CHANCE FOR CNN? – AT 9:02 A.M. ET: As the GOP convention opens, media watchers will especially be watching CNN. The network is in trouble. Can it be saved? From the L.A. Times:
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."
COMMENT: The problem, as I see it, is that CNN is so uneven. It has some excellent people, like Wolf Blitzer and John King. But it has some clearly biased staffers, like Soledad O'Brien and Christiane Amanpour, who make a mockery of the notion that the outfit is neutral. I think they're trying to improve things, and we wish them well in the effort. I'd rather see a problematical network improve than see it destroyed.
August 27, 2012