Another day, another media story on the fudging of “reality” and “documentary” for the TV camera – this time it’s CNN’s eight-part series Chicagoland, which never got so much media interest as it did this morning when the Chicago Tribune posted a report on emails between the office of that city’s mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the producers. The emails show Emanuel’s office closely controlled access to their guy, that the producers cajoled his office to get shots they wanted, and a good time was had by all. In the world of politics, and the world of television, this is known as “how it works.”
Related: CNN’s ‘Chicagoland’ Finale Hits Viewer Low
“If it seems as though some scenes of CNN’s documentary series Chicagoland were coordinated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall and the show’s producers, that’s because they were,” the Trib scolded in the report, timed to coincide with the series’ final-episode premiere last night. “City Hall’s frequent correspondence with the producers illustrates how senior aides to a mayor known for shaping his media image managed how their boss would be portrayed on CNN to a prime time national audience,” the Trib marveled.
More than 700 emails reviewed by the Tribune reveal that the production team “worked hand in hand with the mayor’s advisers to develop storylines, arrange specific camera shots and review news releases officially announcing the show.” Among its findings, producers asked the mayor’s office to help them set up key interactions for what CNN has billed as a non-scripted series. Those interactions included Emanuel’s visits with the school principal “who emerged as a star of the show, emails show,” according to the Trib.
The paper seemed most exercised over the emails in which the production team told Emanuel’s staff that particular scenes “would present the mayor in a positive light” including one in which one of the producers said the project would showcase Emanuel “as the star that he really is.” Read More »
UPDATE, 4:30 PM: Unlike entertainment programming, the world of cable news is not one where Live + 3 numbers often have any relevance. You don’t often think of DVRs as how audiences watch CNN, Fox News or MSNBC but with some of the non-breaking news programming that Jeff Zucker has instituted since taking over CNN last year that may be changing. For instance, if its debut is any indication, CNN’s new Chicagoland docu series has a digital afterlife looks almost as far reaching as Lake Michigan on a clear day. In Live + 3 numbers the Robert Redford produced series saw its March 6 debut rise 23% in the adults 25-54 demo to 280,000 viewers. That moves the CNN show up to No. #1 in the news demo for its 10 PM time slot. Previously, Chicagoland had been in second place with 227,000 viewers among the 25-54s behind Fox News’ Hannity (247,000) and ahead of MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell (207,000) Overall, Chicagoland still stayed in third place among total viewers with 782,000. Up a bit from its Live + Same Day results, FNC’s Hannity easily held on to the top spot with 1.457 million total viewers and Last Word had 830,000.
PREVIOUS, MARCH 7 PM: The premiere of CNN’s new Chicagoland didn’t get totally whacked last night but it certainly didn’t make a ratings killing either – in fact it came a distant third in terms of total viewership … Read More »