This week, TKNN reported how Turner was making cuts in order to ensure future profits. Turner is financially sound, but they are going through painful cuts. Unfortunately, these cuts are coming to CNN, which will have adverse effects.
Cable television can be a very lucrative business. There are two main sources of income- both advertising and subscription rates which bring in a pretty penny. However, news operations, especially one of CNN’s magnitude and reach, can be quite expensive to set up and maintain. CNN is unique because at any given time, there can be several different shows being broadcast by CNN Worldwide. There’s CNN US, HLN, and CNN International, just to start the list. There’s also CNN en Español and several other networks that cater to a linguistic or geographic audience (even though HLN technically fits into that list as it primarily broadcasts to the US with some exceptions). CNN has bureaus around the world, filled with anchors and reporters. The only cable networks that are even remotely comparable are Bloomberg and CNBC since they have anchors overseas in London and Hong Kong. All of these correspondents, reporters, editors, managers, and other positions have a role that contributes to the success of CNN and CNN International. If you cut one person, that’s one less person who has knowledge of the area and the beat. One less person for a source to reach out to.
The funny thing about Turner 2020 is that the re-allocated resources are supposed to help Turner’s struggling cable channels, including but not limited to CNN, help turn around their ratings. However, how does a news network prosper when the staff is getting cut? Some would like to point to CNN’s Original Series as ratings successes, which they undoubtedly are. However, CNN cannot turn around the network solely on taped infotainment while remaining a news network. Investments must be made to HIRE more journalists, not FIRE. Great coverage of important news stories will deliver audiences. It is said that it takes a decade to build an audience, but a night to lose one. We have seen that as countless programs, NBC’s Today Show is a recent example, reign supreme in the ratings but suddenly start losing by increasing margins. It’s going to take time for CNN to regain its former ratings glory, especially with countless other channels offering competing coverage. When there’s competing coverage, the way you differentiate yourself is by offering a superior product, in CNN’s case, news coverage.
I frequently visit media websites and blogs that report on the latest happenings in the news business. As such, I also tend to read the comments (sometimes this can be informative, other times the Holocaust is blamed on George W. Bush, who had not been born yet). The common comment regarding CNN, besides it having a liberal bias, is that if CNN were to go back to reporting the news like they did in the ’90s, they would find ratings success. While there may be some truth in this, it is a wildly simplistic view. One could even argue that Turner 2020 could help since CNN’s nickname when it was most successful was Chicken Noodle News, for its often penny-pinching operations. When CNN had ratings glory with coverage of the Gulf War and the OJ Simpson trial, CNN and HLN were the only names in the business. Of course, people were going to turn on CNN, what choice did they have? Nowadays, we’ve got Fox News, MSNBC, and al Jazeera in addition to other channels that turn up in the abyss that we call the television guide. CNN may cover a story well, but that by no means they’ll get a demo win. However, it is a better strategy than cutting back and hoping that a correspondent can quickly get into an area and build the contacts needed to cover a story the best.
In Lisa Desjardins’s goodbye video to CNN, she says that CNN is cutting back on congressional coverage. However, this comes as we head into a midterm election and Congress seems likely to having a multitude of arguments with President Obama throughout his last two years. CNN needs correspondents who can expertly cover this crucial beat, especially since the wonderful Dana Bash will be doing her quadrennial role of covering Republican presidential candidates. There needs to be an on-air correspondent who can step in so Dana doesn’t need to book a redeye every few days or weeks.
CNN needs and wants higher ratings. However, they will come when CNN puts in a long-term strategy for covering every story the best which gets easier with more reporters and employees.