MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow started her show last night with a “warning” to viewers. It went like this: “I’m about to do something which is a little bit controversial for cable news. It shouldn’t be controversial but because of this business, it is. So I feel like I have to start with this warning: All right, ready? I am about to praise a rival cable news network. I know, shriek, horror, right?”

So just what was the praise? Maddow continued, “CNN today is not what it used to be.”

That’s some strange praise, but Maddow always has more to say: “But once upon a time, CNN really was the only cable news network, and they really did have a singular role in keeping people informed, not only around the country but around the world.” Then she cited the rhetoric of former congressman James Traficant, who in 1997 proposed that the U.S. government replace the CIA with CNN, since the former was clueless about foreign affairs and the latter was all over them. From there, Maddow segued into quite a good critique of the CIA’s record in foreseeing key events affecting the overseas interests of the United States.

In sum, a rather backhanded way to “praise” a rival cable news network. Maddow’s critique boiled down to the observation that CNN doesn’t now occupy the central, or “singular,” role in American news dissemination that it once did. So stipulated. As it happens, however, the same exact critique could well be applied to any news organization that has been around for decades and decades, including The Washington Post, the New York Times, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, and on and on. Given this, what legacy media outlet is what it used to be?

(h/t Politico’s Dylan Byers)

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.