SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE IN LATE-NIGHT RACE

NBC on Thursday attempted to put a positive face on the latest late-night results, which showed Conan O'Brien's Tonight show trailing David Letterman's Late Show in total audience despite the fact that CBS's Letterman was in reruns. Conan, it noted, continued to lead Letterman among the key 18-49 demographic. "The median age of Conan's audience last week was 47.1, more than 10 years younger than Letterman's 57.4 and 9 years younger than the 56.3 of ABC's Nightline," the network added. In fact, however, ABC's Nightline beat both the NBC and CBS variety/talk shows with 3.36 million viewers to 3.27 for Letterman and 3 million for O'Brien.

MURDOCH'S TAKE-HOME CHECK TAKES A HIT

Even Rupert Murdoch is feeling the economic pinch. The Associated Press reported Thursday, after a review of News Corp's latest regulatory filings, that Murdoch's total compensation dropped 40 percent to $18 million from $30 million. Murdoch's salary, it noted remained unchanged at $8.1 million, but his performance-based incentive pay fell 69 percent to $5.4 million from $17.5 million a year ago. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Murdoch has been meeting with major publishers across the country about forming a consortium that would charge for news distributed online. The Times said that Murdoch has called on the New York Times Co., Washington Post Co., Hearst Corp. and Tribune Co., which publishes the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. The Times article did not indicate whether the company's TV news operations were made a part of the discussions. Alan D. Mutter, a former newspaper journalist who now presides over the blog Newsosaur, told the Times: "The reality is that unless a lot of people who produce news act in unison to start charging for content, then individually they will fail."

WAS BECK ON A FORCED VACATION?

Glenn Beck's absence from Fox News this week was prompted by a desire on the part of the channel's executives to allow the heat to die down following Beck's remarks that President Obama is a "racist" who has "a deep-seated hatred for white people," TVNewser.com reported Thursday, citing unnamed tipsters. Beck's remarks spurred a group called Color of Change to mount a protest campaign directed at Beck's advertisers, which resulted in 20 of them yanking their spots from Beck's show. A Fox News spokesman denied that Beck's absence was related to the controversy and said that he would be returning on Monday. Beck's personal publicist called the TVNewser report a "completely bogus story."

GUN-RIGHTS GROUP TAKES AIM AN MSNBC

Gun-rights advocates The Second Amendment Foundation on Thursday accused MSNBC of deceptively editing a news clip showing a man carrying an AR-15 rifle near the convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Phoenix, where President Obama spoke. MSNBC reporter Contessa Brewer commented on camera, "Yes, there are Second Amendment rights, for sure, but also there are questions about whether this has a racial overtone. I mean, here you have a man of color in the presidency and white people showing up with guns strapped to their waist." In fact, said SAF founder Alan Gottlieb, the man shown in the clip "was an African-American. ... MSNBC knows the man was black, yet all they showed ... was a close-up of the rifle against the man's neatly pressed dress shirt." Gottlieb described the segment as "a detestable attempt to manipulate public sentiment" and accused the news channel of "irresponsibly fomenting ... racial divisiveness through the use of carefully edited video." MSNBC did not immediately respond.