It’s nothing new that HLN has difficulty with its identity. It started out as CNN Headline News and has since evolved (perhaps devolved is a better word) into something else. The only true gold mines at HLN are Morning Express and Nancy Grace (though I do like JVM), while everything else is just seriously lacking. During the week, you get your “news in the fast lane” from 6am-10am (technically till noon, but I’m not a fan of when HLN repeats their supposed newscasts). HLN has a bit of an identity crisis: are we a news network, a crime/justice/legal network, or a tabloid/entertainment network? And throughout the seven days of a week, HLN tries to be a bit of everything.
Let’s look at the description of HLN’s two morning shows and compare them.
The first morning show (Robin’s) is more of a morning news show. The second morning show (Lynn’s, that airs on the weekends) isn’t really a morning news show. It has bits of news mixed in (at the top of the hour and at the bottom of the hour) but for the rest of the time, it has simply too much fluff. Robin’s description says, “Tune in for news in the fast lane.” And for the most part, that’s accurate. There is certainly some fluff on Morning Express, but not too much that it becomes unbearable. Now for Lynn’s show’s description… “Weekend Express goes behind the headlines to find what’s trending on social media so viewers can jump-start their weekend with a fast-paced look at the day’s essential news, entertainment and buzz-worthy stories.” And although I think Weekend Express has too much fluff, yes, I watch an hour every Saturday and Sunday because I do like Lynn, I just am not a big fan of the content.
Let’s break it down. Robin goes through the headlines and does news stories (and on occasion, interviews), and she speaks with her meteorologist, business anchor, and her sports anchor.
Lynn goes through the headlines, does a very short few news stories, and then gets into the straight tabloid stuff, as well as doing her “Weekend Bites” (where a panel of people taste food – usually, a group of men, although this weekend it was Samantha Mohr [show’s meteorologist] and Rashan Ali [rotating Bleacher Report presenter]), and interviewing guests who have no real purpose. Like today, for instance… She interviewed a “professional bridesmaid” – and it wasn’t just a quickie interview. It was quite lengthy, and quite unnecessary. Lynn also speaks to her meteorologist and sports anchor every show, and on occasion, the business anchor (Jen Westhoven).
The difference between the two? While HLN has entertainment/tabloid news throughout the day during the week (with HLN having shows from 6am-5pm and then 7pm-10pm), on the weekends, all we get is Weekend Express with Lynn Berry from 7am-1pm. And the show isn’t even live – the entire thing is taped in advance. It’s basically the same show every hour; occasionally, there’s a segment they have saved for a specific hour, but for the most part, I am willing to say 95% of the show is the same every hour. And that’s not acceptable, frankly, when after 1pm, it’s Forensic Files until 7am Sunday morning, or Forensic Files until 6am on Monday morning when Robin signs on with Morning Express.
Come on, HLN. Harden the news on Weekend Express to make it comparable with Morning Express (you can still do your Weekend Bites…), and at least make an hour or two of it live, and then schedule a show for weekends. If you want, you could run Weekend Express 7am-1pm, Forensic Files 1pm-7pm, and then have a live primetime news show from 7pm-9pm, and then Forensic Files for the rest of the night. But there really is no reason to call yourself a “news network” if you don’t actually have any live news throughout the entire weekend.