Fixing CNN

cnnCNN, the company that invented 24/7 cable news but now finds itself fighting for relevancy, should abandon it’s “View From Nowhere” model of telling viewers what’s important, Jay Rosen argues. Rather than try to compete with Fox and MSNBC as an ideological-driven outfit, though, CNN should instead re-invent the genre. He even has a prime-time lineup:

  • 7 pm: Leave Jon King in prime time and rename his show Politics is Broken. It should be an outside-in show. Make it entirely about bringing into the conversation dominated by Beltway culture and Big Media people who are outsiders to Beltway culture and Big Media and who think the system is broken. No Bill Bennett, no Gloria Borger, no “Democratic strategists,” no Tucker Carlson. Do it in the name of balance. But in this case voices from the sphere of deviance balance the Washington consensus.
  • 8 pm: Thunder on the Right. A news show hosted by an extremely well informed, free-thinking and rational liberal that mostly covers the conservative movement and Republican coalition… and where the majority of the guests (but not all) are right leaning. The television equivalent of the reporting Dave Wiegel does.
  • 9 pm: Left Brained. Flip it. A news show hosted by an extremely well informed, free-thinking and rational conservative that mostly covers liberal thought and the tensions in the Democratic party…. and where the majority of the guests (but not all) are left leaning.
  • 10 pm: Fact Check An accountability show with major crowdsourcing elements to find the dissemblers and cheaters. The week’s most outrageous lies, gimme-a-break distortions and significant misstatements with no requirement whatsoever to make it come out equal between the two parties on any given day, week, month, season, year or era. CNN’s answer to Jon Stewart.
  • 11 pm.: Liberty or Death: World’s first news program from a libertarian perspective, with all the unpredictablity and mix-it-up moxie that libertarians at their best provide. Co-produced with Reason magazine.

I don’t know that I’d watch this. Then again, I’m not watching cable news these days. But this is indeed a more intriguing lineup than talk radio bloviating with video. The key would be finding show hosts who were sufficiently good interviewers that they could break through the talking points blather that guests come prepared to spew. Not booking people who tend to spew talking points would likewise be helpful.

Of course, Jay seems to be designing shows for intellectuals when the evidence seems to show that people are really after infotainment. The highest rated “news” shows are either red meat diatribes that reinforce the viewers’ prejudices about people who hold different political views or are smarmy satires that reinforce the viewers’ prejudices about people who hold different political views. There seems to be a pattern there.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Wayne says:

    Good ideas but unlikely to work out like the wat you would think. First their idea of a “free-thinking and rational conservative” would be someone who mostly agrees with them or a former republican who is a RINO or is piss off at the Republican Party along the line of Huffington, Scarborough. Buchanan. Their guest would be slanted to make conservative look bad and liberals to look good. Again they would try and get someone like Huffington to represent conservatives. Their fact check would just be a repeat of Democrat’s talking point with little regard to checking facts.

    Remember these are the people who think it shows no bias when one of their hostesses practically breaks down and started to cry when Bush was re-elected.

  2. Triumph says:

    The people who watch CNN are the same people who fill out their census forms: they are big-government, anti-freedom socialists.

    Luckily, these government agents comprise a decreasing portion of our populace.

    There is a reason why they call CNN the Communist News Network.

  3. An Interested Party says:

    First their idea of a “free-thinking and rational conservative” would be someone who mostly agrees with them or a former republican who is a RINO or is piss off at the Republican Party along the line of Huffington, Scarborough. Buchanan.

    Oh, so that’s why they hired Erick Erickson? Although I will grant you that he does make conservatives look bad…

  4. Gustopher says:

    Perhaps if “Liberty or Death” were a game show…

  5. wr says:

    Or, instead of libertarians, at 11 they could have a show where a bunch of four year olds fight over a toy and all scream “Mine mine mine!” at the top of their lungs.

    It’s really a cleaner and much more precise view of libertarian philosophy that what you get from those who are chronologically older…

  6. TangoMan says:

    In my opinion, the problem goes beyond the hosts, they’re simply a front. CNN would have to do a MAJOR housecleaning of producers, editors, and researchers and then rebalance the back-room so that there was ideological diversity, so that journalists weren’t lulled into the belief that they were moderates because everyone in the newsroom agreed with their POV.

    When a silent consensus forms, as I suspect is the case at CNN, then they’ve lost touch with the diversity of opinion and worldview that exists beyond their consensus.

    I don’t think that CNN would have much success with taking their liberal producers and tasking them to produce the shows for conservatives.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    People are attracted to characters and story lines, not news per se.

    O’Reilly, Olbermann, Beck, Maddow, Behar, Nancy Grace — they’re characters, not news people. Wolf Blitzer is a newsman and he’s boring. Candy Crowley is a newswoman and she’s boring. Anderson Cooper seems like a nice guy, but he’s boring.

    TV likes a bit o’ crazy. It likes personality. Ideology isn’t killing CNN, Blitzer and Anderson Cooper are killing CNN. Because they are bland and dull and they don’t have a plot.

    Fox does a great job of casting indelible characters and then inventing a plot, a narrative. Has almost nothing to do with news. It’s soap opera. It’s fiction. They use a fiction writer’s tools — narrative, character, voice — not a reporter’s tools.

    If you got Roger Ailes drunk enough he’d admit it. He’s turned boring news into interesting fiction.

  8. Mr. Prosser says:

    Pretty good idea. I still wouldn’t watch CNN or other news channels but it would make the video clips in the blogs I read more interesting.

  9. Wayne says:

    Blitzer and Anderson Cooper are flaming liberals. Although I grant you that Wolf actually tries at times for some objectivity but his liberal bias is very apparent. They are no more “newsman” than O’Reilly or Beck. At least Fox News gives both sides of an issue. CNN sure doesn’t.

    If CNN was more balance, I would watch them more but I don’t see that happening.

  10. Wayne says:

    By the way Fox News straight up “newsman” would be someone like Humes or Garret. King would be a more valid comparison to O’Reilly than Blitzer. Although Blitzer still shows more bias than O’Reilly.

  11. wr says:

    Yes, Fox gives both sides of an issue: Barack Obama — is he a Fascist or a Communist?

  12. Eric Florack says:

    Yes, Fox gives both sides of an issue: Barack Obama — is he a Fascist or a Communist?

    Because in that case, those are the only two possible answers.

  13. Wayne says:

    Juan Williams, Bob Beckel and Geraldo really bashes Obama. Obviously wr and Michael don’t watch Fox or are lying.