Monday, August 27, 2012

Should CNN Abandon Traditional 'Objective' News Format?

The longstanding news model in American journalism has been professional objectivity. I've argued many times that we've reached a new era of partisan journalism that harkens back to the late-18th century model of the partisan press. Between Fox News and MSNBC on cable, and the Rupert Murdoch properties (NY Post, WSJ) versus just about everybody else in print journalism, the battle lines have been drawn now for almost two decades. But CNN keeps plugging away under the premise that its reporting is non-partisan. Put aside Soledad O'Brien for a moment, or Don Lemon perhaps. As noted earlier, Wolf Blitzer and a few others continue follow the old fashioned "watchdog" style of journalism that treats government skeptically and which stands up for the interests of the public. But with the ratings challenges at CNN, perhaps it's time to junk that approach and go balls out for an ideological framework?

The Los Angeles Times reports, "Is CNN looking for its own game change?":
With the Democratic and Republican national conventions just days away, there's already suspense behind the camera: CNN is staring down one of the worst crises in its 32-year existence.

The cable news network that dominated the political discussion during the 1990s has slumped to record ratings lows this year, with its prime-time audience plunging by more than 40% compared with four years ago (No. 1 Fox News and runner-up MSNBC have each posted double-digit increases). Critics are attacking the Time Warner-owned network's coverage as dull and rudderless. CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton recently announced he will leave at the end of the year, observing that CNN needs "new thinking."

Many industry watchers say change is long overdue, but CNN sees the presidential campaign as an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. Its new multimillion-dollar studio in Washington is arriving just in time for the President Obama versus Mitt Romney showdown, even if the convention coverage itself doesn't necessarily promise changes that will make viewers snap to attention. The network will start the convention coverage every morning at 5 Eastern time and continue right through a midnight interview show hosted by Piers Morgan, who hosts its flagship prime-time interview program.

As during the primaries this year, there will be round tables overseen by Anderson Cooper — perhaps the network's biggest star — and other anchors, along with a stable of commentators such as the liberal James Carville and his conservative commentator wife, Mary Matalin. Statistics guru John King will work his hands over the "magic wall" of the electoral college once more — in fact, the new studio has two such computerized graphics boards, for even more "Minority Report"-like razzle-dazzle. It will be the first time CNN has managed its convention coverage from Washington.

"In the next six months, there's going to be a huge amount of viewer interest," said Wolf Blitzer, the veteran CNN anchor and reporter who will be a prominent face at the conventions. "I think people will come back and watch us."
More at the link.