A friend who read my recent Crier column about CNN’s ratings slide responded, “If you were king of the world, how would you fix CNN’s ratings?” So I told him.
My first decree would be to de-emphasize the air time devoted to coverage from the Washington D.C. bureau and to double or triple the hours of coverage of the rest of the nation.
I would insist that news people at CNN Washington follow these guidelines:
• Everything a president of the U.S. says has potential news value but most days not everything a president says is worth putting on the air. That’s true whether it’s Obama, Bush, Clinton or anybody else.
Journalists who air every utterance from the president should be admonished and if necessary, removed.
The same test, “Is this comment truly worth broadcasting soon and often?” would apply to talking heads in the Congress and among the vast federal bureaucracy.
• I would examine every job seeker in the CNN Washington bureau to see where she or he grew up and where the potential employee went to college. Or tech/trade school. The goal is a little geographical diversity in the CNN bureau, which now seems to be drowning in bicoastal liberal elitists, on and off the air.
• I’d decree that all primary CNN anchors working in Washington, New York and Los Angeles do temporary duty at least three months every two years at bureaus not on the east or west coasts.
• I would prohibit all CNN correspondents from offering their opinions while covering controversial issues or events unless they make it Glass Wax clear it is their opinion and only an opinion.
• Gone in 60 seconds would be any news stories quoting unnamed sources. I know, sometimes news sources won’t talk to reporters unless promised anonymity. Too bad. Their confidential information often gives reporters guidance to finding other named sources and that’s fine, but, no quotes from sources who speak on condition of anonymity. Period.
• I would set the goal of having at least 30 or 40 percent of CNN’s daily domestic programming originate outside the Beltway, west of the Hudson River and east of Las Vegas.
I know CNN may never need a bureau in Arabi, Ga., or Sopchoppy, Fla., but wouldn’t it be refreshing one day to see a glimpse of life in one of those places on CNN, instead of from the White House lawn or the steps of the Capitol?
Much is made of the idea that CNN’s ratings are tanking because viewers prefer the more partisan, ideological offerings from MSNBC on the left and Fox News on the right.
The implication that CNN is straight down the middle is specious. It is MSNBC light-left, appearing moderate to some viewers mostly because MSNBC is so godawful leftist.
CNN, the network that began 24-hour TV news, eventually could regain the high ground if it would cover more of the country and the continent more often. And while doing that, get rid of all the blowhard, on-air-opinion hustlers. Leave that mess to the other two news channels.