Thursday, January 23, 2014

This is CNNN: How CNN is becoming the Cable Not News Network

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Mediaite reports:

According to the Financial Times, CNN let go of more than forty senior journalists at the end of the year, with about half coming from sister network HLN, which Mediaite reported in November. CNN stressed that many of the employees, who worked in the Washington, Atlanta and Los Angeles officers, were close to retirement.

The move comes as new president Jeff Zucker attempts a redefinition of the network to include entertainment shows, documentary features, and more.

CNN stressed that it was not depleting its news gathering efforts.

"We're expanding the definition of news," a network spokesperson told FT's Matthew Garrahan. "We're not abandoning news by any stretch of the imagination... there will be more people working at CNN today than last year."

Look, I'm a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain, and I think Parts Unknown is a fantastic show. (If you haven't seen it, seriously, see it! It's amazing, like his old No Reservations.) And I like the fact that CNN is committing itself to shows like Bourdain's and Morgan Spurlock's Inside Man, another good one, as well as to documentaries and other long-form reporting programs.

But let's not mistake that for news, for hard journalism, which is, and will apparently continue to be, in embarrassingly short supply at CNN, much like intelligence is in short supply on the network's atrocious political shows like Crossfire.

It's promising that CNN is apparently committed to doing the news in expanded ways, but of course what we've come to see from it over the years, including recently under Zucker, is that reporting for the most part means sending dim-witted reporters out to strap themselves to telephone polls during hurricanes and to stake out courthouses to provide blow-by-blows on the minutiae of sensationalized criminal trials.

There are great reasons to tune in to CNN these days, and there's good reason to be encouraged that those reasons will continue, but "the news" isn't one of them, regardless of how many people it has on staff.

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