Contributor Post Created with Sketch. CNN Should Change Its Format Back to News

 

America could use a news network, especially in times like these. Most basic cable packages offer CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, but these aren’t news channels. Not really. They are politics channels. Politics has always been part of the coverage, of course, but it was treated as just one part of a much broader whole.

Flip back the calendar a few decades. The nightly news would feature a flood in Bangladesh, the latest on a budget deal from DC, a grisly crime in the Heartland, cross-border conflict in Israel, and a heartwarming closer on a centenarian skydiver. Switch to the only cable news channel and CNN would add an interview with a world leader, NBA playoff predictions, the marriage/divorce of a Hollywood power couple, and an exposé of a corrupt congressman.

Turn on CNN today: Trump screwed up the Coronavirus response, then a Coronavirus death toll, 14 talking heads yelling about Republicans, why Trump’s use of “Chinese virus” is racist, and a heartwarming closer on a centenarian who hates Trump.

The Donald often provides ratings, as every network proved by carrying live feeds of every rally in 2016. But it no longer works for CNN, even in a newsy time like the first quarter of 2020. Fox was the most-watched cable channel averaging 3.4 million viewers, while MSNBC was number two with 1.9 million. In third place was ESPN, despite sports being shut down a month ago. Finally, CNN limped in with 1.4 million.

The numbers get worse when tracking individual programs.

Fox News had the top five shows and 13 of the top 15. MSNBC’s “Maddow” was number six. The top-rated CNN show was “The Lead with Jake Tapper.” It came in 22nd place.

If CNN wants to survive our fractured media landscape, they need to take desperate action: abandon their failed politics-only format and return to news and information. Understandably, the news right now is all COVID-19, all the time, but allow me to play program director with a broadcast line-up for tomorrow.

  • Map on Coronavirus spread over time
  • Tips on how to avoid the virus
  • Interview with Anthony Fauci
  • Update on how Italy is dealing with the pandemic
  • How to make the most of your time at home
  • Feature on an ER doctor in Pennsylvania
  • Trump’s daily presser on the latest moves
  • Gov. Cuomo’s daily presser
  • Expert predictions on next steps
  • How people are thanking healthcare workers

And so on. Repeat the pressers two to three times a day. Fold in other governors’ statements around the country and leaders’ statements around the world. Talk to experts and everyday people (truckers, cashiers, etc.) working through the pandemic and those now unemployed.

You know, actual news and information. Families who keep the TV on all day would just leave it on CNN. Those taking a break from the home office would dip in every few hours for the latest. Over time, the network could replace high-priced pontificators with calm newsreaders. The public would be better informed and perhaps further mitigate the pandemic.

The country is deeply divided and wracked with anxiety. There is a market for straight reporting without the shouting. If CNN doesn’t want to change their format for the good of the public, they should do it for the profits. Because, at this point, their ratings can’t get much worse.

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  1. colleenb Member
    colleenb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think that C-Span is basically doing what CNN should be doing – and for a lot less money (at least paid to the ‘talent’). 

    • #1
    • April 2, 2020, at 1:07 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I don’t see any chance of that happening. I think they are addicted to their cause (destroy Trump) and have lost interest in being genuine journalists. Ratings be damned.

    • #2
    • April 2, 2020, at 1:12 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  3. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    This assumes someone at the network still understands what “news” is, and that is very doubtful.

    • #3
    • April 2, 2020, at 1:19 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Chief
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t see any chance of that happening. I think they are addicted to their cause (destroy Trump) and have lost interest in being genuine journalists. Ratings be damned.

    The Scorpion and the Frog.

    • #4
    • April 2, 2020, at 1:32 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  5. Stad Thatcher

    IIRC, the early days of CNN were great. You could turn on the news at any time, and you got one 30 minute information dump after another. There were no specials, no shows with someone’s name in the title . . . it was just news 24/7. Yes Jon, they’ve gone downhill from when they started.

    • #5
    • April 2, 2020, at 1:37 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  6. Cato Rand Coolidge

    It’s amazing how far they’ve fallen. I remember when CNN was an indispensable resource. Now it’s the National Enquirer with toxins.

    • #6
    • April 2, 2020, at 1:58 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  7. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A news channel that focuses on news? Maybe it’s just the quarantine inspired day drinking talking, but I think that might work.

