First casualty was MTV. Seriously, go turn it on right now. I guarantee you will find questionable people trapped in a home or on a bus together looking for love, getting taught lessons on tough love or experiencing strange flavors of love. What happened to innocently fawning over Til’ Tuesday or Dire Straits videos? Heck, I’ll take a Top 20 countdown or really anything that resembles a music video.
The other day a friend remarked that the CNN she has loyally watched and enjoyed is beginning to morph into something new and it’s, well, un-news-ey. Even Anderson Cooper’s edgy, hipster-courting 360° was disappointing, she said. The show’s top stories: Susan Boyle, Miss California, Bristol Palin’s ex-fiancé and the new Obama dog. Can I get T-shirts for all those headlines too?
CNN began as a Ted Turner pipedream in 1980 because he used to have trouble sleeping and wanted to be able find news at any hour. At a time when we are fighting two wars and the global economy is breaking down into something we’ve never seen before, he might be disappointed to find a Portuguese water dog front and center at 2 a.m. CNN has made in-roads in its efforts to change with the tide like afternoon anchor Rick Sanchez’s aggressive social media courtship, their iReporting campaign and Larry King’s ambitious, yet awkward Twitter defeat. It’s doesn’t seem to be working though. The New York Times recently reported on CNN’s disappointing ratings, pointing out that the network often finishes behind its second-string network Headline News and finished fourth overall among the cable news networks almost half the time since the beginning of the year. MSNBC’s advice? “Stand out and make a splash.” I’m not sure if doing it to the tune of “I Dreamed a Dream” is what he has in mind.
I think why and when people watch news is finicky. I remember pouring over Nielsen ratings wondering why my viewers dropped off in my 2nd block but came back in my last – it’s not so different for CNN. The Times acknowledged that the network remains the destination of choice when big events happen and the network is also apparently making pots of money. But nobody is watching their shows.
This opens up a larger debate about following the herd of politics, opinions, rants, bias and even racism, as the Huffington Post explored last week after Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck turned the swine flu story into an illegal immigration debate: "What happens if there's a rash of deaths in Mexico... and if you're a family in Mexico and people are dying and Americans are not, why wouldn't you flood this border?" Some networks will proudly declare themselves conservative or liberal, and while CNN tries to keep its no bias flag flying they have clearly added glitz and sensationalism in an effort to keep eyes on their concoction of news. I hope they chose to change this alienating approach soon and get back to their roots.
- Contributed by Jen Fauteux. Follow her @jfauteux