This Is Jake Tapper and Anthony Bourdain and We Are CNN


How to fix CNN is one of those enduring media puzzles that just might, it sometime seems, nag forever at true news believers. Shouldn’t there be a way to create strong, intelligent, informative news that a significant audience might find compelling?

Jeff Zucker, CNN’s ambitious chief and as tactical a television mind as exists, seems in many ways to have concluded that there probably isn’t.

To an ever and ever greater degree, cable news is about sliver audiences— even Fox News averages only a million viewers a night — targeted to melodramatic or campy political sensibilities. In the case of CNN, which tries to rise above single-bore politics, its specialty is the melodramatic and campy news event— the ever-missing plane —that draws the ever-declining news audience.

This reflects a problem with the cable audience — it’s overly fixated, if not fetishistic.

But it may also reflect a problem with cable news talent.

The very idea of what we used to call a television broadcaster, charismatic and authoritative, has been lost — with, arguably, Barbara Walters, retiring last month at 84, being the last living example in America.

WOLFF: Can a new CEO save CNN?

The nadir of television gravitas may be Ronan Farrow on MSNBC. He’s a third-rate movie plot: The child anchor, self-serious and mimicking the adults, finding himself, through happenstance and cynical television logic, embarrassingly on the air.

And then there is Piers Morgan, whose show went off the air in March. His painful discomfort with the role, and yet sweaty and desperate determination to play the part, should give anybody pause about thinking they might survive in the chair. Nobody survives, not intact.

A corollary to this is that nobody wants to go on television to be interviewed anymore — and television news is an interview medium. In part, this is because anybody large enough for an interview understands he or she will be reduced by the low stature of the people interviewing them. It’s the cable curse.

Now ambitious television talent wants another job. The savvy want to be Anthony Bourdain. That’s the most frequent pitch in the business: To be the Anthony Bourdain of…heath, technology, art, war…fill in the blank.

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Source: USA Today | Michael Wolff

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