CNN is in trouble. Primetime viewers are down 40 percent in the last year. First quarter Nielsen ratings showed the network continuing to lose ground to Fox News and even falling behind MSNBC. How should the network shape up to compete in a world of partisan news and character-driven ratings?
It should be more like TheAtlantic.com.
After you've rolled your eyes and written this author off as utterly
entrenched and prejudiced toward his employer, step back and think
about what this suggestion would mean. As NYU's Jay Rosen wrote, a galvanizing alt-lineup for CNN primetime might include an 8PM show hosted by a liberal, a 9pm show hosted by a conservative, and a 10pm show with a libertarian. This sounds smart. It also sounds like Voices.
CNN should rebrand itself as "the voice from everywhere" rather than "the voice from nowhere." It should be analysis with attitude. Its hosts should strive for broadmindedness while approaching controversial news topics with disclosed and well-understood biases. In a nutshell, it should be more like TheAtlantic.com. What would that mean?
First, that would mean scrapping the painstaking centrism that Wolf Blitzer has turned into high art. Out with The Situation Room, Wolf's late-afternoon motley of chatty diffidence. In with something like Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish: Live! A televised Daily Dish would be a spicier stir fry of issues with a loud, idiosyncratic, hard-to-place-on-the-spectrum host who isn't afraid to clear his throat. You'd want someone with a reputation for skewering all-comers, but also someone who loves sharing the stage with a motley crew of commentators from wonky political scientists to tech futurists ... with some loopy mental health breaks along the way. Rather than a show that hopes to offend nobody, it would be a show that aims to entertain, no matter whom it offends.