Ferguson and the Death of HLN

This week, most of the news coverage has focused in on Ferguson, Missouri. While news organizations haven’t necessarily gone wall-to-wall on this story like they did on Trayvon Martin for example, there has been a overwhelming amount of attention. MSNBC had their resident conflict-of-interest, Rev. Al Sharpton, in the city while Chris Hayes was there as well. Fox News added an additional hour of live coverage at 11 while CNN sent their top anchors to the region. CNN scraped plans to air The Sixties all week in favor of a second hour of Anderson Cooper 360.

However, HLN has not been covering the Michael Brown story with the same intensity as the other news organizations. Actually, HLN rarely covers stories with the same intensity unless it takes place in a courtroom. So, if you wanted to hear the news besides Ferguson, you would think that you could go to HLN, right? Nope, HLN is too focused on other “major” news stories. But wait, on their frontpage right now, there is breaking news! Yes, we’re finally getting somewhere. This is the HLN that Ted Turner started. The breaking news, “COMING TO AN INVITE NEAR YOU: PAY-TO-EAT WEDDINGS.”

Oh good grief.

This column was originally supposed to focus in on the Ferguson story, since the coverage is the latest hot trend for media critics. However, this week’s news about HLN holding talks with The Blaze and the scoop this morning that Robin Meade will be heading to New Day upended all of this.

HLN has always been the second-thought when it comes to the news properties of Turner Broadcasting. It exists in the shadow of its big brother, CNN. Like a younger brother, it could theoretically be as good as its older brother (HLN and CNN share news gathering capabilities), but it isn’t. HLN has always been the kid in the family either doing something unique or trying to “find itself.” It does it quietly and oftentimes we forget it’s there.

HLN was originally started on January 1, 1982, less than two years after CNN. The only reason we have HLN is because of a little-known entity called Satellite News Channel. SNC was built up as the David that would take on the Goliath known as CNN. The cable channel had the news operations of both ABC News (which at the time delivered news other than “Wait Until You See ‘Jerry Maguire’ Child Star Jonathan Lipnicki Now!“) and Westinghouse Broadcasting, best known for their slogan, “Give us 18 minutes, we’ll give you the world.”  The difference between CNN and SNC was that SNC would have what is known as the jukebox format, or a the same stories rotated over and over. According to Reese Schonfeld’s book, Me and Ted Against the World, Turner felt that if he was going to have competition, he should be himself not somebody else. So, HLN, or CNN2 as it was originally known, was hastily built up to mimic SNC’s format and developed what was called the Headlines News Wheel. Within a half hour, the viewer would know the top stories in topics such as business, lifestyle, and sports. HLN was also intentionally designed to not effectively compete against CNN. For example, HLN focused primarily on domestic news and HLN is only rarely shown overseas. In addition, there would not be any rolling coverage on HLN.

Soon, SNC folded and Turner bought the channel in order to expand his reach. However, he was left with two news channels to compete against one another.

Even though this format had its fans, it would in time limit HLN’s abilities. CNN was able to go wall-to-wall on stories like OJ Simpson and gain huge ratings while HLN kept on giving the top headlines. The good part, though, was that if somebody didn’t want to see about OJ Simpson they could watch HLN.

Nowadays, if I don’t want to watch about the shooting of Michael Brown, I can’t watch HLN and see the latest headlines. I have to go online. HLN has become a mockery of itself as it struggles to become something. It starts off in the morning with a caffeinated dose of news and then ends the day with Dr. Drew and his panel, or the Drew Crew, provide medical analysis that is the equivalent of taking a BuzzFeed quiz to see whether or not you have Aspergers. That is unless it’s a Friday, in which case you should look forward to binge-watching Forensic Files for most of the day. The show ran for over a decade, so they definitely have enough episodes to have marathons and so they do.

Now it seems like CNN’s first competitor will be either closing its doors or turning into something unrecognizable, such as Vice News. This may be for the best as CNN now has other competitors to deal with and can’t afford to be losing precious viewers to a channel that is both friend and foe.

Let’s hope everyone is ready for a cable news landscape of wall-to-wall because HLN was our last hope for a reprieve.

Now, back to Ferguson because that’s all there is.

Tyler is an employee at TKNN.info, helping to run @TKNNPolJungle. His views do not necessarily reflect his employer’s.

1 reply

  1. You would think HLN would be covering the Ferguson situation wall to wall… They have a great team to do it. Mike Brooks is a former DC cop, Nancy Grace is a former prosecutor, Jane Velez-Mitchell is an investigative reporter why not dispatch her (JVM) to Ferguson so she can be on location? Joey Jackson is a defense lawyer and fmr prosecutor.

    They missed a chance to get good ratings and prove they can compete with this story.

    HLN’s viewers are mostly interested in crime stories, and this is a crime story just as much as it is a story about race.

    I guess weight loss stories, showing pics of viewers families, and showing viral pet videos is more important? ((rolls eyes))

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