As a recovering TV news anchor myself, I remember the years of staring at overnight Nielsen ratings and learning the importance of decimal points. These days, I’m more attentive to similarly arcane numerical constructions like UVs (that would be monthly Unique Visitors to a website), but I need a fix for my old TV ratings addiction, so I do look at the cable news ratings with interest.

The daily tally is, without much variation, a staggering account of Fox News dominating the space.  The flow of the Fox News line-up is a testament to the network’s trust in the convictions and creative visions of a truly unique group of hosts and their dedicated production teams.  And I’m always amazed at the consistency of the ratings — particularly Glenn’s.  The news cycle brings big swings to those numbers, but you can always look for that plumb line trend.

In the last few weeks, however, we have seen two trends in the pound-on-Glenn Beck front.  One group is jumping on Glenn for being some sinister doomsayer who is bad for conservatives.  On this front, I see lots of name calling but little serious argumentation.  The second attack front is trying to whip up a ratings disaster scenario that portends grim fates for Glenn Beck and Fox News.  The argumentation here is even less serious.  But, you can’t stop them from trying!

So, I guess I should not have been surprised that a prominent columnist/reporter for the The New York Times would decide to jump in on this front. I have read David Carr for decades and I respect him a great deal.  I can still disagree with significant portions of his reasoning here.  But, no doubt, the hypothetical musings he’s putting into play will only spur relentless new rounds of speculation (anyone want to bet on the number of mentions Carr gets on MSNBC tomorrow?).

But read it for yourself and comment thoughtfully!

The New York Times:

Almost every time I flipped on television last week, there was a deeply angry guy on a running tirade about the conspiracies afoot, the enemies around all corners, and how he alone seemed to understand what was under way.

While it’s true that Charlie Sheen sucked up a lot of airtime last week, I’d been watching Glenn Beck, the Fox News host who invoked Hezbollah, socialists, the price of gas, Shari’a law, George Soros, Planned Parenthood, and, yes, Charlie Sheen, as he predicted a coming apocalypse.

Mr. Beck, a conservative Jeremiah and talk-radio phenomenon, burst into television prominence in 2009 by taking the forsaken 5 p.m. slot on Fox News and turning it into a juggernaut. A conjurer of conspiracies who spotted sedition everywhere he looked, Mr. Beck struck a big chord and ended up on the cover of Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine, and held rallies all over the country that were mobbed with acolytes. He achieved unheard-of ratings, swamped the competition and at times seemed to threaten the dominion of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity at Fox.

But a funny thing happened on the way from the revolution. Since last August, when he summoned more than 100,000 followers to the Washington mall for the “Restoring Honor” rally, Mr. Beck has lost over a third of his audience on Fox — a greater percentage drop than other hosts at Fox. True, he fell from the great heights of the health care debate in January 2010, but there has been worrisome erosion — more than one million viewers — especially in the younger demographic.

Read the rest here.

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