By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

What’s wrong with CNN

CNN has fallen to third place in prime time. It’s an easy way out to argue that it’s because CNN is doing news while Fox and MSNBC are doing talk. But it seems to me that CNN has three problems of its own making:

  • It’s given up on the 8 p.m. slot, where Campbell Brown is caught between Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann. Has anyone ever watched Brown’s show? She certainly isn’t compelling enough as part of “The Best Political Team on Television” (or at least the largest) to make me want to check her out.
  • Larry King at 9 p.m. — you can’t live with him, you can’t live without him. CNN’s fortunes have been tied up with King for so many years that no one dares to mess with his show. But it’s not what it used to be. I’d move it to 8 and try to come up with something else at 9. An intelligent political talk show, perhaps? If that’s not too oxymoronic?
  • At 10 p.m., CNN ought to clean up. Its best anchor, Anderson Cooper, is up against Greta Van Susteren and the Olbermann rerun. Trouble is, Cooper’s newscast lacks a distinct identity. And because it’s two hours long, he spends way too much time flogging stuff that will be coming up after 11, when people are either in bed or watching Jon Stewart. I’d cut it to an hour and make it a consistent, signature newscast. Then again, that’s what Aaron Brown was doing in that time slot, and I would have kept him and deployed Cooper elsewhere.

Problem solved. Next?

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  1. Michael Pahre

    With all these cable news networks — CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, Headline News — what one niche is completely missing from the 8 pm and 9 pm time slots?The answer is so obvious is staring at you in the face.A news show.I detest trying to get the day’s news at 8-10 pm, but only having choices of bloviating talking heads. Even Headline News is confused about it’s name, just like Music TV before it, since it doesn’t do headline news anymore.What are the choices? Campbell Brown and Larry King (CNN), Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity (Fox News), Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow (MSNBC), Finance-Pundit-Panel-Of-Death and Jim Cramer (MSNBC), and Nancy Grace and Lou Dobbs (Headline News; previously Glen Beck, too).The only national news program at 8-10 pm is to be had on the local network NECN at 9 pm — of course mixed in with local news. That’s it. Good lord.My preferred solution to this lack of news on the cable news networks: watch the PBS NewsHour OnDemand, although sometimes it doesn’t become available until too late in the evening (it gets rebroadcast at 10 pm).Can’t we just get some news coverage, for chrissakes, at 8-10 pm instead of all these opinionated talking heads?

  2. T-Traveler

    I think the second hour of A. Cooper is a rerun, i gave up on it a while ago. Too many gimmicks on cnn, with “no bias, no bull” and “keeping them honest”. HNN(formerly Headline News) is making alot of headway with Grace and the new show that replaced beck

  3. io saturnalia!

    You can’t see Campbell Brown’s amazing legs on the set of “No Bull.” I wish I were kidding, but check out any Fox “News” show and you’ll see that giving the news the Mary Hart treatment puts butts in the seats in front of the TV. Sorry about that pesky human nature, and all.On a more serious note, putting King at 8 would make a lot of sense, but the larger problem with AC 360 (and many of the shows on all networks) is that they keep mining the same guests and same exact material from one hour to the next, from show to show. I don’t mean the president and Tim Geithner … I mean anchors and other in-the-tank “experts” from Howard Fineman to Dana Milbank to Ann Coulter. Why not give Christiane Amanpour another prime-time shot, or some partnership with Sky News, for an international alternative to Conservatives/Liberals Suck TV?And, come on … the holograms? Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

  4. Don, American

    What’s wrong with CNN? Liberalism. Problem solved.

  5. Tunder

    Hey, Don – America:Care to expound on your “liberalism” theory re: CNN ratings?

  6. O-FISH-L

    What audience does CNN exactly serve? Not the conservatives who watch Fox and not the liberals who watch MSNBC. That leaves the moderates, but what right leaning moderate can sit through Jack Cafferty or even Campbell Brown’s daily hatchet jobs against Republicans? In fact the one and only time I tuned into Brown was her ridiculous interview, circa 9/2008 when she attacked McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds over Sarah Palin’s foreign policy questions, and shouted him down when he asked about Obama’s. Click.So that leaves left leaning moderates who find Fox unappealing and MSNBC too rigid. It also leaves CNN in last place.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: What CNN claims is that it’s offering news while Fox and MSNBC are wallowing in opinion. But the reality is something different.I don’t watch Campbell Brown, so I’ll withhold comment. Larry King show will do news if something big is happening, but usually it’s entertainment.Anderson Cooper does host a newscast, but it’s not as good as it could be given his talent.

  8. burner

    How about sexy anchorwomen who undress while giving the newscast? I like.

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