What happened to CNN News?
On Friday, CNN News announced that its worldwide president would resign at the end of the year due to a dramatic ratings decline. I love watching the news and I still like CNN News. But, even I have to admit that it’s no longer the news powerhouse it was in its early years. There was a time, even 12 years ago, in the TV landscape when CNN News was THE place to get the news. From the time of its launch in 1980 until 2000, CNN was the undisputed leader in TV news. Although Fox News would supplant CNN in the ratings 2002, CNN News was often seen as the source of news everywhere – even government intelligences would turn to CNN to find out what was happening.
The Fox News challenge to CNN News.
In 1996, Fox News was formed to help “fill the public’s demand for more 24-hour news coverage.” With a former Republican strategist at its helm, many viewed it as an alternative to the CNN News – or as some called it the “Clinton News Network.” By the 2000 election, Fox News had gone from just over 10 million homes in the U.S. to 56 million homes and saw a 440% increase in viewership. By January 2002, Fox news had surpassed CNN News, and has consistently stayed #1 since.
The Digital Age
As more and more people get their news online, they turn to CNN News and Fox News for the perspective on the stories of the day. CNN.com is strong. But, it’s also its weakness. In its effort to become more personality driven, it has failed miserably. It’s daytime anchors and interaction with its audience have to be two of the most insipid parts of CNN News itself. It has an identity crisis and it doesn’t look like it will get figure itself anytime soon.
What’s wrong with CNN News and how I would fix it!
No one is going to hire me to fix CNN, although I bet I could do it. I can’t do any worse. But, I’m not sure I could live in Atlanta. I am sure they are good people and a great city. But, it’s not for me. But, in the event that the hiring manager for CNN is reading this and wants to hire someone who can fix CNN on the cheap, here’s what I would do:
Report the news: If there is one thing that Fox News does extremely well, it’s that they report the non-political news really well. If it doesn’t have to do with Obama or Romney, Republicans or Democrats, Fox is amazing at reporting just the facts in an analytical way that lets me know the who’s, where’s, what’s, when’s and why’s without all sorts of pontificating. CNN News seems to make every story somehow about the anchor reading the news. It’s like watching someone who’s really drunk try to tell a story to friends at a party. EVERYTHING. IS. SO. MUCH. MORE. DRAMATIC. Stick to reading the news without emotionally throwing yourself into every story.
Stop with the audience interaction: This is especially true for the “talk back” questions. Seriously, the only “talking back” that should be done is yelling at the screen “why the fuck are you even asking people to talk back!?!?!?!” You’re a news organization, not a talk show. My jaw literally fell to the floor as the morning anchor asked this “talk back” question recently: “Where was God in Aurora?” My head is still spinning why we needed people posting Facebook comments on this – or any story – that CNN News covers. If you want to know where God was or is, wherever he is, he’s not watching CNN, I can tell you that.
Educate your anchors: Nothing kills me more than watching a news broadcast (on ANY network) and realize that the empty haircut reading the teleprompter has no idea or any outside knowledge of the thing on which they are reporting. The intern that wrote the teleprompter text has more general knowledge than the vapid, empty shell speaking to the camera. I realize anchors don’t actually have to do any investigating, but reading the daily paper, a Time or Newsweek every week, or watching the news on your own channel will do you a world of good. It’s important to be able to draw in a younger audience to replace the older audience as it dies off by being able to discuss something like who “Bane” is in the Batman franchise…
Stop talking!!! I realize that this may be an issue as it’s the job of the news anchor to report the news, but when you are doing interviews, stop interjecting before the interviewee is finished. Unless, of course, you’re telling the interrupting cow knock-knock joke. YOU are not the story. You guest should have the right to finish up what they want to say.
I realize, good people of CNN News, that it’s hard to be in second place to Fox News. But just because you lost your way, swinging for the fences by trying anything that might get you ratings, it doesn’t mean you should be lowering your standards to get more viewers. Start acting like a news organization again. Tell both sides of the story. You don’t have to be the counterweight to another news organization. Just tell the news. Don’t make it.