IF YOU PICKED JANUARY 29TH, YOU WON THE OFFICE POOL (when Piers would have to go live and relevant)


pre-taped interview with Colin Firth spiked

Irresistable images from Cairo

Piers Morgan finally bagged his pre-taped interview, this one with Colin Firth,  to go live for the first time Friday night in order to cover the dramatic street protests across Egypt.  Given the dramatic video rolling behind him, his show was compelling;  the interviews were better than his taped chats with celebrities.  Perhaps we’ll see more, which is good news.

CNN didn’t  exactly take a high risk, given Friday nights are historically the lowest rated of the week for their 9:00 time slot.  Firth, the English actor who is nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the stammering George IV in “The King’s Speech,” isn’t exactly a household name yet. But I suspect it was more the shock of  Thursday night’s ratings than the fear of the Firth on Friday propelling the decision.


Kardashians Krash and Burn, but is the Publicity Photo Worse for the Anchor than the Ratings?

Kim and Khloe Kardashian sit on Piers Morgan's lap for a CNN News promotion

For the first time since the launch, Piers Morgan Tonight actually lost audience from its anemic lead-in, Parker-Spitzer.  The interview with the attractive Kim and Khloe Kardashian only attracted 164,000 adult viewers 25-54, 12% less than the lead-in.

But really, what’s up with the photo that makes one want to say, “Ewwww.”  It’s not sexy, it’s creepy/lech-y.

Here’s how Piers Morgan Tonight has built on the lead-in from the beginning:

Week #1
M: Oprah (521,000) +252%
T: Stern (551,000) +665%
W: Rice (239,000) +82%
Th: Gervais (279,000) +154%
F: Clooney (121,000) +73%
Week #2
M: Giuliani (208,000) +39%
T: STATE OF THE UNION (1,200,000) +219%
W: Osteens (248,000) +47%
Th:Kardashians* (164,000) -12%
Fri: Colin Firth: spiked for news coverage

I briefly channel surfed through the Kardashian interview on Thursday.  I saw them talk about their dad, Robert Kardashian, and said the same loving things they’ve said many times before.  Kim refused to answer how much money she’s worth, telling Piers twice, “I never talk about that.” And that’s sort of all I remember. Oh, yeah, Kim gives 10% of her earnings to the church, something her father taught her.

I can remember a bit more about the Kardashians interview a month or so ago with Joy Behar.  I also remember that interview feeling girly and dishy, certainly fresher earlier in their book tour.  I bet Joy Behar would have asked her in a clever way to reconcile the girl who launched her career with a leaked sex tape with the girl who honors the church in a meaningful way.

Will Egypt Mark Revolution for Piers?

So on Friday night, Piers Morgan finally threw away the safety net of a taped interview.  He did seem a little uncomfortable. Wolf Blitzer brought some depth to the reporting, as did John King, Anderson Cooper and on-location superstars Nic Roberts and Ben Wedeman, CNN’s senior international correspondent based in Cairo.  I’m not sure anyone knows Egypt like Wedeman. Wedeman was CNN’s bureau chief in Cairo from 1998 to 2006. There, he closely followed the so-called “Arab spring,” during which human rights and political activists frequently clashed with Egyptian security forces in their quest for democracy.

He also served as a correspondent in CNN’s Jerusalem bureau, covering the peace process, the battles between Fatah and Hamas, politics and society in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Wedeman was the first reporter to break the news of the release of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza in July 2007. He was also the first Western reporter to enter Gaza from Egypt during Israel’s late 2008-early 2009 offensive.

Amir Ahmed, the assignment editor for CNN added eyewitness accounts.  Correspondent Frederik Pleitgen gave impressive updates and clarifications overnight for Martin Savidge cut-ins for the Piers Morgan Tonight replays.

With the strength of CNN’s bench, I think Piers Morgan is going to truly enjoy live breaking news.  His learning curve will be quick.  He just has to hire someone who can prepare a briefing book for breaking stories… one with maps and fabulous factoids that viewers love: in this case, that Egypt’s population is 80 million, the country spans two continents, Africa and Asia… who’s likely to replace Mubarak, etc.  It’s all available.  I’d also, by the way, be driving viewers to Ben Wedeman on Twitter.

Morgan will hopefully tone down his awe and excitement over news and not effuse that he “had never seen anything like it before”  It makes him sound like he missed the 2009 post elections protests in Iran.

There are lots of CNN footage on YouTube to look at, including the first reports of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26-year-old woman who attended a protest rally with her father and was shot to death.  Neda, whose name means “voice” in Farsi, became the voice and the face of the pro-democracy rebellion.

Morgan explored the role of social media, well a part of it.  Facebook and Twitter certainly can help people organize, which he noted. But we also know dictatorial governments are now on-line in full force as well.  Iran’s “twitter revolution” was not to be.  It is haunting to think how social media there was probably used later for arrests and worse. The Chinese government is on-line.  Hugo Chavez has 1,181,158 followers on Twitter. (He has tweeted 843 times.)

Richard Grenell, former Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy for the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations (and the longest-serving American Spokesman at the UN in history), blasted the White House for being slow to respond, and for being flat-footed in Tunisia and Egypt. He accused the President and Vice-President of trying to prop up Mubarak and called for Obama to immediately demand the internet be restored in Egypt.

As a former member of the U.N. Security Council with full voting rights, Grenell is a great booking for this story. It would  have been even better to note, or chyron, that he’s a lifelong Republican who held all his positions during the eight years of the Bush Administration.

Amir Ahmed, the assignment editor for CNN added eyewitness accounts. correspondent Frederik Pleitgen gave impressive updates and clarifications overnight for Martin Savidge cut-ins for the Piers Morgan Tonight replays.

The revolution will not be on twitter.  Not as long as CNN keeps their coverage standards this high, that is.