A 'New' CNN Might Not Be a Bad Thing


There was quite a bit of fuss on Twitter today about the changes Jeff Zucker might bring to CNN.
”After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone. So he is planning much broader changes for the network—including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.”

The problem is that anyone who doesn’t know that the news game is changing dramatically, obviously doesn’t watch the news.

Once upon a time the average person only had access to a few news outlets, a few newspapers, a few  newsweeklies, a couple of news channels and the news at 6 and 10 on local channels. When the internet happened people suddenly had access to all the news, every newspaper and magazine in the world, all of the news channels and millions of blogs. With social media we don’t count on news outlets to ‘deliver’ the news as much as we count on them to filter, sort, fact check and verify. That is still a valuable service, but we don’t need thousands and thousands of organizations that do that.

So, news orgs (regardless of which medium they use) have been doing a lot of experimenting in recent years to try to find a niche for themselves in the new landscape. Most of those experiments have failed. It is not even clear, at this point, that the New York Times will be successful in charging for content and if the Times can’t do it, neither can anyone else.

So, let Zucker experiment. Whether they are successful or not, maybe CNN will learn something from it. Maybe CNN’s competitors or other news organizations will learn something from it. It has, after all, been years since CNN was any kind of bastion of journalistic integrity, in recent years the organization has had more in common with tabloids than the New York Times or Walter Cronkite era CBS.

Zucker’s ideas, from the piece in question, are not terrible:
Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.” Instead, he wants more of “an attitude and a take”: “We're all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn't thought of that,’”

In 2013 we definitely do not need another organization repeating the same information everyone else has. If Zucker’s plan is to add more depth and context and alternative viewpoints then it could be a great thing for news (provided there is actual depth and context and not just sensationalism). The very worst thing that could happen is CNN could disappear, but the reality is that not all of the news orgs that we met in the 20th century are going to survive the 21st and if the ship is sinking it’s hard to blame people for trying to swim.
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