Analysis of media issues, politics and current events.
With its ratings tanking and talent and executive shuffling imminent (in fact, Managing Editor Mark Whitaker and contributors James Carville, Mary Matalin and Erick Erickson were just shown the door yesterday), CNN, in ratings, is the perennial last place in cable news competition. Like my beloved Philadelphia Eagles this year, everyone knows the team is broken, but no one in the organization knows exactly how to fix it even or what or how many parts need fixing. And like replacing Andy Reid, a change of leadership, like Jeff Zucker coming to CNN, right now, feels like hope more than a clear solution.
Why? Because in the world of loud, passionate news and outrage, CNN’s attempt to play it down the political middle and focus on petty dramatic stories over big picture themes has made CNN feel like a news organization without a soul. Delivering information lacking any emotional or ideological anchor that makes the network seem to mumble its brand to point of being intelligible. A replay to the phrase “This is CNN,” would be “And just what IS CNN?” The cable network doesn’t have to an ideological network, but it has to be something. And let’s be honest, right now what the CNN is is boring. Yes, despite Wolf Blizter being in the dramatically named, “Situation Room,” Erin Burnett being bravely “Outfront” and Anderson Cooper going all 360 on our rear ends.
This is a situation CNN has tried to fix for years to no avail. Two reasons:
One. CNN parent company is Time Warner, home of movies, lifestyle and entertainment magazines. In the name of synergy of content with its parent, it tends to try to deliver news content that is also lifestyle and entertainment. A result that muddies its news brand.
Two. CNN treats its audience problem like it could be solved with a good feng shui expert. That it’s all about the right show props or a catchy show title and nothing to do with projecting personality, true credibility or emotional connection with the audience.
Let me put it another way, if CNN were watching a pick up artist at a bar, it would watch a guy talk to a woman after buying them a drink and assume it was the drink that got her to talk to him. So it then would go around the bar trying to buy all the women drinks. Not seeing it work, it would assume, it bought the wrong drink. So it would then buy them expensive drinks, different colored drinks, drinks with funny names. They might accept the drink, but reject a deeper connection.
It (CNN’s management) wouldn’t get it. It was never the drink. It was personality and magnetism of that guy buying the drink. The drink was only the excuse to bring the two together.
That’s CNN’s problem. It looks at Fox and MSNBC. It sees their ratings, how they woo audiences and their tendency to spew dramatic statements and says, “I’ll be dramatic, too.” But CNN’s solution news coverage is too shallow and delivered with such lack of anchor chemistry and focus pretty issues, CNN like a nerd who thinks girls will find their large G.I. Joe collection irresistible. But showing it only proves to the audience that it simply doesn’t get them.
Some of these feng shui fixes:
Hey, Fox News has hot women, we need hot women. Hence, Erin Burnett.
Fox and MSNBC get attention by hiring bomb throwers. Let’s hire Erick Erickson (and now let’s fire Erick Erickson)
MSNC and Fox make situations sound dire. Let’s get alarming Chyrons that say “Breaking News” a half a day after the event, turn political issues into movie of the week titles and see how many times you can use the words “crisis” and “shocking” in the lower third screen titles.
Oh and don’t get me started on that 3D holograph thing with Jessica Yellin a few years ago, not to mention CNN’s magic screens.
All gimmicks. No soul. And now, no viewers.
Think about it. If news happens, whom at CNN do you trust? Though a Bill O’Reilly, Bret Baier or Sean Hannity isn’t my version of credibility, they do have followers who trust them and would come to them thinking, “what does X have to say about it? I trust their perspective.” I doubt people do that for Wolf Blitzer and John King.
Lots of news. No soul. This…is CNN?