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4 Suggestions to Help Save CNN

CNN's president announced last week he's stepping down. Alex Pareene has a few suggestions to save the ailing news network.

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But the real problem is later. Two-thirds of the prime time line-up is hosted by unpleasant people. Erin Burnett’s entire television persona is “condescending asshole” — which makes sense because she made her name at CNBC, a channel whose audience is 90 percent asshole. But CNN’s audience is theoretically supposed to be “everyone.” The worst part is that Burnett has internalized the viewpoint and priorities of the financial elite, which for some reason doesn’t count as having a “bias” according to CNN’s devotion to avoiding the appearance of partisanship. It’s a weird choice to host a major prime time show during a period of mass economic misery coupled with incredible success for a tiny financial elite! It is not hugely surprising that people are not into her show.

But I can at least imagine the sort of person Burnett does appeal to. On the other hand, I’m almost certain that no one on the planet likes Piers Morgan. Larry King was a joke as a journalist, but he was avuncular, pleasant and amusing. Morgan is obsequious to the lowliest of celebrities, undeservedly superior to everyone else and generally just radiates insincerity. Also  heprobably engaged in insider trading and phone hacking. A history of complete indifference to journalistic ethics would not be such a problem if Morgan was actually a good television host, which he is not.

Anderson Cooper is fine. He is a smart, conscientious guy, and he seems to want his show to produce and highlight good journalism. But he also seems to want to replace Regis, or maybe even Oprah. Good on Cooper for getting CNN to let him do a syndicated daytime talk show, but it was a weird decision on their part. (It’s also always been funny to me that Cooper does proper investigative journalism for “60 Minutes” on an entirely different network.)

Wolf Blitzer is essentially the “face” of the channel — when they took away poor John King’s show this summer they gave the extra hour to “The Situation Room” — and he is plainly an idiot. I mean that very sincerely: He is just obviously not a very intelligent or thoughtful person. I think the idea is that he’s too dumb to mess up “the news” with messy “informed opinions” on what he’s talking about, but I think perhaps the audience would be better served by having a person with a brain in charge of “The Situation Room.”

Just become CNN International

This would definitely make me happy, if CNN was just serious people behind a desk reading the news and then cutting to reports from various places around the world, which seems to be what CNN’s foreign version does most of the day. On CNN International, Christiane Amanpour’s daily interview show airs at 9 p.m. instead of Piers Morgan’s (his show is bumped all the way to midnight) because CNN International respects its audience’s intelligence more than CNN does.

I’m not going to say that just becoming CNN International would be good for CNN’s ratings, but, as I said, I’d enjoy it more.

My very serious recommendations for new president of CNN:

  • Lachlan Murdoch
  • Jay Rosen
  • Sam Waterston
  • Tina Brown
  • Ron Paul


Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene
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