As a result of the Turner 2020 cuts, CNN’s entertainment unit has reportedly been disbanded. To the hard news junkies that populate Twitter and Disqus comment boards, this should have been the best news EVER. The answer to their prayers, the equivalent of Star Trek coming back with Leonard Nimoy. However, just like the Star Trek reboot, the news may not be for the best.
Pop culture and the news have always had an interesting relationship. Pop culture has almost always been dismissed as soft whereas the “news” often refers to subjects of international events and politics. Before the dawn of 24 hour news, there was roughly two-and-a-half hours of national broadcast news each day. Take away the “hard news” and put in something about a celebrity and the junkies would freak. There were also three or four networks at the time so there was less competition for eyeballs.
However, times have changed. There are now three thousand channels instead of three. The diversification has led to increased focus on what causes viewers to, in fact, watch a broadcast versus another.
Now back to history. After CNN was founded, the junkies found a new home. There would be news on twenty-four hours a day and the only time there was a entertainment-focused show was at 11:30 at nights.
Everything seems fine and dandy, right? The golden age of cable news would last for over a decade. However, another pillar of television news was starting to crumble.
The history of local news is fascinating. Before syndication, the channels would create and produce their own programming. This was grown out of necessity. If the local station didn’t make programming, what would they show? If they don’t show anything, how could they sell advertising. Now remember advertising because that will be especially key later on. This strategy led to shows, like Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Local news has also been advertised as having a closer relationship with te viewer than the national news. The national news doesn’t care about the average Joe’s weather, that’s why your local news is here with a cut-in, showing YOUR weather. Local news was your neighbors, or even your family. However, this closeness has sometimes led to lower journalistic standards at the local stations. The morning news can be like a variety show, with musical performances and witty banter between the hosts.
Interestingly, CNN’s arrival made local news worse. First, CNN would often cover traditionally local stories, such as car chases and fires. That even continues to an extent today where CNN has a tendency to cover otherwise obscure Atlanta-area stories and then promote them to national relevance. The result was the equivalent of two parents interacting with their children. CNN was the stiff parent, going local only when needed. However, local news was always there, plus they were the “fun parent.”
Then, CNN started selling their reports to local news stations. Instead of local news becoming smarter with government reports, they bought the pop culture news and showed that instead.
Eventually, this spread to both broadcast and cable news. It seemingly worked for local news, so why not a national scale? It also didn’t hurt that national news organizations frequently hire people, be it personalities or producers, who got their start in local news.
Long history short, the news got soft and the simple enemy to criticize was entertainment news.
However, there is a difference between soft entertainment news and hard entertainment news. The soft news tends to focus, when dealing with pop culture, with celebrity sightings, the weddings, and the fashion. However, the hard news deals with casting, productions reports, ticket sale/ratings analysis. It’s shareable and buzz worthy vs industry and statistics.
Unfortunately, the hard news would be covered in a soft way. Rather than analyze Robert Downey, Jr.’s starpower, show pictures of him on the red carpet and basically repeat what Downey’s agent is telling you. Bonus points if there’s a cast relationship that lasts as long as production!
CNN’s old show, People Tonight, had this down. Actors would come in and discuss the industry, there would be analysis and discussion. Yes, it was hard entertainment news!
However, we have moved away from that because it is much easier to post a picture of an actress’s red carpet dress than a graph comparing the films’ box office results compared with their reviews.
After the news of CNN Entertainment’s disbanding, I personally did not see anyone praising the move. While that could be because of social media’s tendency to knock down rather than build up, it is also slightly telling. There is an appetite for entertainment news. However, it should be smart and hard.
Although, shouldn’t all news coverage be like that?