09/03/2010 12:20 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Two Bits: News Ratings and Heresy

I am in the midst of writing a long and serious paper and have recently neglected Huff Post, but two occurrences seem so newsworthy that I will briefly report them here.

Bit one: the August cable viewing numbers show CNN with the lowest household ratings that I have ever seen. "Household ratings" are by and large a thing of the past. They have been replaced by "people meters" which are meant to reflect the number of people watching, rather than the number of homes where the television is tuned in to the network.

Back in my day at CNN, there were only household ratings, and when I left, CNN averaged an audience of 150,000 households in the universe of 15 million homes over the previous six month period. That's a "1" household rating. In August this year, CNN averaged 364,000 households in a universe of more than 100 million homes, that's about a .375 rating, and the lowest that I know of for any single month in CNN's history. Even in June of 1980, its previous low point, the ratings were above a .4. Something is rotting in Atlanta, and it seems as if the Time Warner brass in New York is paying no attention to it.

CNN is still making a lot of money for TW, but the continuing ratings slide bodes ill for the future.The time for action is when profits are still high and TW can afford to make changes.
Bit two: In Virginia, "scientific heresy" is emerging as a public issue. I thought that scientific recognition of the discovery that the earth revolves around the sun had put an end to religious or governmental declaration by fiat of scientific truths. Galileo, made that discovery, was forced by the Inquisition under the threat of torture and death to renounce his discovery, was then sentenced to house arrest. He died in his bed at home.

This week, a judge ruled that Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general of Virginia has a right to investigate whether or not the University of Virginia committed fraud while doing scientific research into global warming. Mr. Cuccinelli, who the AP describes as "a conservative Republican who is skeptical about global warming", wants the University to produce the records of global warming researcher Professor Michael E. Mann to see if Mann used "manipulated data to obtain grants" for his research.

However, the judge left the door open for Cuccinelli to try again. He found that although Cuccinelli's subpoenas failed to spell out the nature of his [Mann's] alleged wrongdoing, he could refile if the new subpoenas include detail of the University's wrongdoing. Cuccinelli has already announced that he will refile.

Are prosecutors now defining heresy and emerging as the final authorities of scientific fact? If Cuccinelli wins his case, will Mann face Galileo's fate?