I like CNN. I really do. If there were an award for the best network that delivers the news straight, CNN would win. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. CNN has now fallen behind its cable rivals Fox News and MSNBC and some fear that end of the network is near.
Some change is definitely in order and I think I have the prescription. While I’ve never created a number one show on a news network, neither has CNN’s president Jonathon Klein. First, let’s look at different cable news models.
Fox News has definitely taken the crown of “Winning means talking the loudest.” There is no doubt that its brand of in-your-face journalism has brought in viewers. Just ask Bill O’Reilly, who will gladly tell you he has the number one show in cable news. Fox News has made a fortune catering to the right. The same principles that made talk radio popular are omnipresent on Fox News: hyperbole mixed with rabid populism.
I’m not quite sure if any of the current CNN anchors could pull off Sean Hannity’s obnoxiousness or Glenn Beck’s crying jags. Because of that, I don’t think the Fox News model will work for a new CNN
The next model would naturally be MSNBC. Many accuse MSNBC of trading in the same policies that make Fox News popular. I would have to disagree.
MSNBC definitely leans left with its afternoon line-up of Shultz, Matthews, Olbermann and Maddow but it is not nearly as absurd as Fox News is. Some would also accuse MSNBC of emulating Fox News by letting opinion bleed into its news. While that is may be true, it is a question of degree.
So what can CNN learn from Fox News and MSNBC? Opinion sells. CNN has taken a holier-than-thou position of steering far away from opinion shows.
I don’t see why it has to be that way. If CNN wants to play it down the middle, then it should not take the approach of hiring middle-of-the-road people. Instead, CNN can hire an equal number of both liberal and conservative opinion anchors. They can balance out. Fact-based opinion is important, but no one is interested in wishy-washiness.
The majority of people in this country lie in the center. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that the center is an ideology without a position. While it is true that center positions are synonymous with watered-down versions of left or right positions, it can also be an eclectic array of positions. In other words, a person who is “centrist” may hold an anti-abortion stance, but also be for a greater expansion of government entitlements. None of the three major cable networks cater to the needs of this group.
CNN should bring back their once popular show “Crossfire” and then have it be followed by a conservative opinion show. The anchors for these shows should be big name individuals. Hopefully this would be the correct hybridization of Fox News and MSNBC that the public would care for.
The reason Fox News and MSNBC are doing better than CNN is that they have opinion shows, which are entertaining. Watching Bill O’Reilly yell at guest, while crude, is fun even if the guest is on “my” side. CNN can’t ignore this aspect also, because it will end up in the same place it is now: dead last.
So, all in all, CNN is in need of some spice. Too bad there are no such things as pizazz parlors.
Jaye Anthony Estrada is a fourth-year biological sciences and political science double-major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.