Pop Culture and News: A Relationship and History

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?

Tyler is an employee at TKNN.info, helping to run @TKNNPolJungle. The views expressed are not held by his employer.

Roland Martin blasts CNN

In response to the news CNN has stopped funding the NABJ, longtime (former) CNN contributor Roland Martin has some thoughts on the matter…

CNN cuts funding to NABJ

After the National Association of Black Journalists expressed concern over the lack of diversity at CNN, it seems the network has decided to stop funding the group.

The Wrap has the details:

CNN has withdrawn its financial support of the National Association of Black Journalists for the 2015 Convention and Career Fair. NABJ president Bob Butler made the announcement at the organization’s Board of Directors meeting.

In a statement issued last week, “NABJ Concerned About Atmosphere at CNN for African-Americans,” NABJ expressed concern over the large number of African-American staff members leaving and being fired from the cable news network. Several African-American anchors have left the anchor desk or CNN altogether in the past few years.

Following the release, CNN contacted Butler and informed him that the association’s request for support was denied.

Since then, CNN announced a major layoff in which at least five senior managers were let go. In the past year, nearly a dozen African-American managers have resigned, been laid off or were terminated.

“I understand the company has a right to make personnel decisions,” Butler said. ”There were not that many African-American managers at CNN in the first place. These layoffs have hurt our members tremendously. I am severely disappointed that CNN has ended our partnership.”

CNN’s decision to pull its support follows NABJ’s statement that it’s “concerned about the atmosphere for African-Americans at CNN,” which came after a longtime CNN employee filed a $5 million wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuit against the network.

Stanley Wilson, who spent 17 years at CNN as a field producer and writer of news and documentaries, was terminated Jan. 28. He was promoted only once, and claims that his supervisor, Peter Janos, never liked him because of his race, among other things.

This comes after African-American HLN executive producer Valerie Butler was laid off, and the willful departure of CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield EP Tenisha Taylor Bell.

Unguarded has been revived

Unguarded with Rachel Nichols was just pronounced dead this week as part of the Turner 2020 initiative. However, the show has already been revived — sort of.

Instead of airing at the less-than-desirable slot of 10:30pm on Friday, CNN management is considering the possibility of weekday primetime specials, For The Win reports.

News broke Thursday that CNN dropped four of its regular weekly specialty programs, including Unguarded with Rachel Nichols.

But two people with knowledge of the cancellation told For The Win that CNN still wants to feature Nichols’ in-depth interviews — as specials aired during the week in primetime. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because details had not yet been announced.

The possibility of a new, improved time slot — Unguarded previously was broadcast at 10:30 p.m. ET Fridays — is the silver lining in this for Nichols. A couple weeks ago, the show went up against the MLB playoffs. With a special, the network can pick and choose the time slots and hope for less competition and better ratings.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this. Unguarded also simulcasts on CNN International on Fridays, and is repeated all weekend long.

(H/t Johnny Dollar)

Alan Duke leaves CNN willingly

Separate from all the layoffs AND show cancelations, CNN LA-based entertainment reporter Alan Duke has announced he’s leaving CNN… willingly.

Yesterday, it was announced the entire entertainment unit was cut.

SGMD and CNNMoney also canceled

Sanjay Gupta, MD and CNNMoney (two taped Saturday shows, with SGMD having a repeat on Sunday) have just been canceled, TVNewser has learned.

We’re told Gupta and correspondent Elizabeth Cohen will focus on medical breaking news, field reporting, and documentaries for the network. The medical unit is being restructured and some staffers have been cut as part of the larger ongoing layoffs happening at the network.

As for Romans, she will continue anchoring “Early Start,” and contribute business stories across CNN.

CNN Entertainment Unit CUT

The cuts are beginning…

More from The Wrap:

Turner Broadcasting layoffs hit CNN’s Los Angeles bureau on Tuesday, cutting the entire entertainment unit in the process.

The unit — which underwent massive layoffs in November 2013 – is now being disbanded, several individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap. So far, a senior entertainment producer and an entertainment producer in L.A. were let go. The producer who runs CNN entertainment in New York City is also out.

When asked to comment, a CNN spokesperson would only tell TheWrap, “The changes this week are difficult yet necessary. Out of respect for our colleagues directly impacted, we won’t be commenting on specific people or programs.”

Last Wednesday, the cuts began in Atlanta, where layoffs took place at the CNN Center in Atlanta and the Turner Broadcasting Techwood Campus. In that round of layoffs, most of the affected employees were believed to be from the Sales Departments at CNN and HLN, as well as some workers from TNT.

As reported earlier, Turner plans to lay off 1,475 employees over the next two weeks – a 10 percent reduction in staff. Approximately 900 employees from all of Turner in Atlanta will be let go, while CNN Worldwide will lose a total of 170.

Severance pay will be offered to the employees, who will come from 18 global locations. The job cuts will come from all levels across the company’s news, entertainment, kids, young adult and sports networks and business, as well as corporate functions, the company said in a Monday press release.

The job cuts followed voluntary buyouts that were offered to 550 employees division-wide in August. As TheWrap previously reported, if not enough staffers accepted the voluntary buyouts, layoffs were to follow.