Jacques Poitras pointed out this story at CanadianJournalist.ca: It's Newsweek's take on CNN president Jonathan Klein's higher-brow vision for his cable network.
Klein says he's taking steps so that CNN doesn't have to go wacko for Jacko, or someone like him, again. Seven months into his tenure, Klein is making revolutionary changes at the cable network—scrapping signature broadcasts like “Crossfire” and “Inside Politics,” shaking up his morning-show ensemble and his prime-time producing staff, and creating a new international news show at noon. These are only the first steps in a broad overhaul plan aimed at getting the pioneering and once dominant cable news network out of a seemingly perennial second-place finish, far behind Fox News. His unorthodox, even heretical game plan: serious news that doesn't put viewers to sleep. “There's a palpable thirst out there for the broad scope of stories if they're told in a compelling way,” Klein says.
Mark J. Terrill / APWacko for Jacko: CNN reconsiders its coverage of celebrity trials and runaway brides
Klein has moved aggressively to make CNN's prime-time producers shift their focus to longer, more-polished pieces, eventually creating a sort of “60 Minutes” every night. It's an art he knows personally: for two decades he worked as producer at CBS and, as the network's executive vice president, he oversaw its prime-time programming. Forever roaming the halls and popping in on —producers, he's transformed CNN culture—news meetings are now singularly focused on finding characters and discussing storytelling technique. In the past, CNN was plagued by a bumbling media image. Klein has imposed strict message discipline and many staffers refused to talk on the record about the network for fear of losing their jobs. Privately, though, many staffers express discontent with the new regime, saying it's not possible to make “60 Minutes”- style pieces on a limited budget and tight time constraints. The ratings have yet to pro-vide consolation: in May CNN averaged only 610,000 viewers in prime time, still well above third-place finisher (and NEWSWEEK strategic partner) MSNBC, but still far below Fox's 1,401,000 viewers. CNN officials say they have numbers to be proud of, pointing to strong improvement in the key 25-to-54 demographic and a powerful performance by the brand name when CNN's numbers are combined with those of its sister network, Headline News.
But the story goes on to note that one of the strongest performers on Headline News is legal affairs commentator Nancy Grace, whose ratings are second only to those of Larry King.
The simple fact is that in-depth reporting is expensive. Ranting can be done cheaply.
From what I can see, cable news is much like the Web; events are what drive traffic. On a slow news night, they'll be down.
CBS tried two editions of 60 Minutes. They've now cut back to one.
But if Klein is so serious about serious journalism, why has Judy Woodruff, who had a distinguished run at PBS before coming to CNN, bailed?