December 3, 2013

CNN going less newsy

With CNN looking to move away from so much news and more towards opinion and discussion shows, one has to ask - is the ratings issue just an excuse to become MSNBC lite?
After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone.

So he is planning much broader changes for the network—including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.

Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.”

Instead, he wants more of “an attitude and a take”:

“We're all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn't thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

Zucker—“rhymes with hooker,” he likes to say—also expanded on comments he has made about breaking CNN out of a mindset created by historic rivalries with MSNBC and Fox. He wants the network to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”
Ratings clearly are a driver. If ratings were great, then Zucker would have no reason to look at inserting more editorializing and documentaries (which make no mistake, typically involve editorializing).

But Zucker has made the claim that CNN is above the fray when it comes to partisanship.  He clearly did not think CNN had a liberal bias in their newscasts, which should tell you something about Zucker's views on what constitutes higher ground non-partisan broadcasting such as this:

Sure.  Zucker has done well avoiding making political contributions to specific candidates which helps with his claims to be non-partisan.  But not completely clean:
The 15-year-old son of CNN president Jeff Zucker has resigned from his position on the advisory board of Cory Booker's start-up after it was revealed that the teenager had a leadership role in the company and receiving stock options for his work.

Hours after the news broke that Zucker's teenage son Andrew was listed as a member of the video aggregation start-up, a CNN spokesman said that he resigned from the company. The spokesperson also made a concerted effort to distance Booker, the current Newark mayor who is running for the open New Jersey Senate seat, from the decision to bring the younger Zucker on board.
Booker is definitely a liberal and funnelling cash to Jeff Zucker through his son is unseemly, but more importantly in this context, indicates the type of political bent Zucker might possess. Moving CNN into the Fox, MSNBC fray is likely to turn out to be Zucker's attempt to provide a better version of MSNBC.  One capable of getting higher ratings, and combined with an undeserved air of impartiality, the providing an opportunity to influence and move middle of the road voters towards the left.

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