    And if local newspapers could focus on local news . . .

    • #7
    • April 2, 2020, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  8. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Many potentially-great stories are being missed. As my Chicago Boyz colleague Sgt Mom pointed out, there could be a great segment on how the two two ships were readied to sail in record time – the Comfort was halfway through a refit, at Naval Station Norfolk … and yet, its repairs were finished by heroic effort, provisioned, re-equipped and sailed with a full complement of required crew … in days. Wouldn’t that be an epic tale? Down and gritty with the workers, the personnel who no doubt stayed up around the clock, fitting out the ship to lift anchor and go?

    and

    There are so many other great and fantastic stories, popping up here and there, like mushrooms after a good rain: how innovative restaurants are trying to stay open by being small grocery outlets and providing prepped-meal packages and curb-side service to customers. How big grocery and commercial outlets are offering special shopping hours and delivery service to vulnerable elderly, and like the massive HEB chain, offering raises to their current employees in light of how they have worked like heroes to keep the shelves stocked. How individuals and small concerns are self-organizing to sew and provide face masks to hospitals and clinics. How established manufacturers are turning their assembly-lines to producing hospital masks, gowns, and ventilators – in spite of their usual product-line being something else entirely. There are so many great stories, percolating up here and there, about how local communities are coping … But the national Establishment News Media is focused solely on how anything which comes to their attention in this regard can be used as a slam against President Trump.

    CNN is owned by AT&T. The question that should be asked is why this parent corporation appears to be happy with a subsidiary which has turned itself from a news network to a politics network with results that would not appear to be of any financial benefit to the parent.

     

    • #8
    • April 2, 2020, at 2:14 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t see any chance of that happening. I think they are addicted to their cause (destroy Trump) and have lost interest in being genuine journalists. Ratings be damned.

    “They” or “he”?

    • #9
    • April 2, 2020, at 2:18 PM PDT
    • Like
  10. Cato Rand Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t see any chance of that happening. I think they are addicted to their cause (destroy Trump) and have lost interest in being genuine journalists. Ratings be damned.

    They can’t fix it with the same clowns. The people drawn to work at CNN today are not interested in journalism. The only way to turn CNN back into a news station would require a massive personnel change.

    • #10
    • April 2, 2020, at 2:27 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Zed11 Lincoln

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t see any chance of that happening. I think they are addicted to their cause (destroy Trump) and have lost interest in being genuine journalists. Ratings be damned.

    In this line. I have no idea what they’ll do after the second term. If they exist at all.

    • #11
    • April 2, 2020, at 2:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    CNN was totally cool. They invented the term Headline News, I think.

    When did it change? After Ted Turner left?

    • #12
    • April 2, 2020, at 2:50 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Petty Boozswha Member

    They have new corporate owners that will not tolerate the losses indefinitely. I expect big changes after Trump is put out to pasture in November.

    • #13
    • April 2, 2020, at 3:34 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Slightly off-topic, but I seriously wonder if there are any journalists left in television. They all seem to be totally absorbed in maintaining the “narrative,” whether from the left or right perspective. What are they teaching at journalism schools nowadays?

    • #14
    • April 2, 2020, at 3:56 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Cow Girl Thatcher

    Stad (View Comment):

    IIRC, the early days of CNN were great. You could turn on the news at any time, and you got one 30 minute information dump after another. There were no specials, no shows with someone’s name in the title . . . it was just news 24/7. Yes Jon, they’ve gone downhill from when they started.

    When Mr. CowGirl went to Saudi Arabia–all of a sudden with the Marines he worked with–thirty years ago, CNN was a life-saver for my sanity. I could tune in and find out facts. Now, it is unbearable!

    If only they’d listen to you, Jon Gabriel, because that list you made is exactly the sort of thing people really want to know about. I remain astonished at the level of Trump-Mania they’ve managed to maintain over these three years. I’m exhausted just reading about it.

    • #15
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:06 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Stad (View Comment):

    IIRC, the early days of CNN were great. You could turn on the news at any time, and you got one 30 minute information dump after another. There were no specials, no shows with someone’s name in the title . . . it was just news 24/7. Yes Jon, they’ve gone downhill from when they started.

