not unfolding in our backyard?
Looking back at that arrogance I referred to, I think it also could link it to a level of insecurity, even in ignorance, in programming and direction. Not knowing or caring about what your followers think or want.
On the ignorance front, is it a simple lack of familiarity? Perhaps.
Get a room of journalists together in a room — I’m talking about members of the press, all platforms — with no caveats, no consequences.
What would they say? Leadership, management, or corporate philosophy come to mind?
There is of course a natural development to the equation, which supersedes pretty much everything. Impact.
Will Tacoma’s new downtown parking regulations top an earthquake and typhoon in Indonesia?
Don’t be so quick to answer.
What happens in Jerusalem, Gaza, and Tel Aviv carries a hell of a lot of weight in New York, L.A., and Miami. Span Texas to Southern California and they’re caring about more than just border crossings.
Everybody comes from somewhere and everyone certainly has people in other places. Calamity and misfortune happen everywhere.
And most people don’t care about where and when they see your sweeps story or your 5-part series on Parks Department Overtime when humanity is crashing someplace else.
Tease it, promote it, and move it down to the B-block.
Leading local is a reasonable coverage plan, except when it’s not.
Your brand-new News Director who just arrived from Cincinnati may not know that yet.
Bill Zito has devoted most of his work efforts to broadcast news since 1999. He made the career switch after serving a dozen years as a police officer on both coasts. Splitting the time between Radio and TV, he’s worked for ABC News and Fox News, News 12 New York , The Weather Channel and KIRO and KOMO in Seattle. He writes, edits and anchors for Audacy’s WTIC-AM in Hartford and lives in New England. You can find him on Twitter @BillZitoNEWS.
Tucker Carlson Sees Ratings Surge With January 6th Videos
The Mar. 7th edition (4.165 million) topped all cable telecasts in total viewers that week.
Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight has featured the host’s many polarizing claims. The ones made on the Mar. 6th and 7th editions of his show could be labeled as among the most controversial.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had granted Carlson exclusive access to over 40,000 hours of January 6th security camera footage. On his FNC show across those two aforementioned evenings, Carlson denied an insurrection had taken place at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; instead, it was “mostly peaceful chaos”, most who were there were mere “sightseers”, and that the footage provided “conclusive” evidence “proving” Democrats “lied” about the events of that day.
On the Senate floor on the morning of Mar. 7, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called Carlson’s Mar. 6th show “one of the most shameful hours we have ever seen on cable television.”
The immense reach that Carlson’s rhetoric regularly attracts justified the high concern and swiftness of the condemnation and backlash. One glance at the ranks of the week’s top cable news programs at the end of this article, or any of this site’s past weekly news ratings items, can glean how highly popular Carlson is in, not only the cable news world, but also, the entire television landscape.
According to Nielsen Media Research, the Mar. 7th edition (4.165 million) topped all cable telecasts in total viewers that week and matched the live plus same-day total viewing figures for the 17th-ranked broadcast network show of the week ending Mar. 12, the CBS procedural East New York.
Carlson also took the week’s No. 2 and No. 3 spots on cable in total viewers; within the key 25-54 demographic, its Mar. 6th and 7th editions were tops for non-sports cable programs (it ranked 17th and 18th, respectively, in the demo with sports included, mostly from men’s college basketball conference tournament coverage on various outlets).
For Mar. 6-10, Tucker Carlson Tonight averaged 3.568 million total viewers, 469,000 with adults 25-54 and 312,000 with adults 18-49 — the program’s highest-rated week in all metrics since the week of the 2022 midterm elections (Nov. 7-11, 2022).
As a backdrop to all of this, it was revealed on Mar. 7 — due to the legal filings made public as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News — that Carlson privately messaged colleagues he loathed Donald Trump and his presidency. (The release of that communication received no coverage at FNC.)
Cable news averages for March 6-12, 2023:
Total Day (Mar. 6-12 @ 6 a.m.-5:59 a.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 1.359 million viewers; 172,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 0.673 million viewers; 71,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.408 million viewers; 81,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.155 million viewers; 41,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.111 million viewers; 27,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.104 million viewers; 12,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.101 million viewers; 18,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.083 million viewers; 7,000 adults 25-54
Prime Time (Mar. 6-11 @ 8-11 p.m.; Mar. 12 @ 7-11 p.m.)
