Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
At a time of great ideological divide, we need some excellent objective and serious news reporting and analysis. But it’s all going the other direction.
This week CNN, the network that came up with the brilliant idea of pairing talking heads Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer, is losing President Jim Walton. Walton’s departure comes after CNN’s ratings have slipped behind FOX and MSNBC and continues to slide, for all I know, past the reruns of the Jefferson’s. Viewership of John King’s evening show have slipped to less that 100K, smaller than the audience for most Texas high school football games.
In his resignation Walton said, “CNN needs new thinking.” Talk about understatement.
I don’t know about YOU but I quit watching most of the stuff on CNN long ago. When John King was covering the Iowa caucuses earlier this year, I was having coffee two tables away from where he and his underlings were set up. I watched him “interview” several local students who had no interest and even less knowledge about the political events unfolding around them.
I caught his show later on that night and watched with angst as he used his “magic wall” to flip through worthless and boring charts about polls. It bored the hell out of me - a total political junkie, so I'm hard pressed to think about how interesting it was to a casual viewer.
Even though CNN thinks it should be getting viewers 23-40, their methodology of scoring all hosts appearances with pop music (and requisite links to iTunes) is pandering at best. The younger audience they crave wants news in the social media sphere, on their iPads, phones and laptops. CNN's catering to them in this avenue is pathetic.
Instead, the 70 million Baby Boomers and older Americans are a natural audience. We love news, and we came to respect CNN’s in-depth news coverage when the network first launched in the early '90s. But CNN abandoned us. They went Hollywood.
CNN can win back viewers like me with old-fashioned hard news reporting with great reporters, straight from the world and America’s hot spots. I’d take a second look at the network Ted Turner midwifed if they tried that.
On the other hand, if they want the 23-year-old crowd maybe they can try a new reality show “Dancing With the CNN Stars!” They can have Elliott Spitzer dirty dancing with anchor Ashley Banfield and Anderson Cooper swing with Zoraida Zambolin.
But for 2012 we desperately need that smattering of unbiased deep news so we can make smart choices in November.