New CNN Chief, Jeff Zucker, gave a few moments to The Incredibly Useless Howard Kurtz. Zucker said in an interview that CNN programs need “more differentiation” and “more variety, and I don’t mean that in the entertainment sense.” With CNN’s ratings rising and falling with the news cycle, Zucker said, “the overriding issue is what do you do beyond the 25 days a year when there’s major breaking news? You don’t need to be partisan. CNN does need to stick to a nonpartisan point of view. That doesn’t mean there can’t be more passion and excitement.”
Anyway, because I care so dang much, I’m going to give Zucker the keys to the ratings kingdom…
1. Fire People…Now
MSNBC is wrong about everything, but as far as pure television, daytime MSNBC does not suck in the least. Thanks mainly to its daytime hosts, MSNBC is an extremely well-produced cable news network that’s appealing to the eye and ear. Thankfully, my shift ends before MSNBC’s insufferable primetime line-up arrives.
CNN, however, is dull as dishwater and loaded with unappealing personalities: Soledad O’Brien, Carol Costello, Ashleigh Banfield, Don Lemon, and Wolf Blitzer just need to go. Watching those five is like fingers on a chalkboard — the worst part of my day.
2. For ‘Excitment,’ Improve CNN’s Look
If Zucker wants more excitement, he should start with CNN’s “look,” because the network looks awful: muted colors, muted graphics, and roundtable discussions that look as though they were produced on cable access. Granted, most of CNN’s “excitement” problems come from the on-air personalities, and if those same personalities attempt to artificially ramp up the energy, it’s only going to heighten their many flaws — which is why they need to go. But…
MSNBC and Fox News are great-looking networks. Ape them yesterday.
3. Remove the Liberal Bias
What’s most troubling about Zucker’s statement is that he apparently believes CNN is nonpartisan. That shouldn’t come as a surprise from a former NBC guy, but the ratings needle just isn’t going to move unless the liberal bias problem is exterminated — which has always been CNN’s primary problem.
MSNBC at least doesn’t lie to its audience about its biases. Fox News does an excellent job of building a wall between its straight news and it’s openly partisan programming. CNN, though, lies and lies and lies and lies.
24/7, it’s left-wing agenda-pushing disguised as nonpartisan news at CNN, which is insulting to both left and right.
No one likes to feel conned, so no one watches CNN.
4. Stop Being Narrative Slaves
If someone handed me CNN, the very first thing I would do is something Fox News does that explains their success beyond the ideological… I would extricate CNN from The Narrative.
One of the reasons a lot of Democrats watch Fox News is due to the fact that Fox covers news stories the rest of the media doesn’t. Because Fox isn’t a slave to The Narrative, they actually offer a variety — not just of opinion and worldview — but also in the topics they find important and worthy of focusing on.
If you watch or read or listen to any part of the mainstream media, there’s absolutely no reason to watch CNN. If you listen to NPR or read the New York Times or watch the Today Show, because CNN is a slave to The Narrative, watching CNN is redundant.
Granted, sometimes some news is so big and important you have to cover what everyone else is, but outside of those 20 to 30 days per year, why cover what everyone else is covering?
For example, during the 2012 campaign, CNN was just as invested in the pointless Narratives surrounding Big Bird, binders, Romney’s taxes, and the 47 percent video as the hundreds of other MSM outlets out there. All CNN was doing was rewarming news people could get in 250 different places.
What CNN should do is what Fox does and that’s break free of this trap and make its own decision about what the news will be. I’m not talking ideology — I’m talking variety.
If people get used to the idea that CNN covers the news-news but also devotes a large part of its day covering what no one else does — that they are not Narrative Slaves — people will tune in to see what CNN’s up to.
Hundreds of million click on Drudge many times a day to see what Drudge finds interesting — what Drudge considers newsworthy. You never know what he’s up to or focusing on. So you tune in.
CNN never surprises in this regard. It’s just a network filled with unappealing people in unappealing settings repeating what every other outlet is repeating.
5. Make Piers Morgan Grow a Mustache
You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.
*This story is part of the Big Journalism Live Blog, which you can bookmark here.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC