After proudly distancing itself from opinionated broadcasting, CNN is reversing course. On Wednesday, the ratings-starved network announced a new prime-time show co-hosted by former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker. "CNN will be offering a lively roundup of all the best ideas - presented by two of the most intelligent and outspoken figures in the country," said Jon Klein, president of CNN U.S.
Parker, a self-described "rational" conservative, will weigh in on the right with Spitzer--a longtime Democrat--standing on the left. Unsurprisingly, the nation's media critics all a twitter.
- Kind of Conflicts with CNN's Mission, writes Steve Krakauer at Mediaite: "CNN has long maintained that prime time was a spot for objective, non-opinion programming - a differentiating trait from its cable news competitors on the left and right (during those hours). This is certainly a step in a different direction, even if the opinion is, well, fair and balanced."
- Looks Like CNN Was Wrong to Cancel 'Crossfire,' writes Matea Gold at The Los Angeles Times: "The move represents a return to CNN's old playbook: The new program shares the same DNA as 'Crossfire,' the long-running political debate program that Klein canceled in 2005, saying the network wanted to move away from 'head-butting debate shows.' At the time, Klein said he agreed with comedian Jon Stewart's criticism that the show 'was hurting America,' adding that viewers were hungry for information, not opinion."
- I Can't Support This, writes James Poniewozik at Time: "In an increasingly politicized information environment, people--at least the sort of people who will watch CNN in primetime--need someone to step in and adjudicate arguments, call B.S. and be willing to say where (as best as they can judge) the truth lies, even if that should be seen as biased. What they don't need is someone throwing up more he-said-she-said dust and letting the viewer figure out who's right (possibly based on whatever that viewer wanted to believe in the first place). CNN has decided to go the he-said-she-said route instead."
- You Call Parker a Conservative?! fumes Noel Sheppard at Newsbusters: "Leave it to CNN to create a new version of Crossfire with a 'conservative' that will find a lot to agree on with her liberal foe. After all, this is a woman who said in April that she won the Pulitzer Prize for bashing conservatives. Days later, she told CBS's Bob Schieffer that Tea Party rhetoric was dangerous. Last August she called town hall protesters a fringe group and Tea party members 'teabaggers.' Last April she wondered if Meghan McCain was the GOP's answer to Rush Limbaugh. Last February she attacked ditto-heads and folks that try to combat liberal bias in the media."
- The Spitzer Choice Is Fascinating, muse Felix Fillette and Reid Pillifant at The New York Observer: "How did the Harvard Law School graduate-turned-crusading New York Attorney General-turned-middling New York governor-turned-Client No. 9-turned-disgraced tabloid punching bag-turned real estate family man-turned Slate columnist suddenly amount to a viable cable news candidate? The truth is, a solid foundation in scandal has come to be a perfectly respectable starting point for any small-screen aspirant hoping to break through in an age of hundreds of channels and on-demand everything. Whatever else his qualifications, Mr. Spitzer has proven in recent times to have a knack for one of the more prized skills in cable news-namely, polarizing audiences. Call it Spitz-o-phrenia."
- Fascinating? More Like Disgusting, says Nancy Franklin, television critic at The New Yorker: "I was practically blown out through the back of my couch, I was so repelled by the sight of him. I found him unpleasant to listen to and to look at. ... I don't think anybody really wants to watch him. They'll tune in one or two times to see him. But he's very loud. He's very arrogant. He's very smart. But he's not really right for television...He's sort of one of these high-energy dead souls who populate television now."
- America Will Love Him, says Lanny Davis, a contributor at CNN: "My perception is, he would be great on television as a magnet for viewers because he's so smart and he's such a great lawyer. I was actually asked this question by a fellow who was thinking of hiring him and I said, 'Forget about his political career, he's going to have good ratings because people are going to watch and be fascinated by him.' ...Because this is about someone who's willing to bounce back. It's part of an American narrative that goes all the way back in history. We love Horatio Alger. We love forgiving."