    Before Ted Turner got infected by the Hollywood bug via his purchase of MGM (and his relationship that followed with Jane Fonda) in the mid-1980s, he added the CNN Headline News channel, hiring news director Ted Kavanaugh away from WNEW-TV in New York to helm it, because his program was considered the opposite of the ‘happy talk’ local news programs that proliferated in the 1970s (and in turn was based on the formula of WINS radio in New York and it’s “You give us 22 minutes. We’ll give you the world” slogan). So if CNN had Larry King’s show or their 11 p.m. sports show on, people could still turn over the Headline News to get regular news in 30-minute cycles.

    CNN still has the channel. But CNN isn’t interested in doing that type of straightforward news anymore, and really hasn’t been for about 25 years. HLN outside of its morning block nowadays is about everything but news, because that’s how CNN’s brass wants it — if the news can’t be used to advocate for certain positions and/or attack people who oppose those positions, what point is there to run the show?

    CNN used to claim they moved away from the 30-minute news blocks on HLN because they weren’t drawing the ratings. But then you look at CNN’s ratings today with the type of shows they air, and the fact that no one ever gets fired due to the low ratings, and the excuse for HLN’s demise rings hollow (and where, thanks to channel bundling, it could have survived on cable/satellite subscription payments in the same way CNN does, despite it’s miserable ratings).

    • #16
    • April 2, 2020, at 10:57 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    CNN’s obsession with Donald Trump helped him become the Republican nominee. People calculated how much coverage the various candidates were given on CNN, and during the primary season Trump got more coverage than the other 15 Republicans combined. Trump is CNN’s crack.

    Cato Rand (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I don’t see any chance of that happening. I think they are addicted to their cause (destroy Trump) and have lost interest in being genuine journalists. Ratings be damned.

    They can’t fix it with the same clowns. The people drawn to work at CNN today are not interested in journalism. The only way to turn CNN back into a news station would require a massive personnel change.

    Very likely correct.

    • #17
    • April 3, 2020, at 8:15 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Hinch Member
    Hinch Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Long ago, I was a watchstander on the floor of the Air Force Intelligence Watch Center in the Pentagon (a grandiose title for a 10×8 room with two active Air Force folks, plus teletypes and the much beloved Pentagon pneumatic tube system). Early in my tour there, there were no electronics to speak of, except for several direct phone lines…and a color TV in the corner playing CNN 24/7. I got there in 1983, so CNN was two to three years old, and, as others have said, provided tightly produced objective (mostly) international and national news. Oh, and weather with the stunning Valerie Voss, the unofficial mascot of the Watch, who we corresponded with several times. If we asked, she’d send letters bidding departing watchstanders goodbye and thanking them for their service. Lovely person.

    So much for all that.

    • #18
    • April 3, 2020, at 12:05 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  19. The Reticulator Member

    Hinch (View Comment):
    I got there in 1983, so CNN was two to three years old, and, as others have said, provided tightly produced objective (mostly) international and national news.

    Back in those days the left hated CNN. It wasn’t the intense hatred they now have for deplorables, but there was a stigma attached to anyone who watched it. 

    • #19
    • April 3, 2020, at 12:10 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Jon1979 Lincoln

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Hinch (View Comment):
    I got there in 1983, so CNN was two to three years old, and, as others have said, provided tightly produced objective (mostly) international and national news.

    Back in those days the left hated CNN. It wasn’t the intense hatred they now have for deplorables, but there was a stigma attached to anyone who watched it.

    People forget that in 1985 Jesse Helms wanted Ted Turner to buy CBS so he could fire Dan Rather. All that flipped just over a year later after Ted began hanging with the Hollywood people following his MGM purchase, when CNN decided to bend whatever standards they had in order to be the first news organization with a news bureau in Havana. It’s been all downhill over the last third of a century since then.

    • #20
    • April 3, 2020, at 4:08 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. colleenb Member
    colleenb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Another link to Instapundit. 2 (so far) in one day!

    • #21
    • April 4, 2020, at 8:32 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Real journalism is hard work and, I would assume, expensive. Opinion shows are easy and cheap.

    • #22
    • April 4, 2020, at 3:50 PM PDT
    • 4 likes