Mediaite columnist Joe Concha wrote a piece on CNN and the struggle the network will be facing ahead of the 2016 election.
He wrote that the network will be “in a tough position until November 8, 2016 finally comes around.”
In looking at the changes Zucker has made, the most noteworthy (and important) place to look is primetime. Erin Burnett—the network’s most consistent performer–is rightly still at 7:00p EST. Anderson Cooper is still at 8, but lost his 10:00 PM AC360° Later panel show. Piers Morgan was relieved of his duties at 9 and has been replaced by a mix of CNN Special Report (Tuesday this week) and various taped programming (Bourdain, Bourdain, Rowe, and Bourdain are on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week, respectively). At 10, CNN Tonight is essentially the Don Lemon hour, where the focus seemingly is on the more sensational stuff mixed with debates around race issues.
So what do all of those shows and personalities have in common? They’re all generally apolitical. Burnett and Cooper have a reporter’s DNA first and their programs largely reflect more of anchors breaking down big stories than what is normally the modus operandi of opinion hosts (staking out positions on big and/or controversial stories of the day and discussing/debating them throughout the program). The aforementioned taped programs don’t explore American politics in any capacity. Lemon’s show occasionally veers into this space, but invariably from a social issue perspective. In other words, CNN primetime will never be confused with MSNBC prime (Matthews, Hayes, Maddow, O’Donnell) and Fox (Van Susteren, O’Reilly, Kelly, Hannity).
The above, bolded for emphasis, is where I tend to disagree with Concha. Of course, he doesn’t specifically mention Don Lemon in the second paragraph, but when he says what “those shows and personalities have in common” is that they’re “all generally apolitical.” Lemon is anything but apolitical.
Of CNN’s talent:
When looking at CNN’s overall weekday schedule, the only true political host in the bunch is Jake Tapper, who currently sits in not-so-friendly timeslot of 4:00p EST. The network once had Crossfire 2.0 at 6:30p, but the show was pre-empted so many times due to the All-All-In strategy that it could never build a following (the chemistry between the cast wasn’t exactly magic, either). Candy Crowley is no longer with the network. Peter Hamby—a big up-and-coming talent—has mostly left for Snapchat (he’ll still be a CNN contributor, but his primary responsibilities and time will be with Snapchat). Jay Carney lasted about six minutes before running for the truly big money at Amazon.
John King hosts a weekend political panel show, but also falls into the wonky-anchor-category than impactful-opinion guy. So does Jim Acosta, the network’s outstanding White House Senior Correspondent. Wolf Blitzer is a familiar face, but after all these years, still non-descript. Newt Gingrich and Paul Begala are fine, but you keep waiting for Bell Biv Devoe or Pearl Jam to play in the background when either is speaking (Begala’s close ties to Hillary also make him the Stephanopolous of CNN to half the audience). S.E. Cupp—formerly of Crossfire—is still underutilized and would be the next host of Fox’s Red Eye if she wasn’t under contract.
It’s worth pointing out that Burnett was left out of the 2014 midterm election coverage.