CNN has been having problems for some time, with anemic ratings and something of an identity crisis. In a world where people can get news of the moment from a million places, just what is the network that pioneered cable news for? Not that the network doesn't still make plenty of money (it does), but unlike Fox and MSNBC, CNN hasn't seemed to have been able to figure out what its model is.
In an interview with Capital New York, CNN chief Jeff Zucker, who has been on the job less than a year, said what the network needs is "more shows and less newscasts," in order to grab "viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E." It all adds up to "an attitude and a take."
As easy as this is to mock, I think they should go for it. Because really, would our democracy suffer if, say, we only got one hour a day of Wolf Blitzer's vaguely befuddled "take" on the news instead of the current two hours?
Let's take a look at the current CNN schedule. After the aforementioned two hours of Blitzer, we've got Crossfire, about which the best thing that can be said may be that barely anyone has noticed it's back on the air. Then it's Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, Piers Morgan Live, and another hour of Anderson Cooper to round out prime time. Except for Crossfire with its innovative bipartisan bickering, all these shows rely on the prevailing model of cable news content: an anchor interviewing talking heads who repeat various flavors of spin in 4-minute chunks. Presumably there are people not stuck in airports who watch these shows every night and enjoy them greatly, but their numbers are small and they could obviously spend their time in more fulfilling ways.
So you could chuck out that hour of Blitzer, cut Cooper down to an hour as well, get rid of Morgan (I think we've seen enough, haven't we?), and presto, you've got three more hours a day to fill with compelling newsish content. Everything depends on exactly what that content is, of course. A searing investigation into corporate corruption? Excellent. Thirteen episodes of Alligators Stole My Baby? Not so much. Sure, a lot of what they come up with will end up being crap. But maybe mixed in there will be some interesting programming that you might want to see and could be illuminating. Unless you can't survive on less than two hours of Wolf Blitzer a day. In which case, you should see a doctor immediately.
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