Cable News’ Tricky ‘Situation’

Jun 13, 2005  •  Post A Comment

On May 31 MSNBC announced that “The Situation With Tucker Carlson” would debut June 13. Six days later CNN, for which Mr. Carlson worked until earlier this year, announced it would launch a three-hour Wolf Blitzer-anchored news block titled “The Situation Room.”

In a landscape populated by news-“Nights,” “Tonights,” “Nows” and “Reports,” the arrival of two “Situations” in quick succession is suspicious.

“I don’t know what the odds are,” Mr. Carlson said of the chances his current and former employer would both use “Situation” in new show titles. He was less wishy-washy about which staked its claim to the word first.

“It’s ours. We announced ours first. Ours is launching first,” the new MSNBC host said.

“People say CNN is big and slow and cumbersome and bureaucratic,” Mr. Carlson said. “But we announced our show, and six or seven days later they announced their title. So I think that’s very nimble. It’s a very fast reaction, and I think they deserve credit for that.”

“I do think we’re a nimble organization. I don’t know that it applies in this case,” responded CNN/U.S. President Jonathan Klein. “It was January when we sketched out a couple of different scenarios or titles. I’ve been using the name ‘Situation Room’ ever since January.

“But I’ll take the compliment,” said Mr. Klein, adding: “MSNBC has a lot of situations on its hands right now. We’ve got a centralized hub where viewers can come for all the latest news and analysis,” he said.

Mr. Tucker took a semantic tack. “‘The Situation’ describes or suggests a conversation in progress. That is exactly what our show is. ‘Situation Room’ has such a martial sound to it. No wars are going to be started on our show.”