- Fox News Channel: 2.237 million viewers; 274,000 adults 25-54
- MSNBC: 1.088 million viewers; 108,000 adults 25-54
- CNN: 0.443 million viewers; 95,000 adults 25-54
- HLN: 0.199 million viewers; 53,000 adults 25-54
- CNBC: 0.145 million viewers; 36,000 adults 25-54
- The Weather Channel: 0.131 million viewers; 21,000 adults 25-54
- Newsmax: 0.094 million viewers; 11,000 adults 25-54
- NewsNation: 0.087 million viewers; 15,000 adults 25-54
- Fox Business Network: 0.058 million viewers; 10,000 adults 25-54
Top 10 most-watched cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) in total viewers:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 4.136 million viewers
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 3/6/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.695 million viewers
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 3/8/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.622 million viewers
4. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.300 million viewers
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 3/9/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.289 million viewers
6. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 3/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.187 million viewers
7. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 3/10/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.099 million viewers
8. The Five (FOXNC, Mon. 3/6/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 3.004 million viewers
9. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 3/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.982 million viewers
10. The Five (FOXNC, Fri. 3/10/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.911 million viewers
24. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 3/6/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 2.253 million viewers
170. Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO, Fri. 3/10/2023 10:01 PM, 58 min.) 0.765 million viewers
178. Erin Burnett Outfront (CNN, Tue. 3/7/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.698 million viewers
334. The Daily Show “Mar 8, 23 – Marlon Wayans” (CMDY, Wed. 3/8/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.408 viewers
359. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 3/12/2023 11:05 PM, 34 min.) 0.348 million viewers
388. Varney & Company (FBN, Fri. 3/10/2023 10:00 AM, 60 min.) 0.297 million viewers
392. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 3/10/2023 12:30 AM, 30 min.) 0.290 million viewers
441. Fast Money Halftime Report (CNBC, Mon. 3/6/2023 12:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.241 million viewers
478. Heavy Rescue: 401 “(511) No Other Choice” (TWC, Sat. 3/11/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.221 million viewers
492. Newsnation: Rush Hour (NWSN, Mon. 3/6/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.215 million viewers
Top 10 cable news programs (and the top programs of other outlets with their respective associated ranks) among adults 25-54:
1. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Mon. 3/6/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.565 million adults 25-54
2. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.556 million adults 25-54
3. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Wed. 3/8/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.467 million adults 25-54
4. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Thu. 3/9/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.395 million adults 25-54
5. Tucker Carlson Tonight (FOXNC, Fri. 3/10/2023 8:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.365 million adults 25-54
6. The Five (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.363 million adults 25-54
7. Hannity (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.361 million adults 25-54
8. The Five (FOXNC, Thu. 3/9/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.341 million adults 25-54
9. The Five (FOXNC, Wed. 3/8/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.340 million adults 25-54
10. Gutfeld! (FOXNC, Tue. 3/7/2023 11:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.330 million adults 25-54
39. Rachel Maddow Show (MSNBC, Mon. 3/6/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.219 million adults 25-54
74. The Daily Show “Mar 8, 23 – Marlon Wayans” (CMDY, Wed. 3/8/2023 11:00 PM, 30 min.) 0.179 million adults 25-54
102. Low Country: Murdaugh Dynasty “2. Something In The Road” (CNN, Sat. 3/11/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.152 million adults 25-54
165. Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO, Fri. 3/10/2023 10:01 PM, 58 min.) 0.115 million adults 25-54
195. Forensic Files (HLN, late Fri. 3/10/2023 1:00 AM, 30 min.) 0.105 million adults 25-54
222. Last Week Tonight (HBO, Sun. 3/12/2023 11:05 PM, 34 min.) 0.097 million adults 25-54
344. Shark Tank “Shark Tank 1102” (CNBC, Mon. 3/6/2023 9:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.070 million adults 25-54
498. Heavy Rescue: 401 “(508) This Aint Gonna Be Pretty” (TWC, Sat. 3/11/2023 5:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.047 million adults 25-54
505. Kudlow (FBN, Fri. 3/10/2023 4:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.045 million adults 25-54
552. Newsnation Prime (NWSN, Sun. 3/12/2023 7:00 PM, 60 min.) 0.039 million adults 25-54
Source: Live+Same Day data, Nielsen Media Research
Douglas Pucci is a Bronx native and NYU graduate analyzing news television ratings for Barrett News Media. He did an internship at VH1’s “Pop Up Video” in 1997. After college, Pucci went on to design, build and maintain websites for various non-profit organizations in his hometown of New York City. He has worked alongside media industry observer Marc Berman for over a decade reporting on all things television, first at Cross MediaWorks from 2011-15 then at Programming Insider since 2016. Pucci also contributed to the sports website Awful Announcing. Read more: https://programminginsider.com/author/douglas/