The Cable News Wars

Friday, October 08, 2010


Thirty years after CNN was created, the format of 24-hour cable news network is alive and well. But CNN has publicly struggled with how to define itself as viewers have steadily migrated to the partisan programming of Fox News and MSNBC. Gabriel Sherman, contributing editor of New York Magazine, explains the strategy and strife of the last decade of cable news wars.

Comments [7]

Peter Sarram from Italy

Never mind. Article is actually called "Chasing Fox" not "Cable Ugly" which was only used on the cover of the magazine. Carry on...

Oct. 17 2010 04:09 PM
Peter Sarram from Italy

Hi. I have been trying to get a hold of a copy of the Gabriel Sherman article but have had no luck in finding it online. Is it yet to be published or is it a print-only article. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Oct. 17 2010 04:05 PM
jesus gonzalez from Montreal

I have had just this question in my mind for a bit -- is the model adopted by MSNBC and FOX, the idea that the viewer wants opinions and not news, not the broadcast version of the SUV? Although, this model allows for maximum profitability, spewing opinion requires little more than hiring an entertaining talking head, with little to no money invested in news gathering. It works in the US, but it just doesn't export very well. Why would you want your news to export? Consider the number of news agencies in English. To name a few: England, Germany, India, France, and now China, as well as Qatar, providing their take on news. The question I have is: Are we doing ourselves damage by limiting production to a product that is strictly for national consumption? I wonder if we will not pay the price of having our voice heard on the international market. The fact that so many nations feel the need to put forth their ideas in English, a foreign language to them, would seem to point to the answer – Yes. For my part, I rely on foreign news agencies for the bulk of my news. Although I have failed to mention CNN, I would say that their model -- WWWA (as I first heard on your program) is no better for foreign consumption. I actually cancelled my cable in the wake of the Chandra Levy, and did not reconnect till the opportunity afforded by digital cable to view BBC world. The BBC world is what I found to be prevalent in hotels through out my travels. The CNN world version was a start, but was a bit too American-centric. The interviewee in the BBC interview did mention that they attempt impartiality; however, the bias in reporting can never really be bias free. They are in the end reporting foreign news as British citizens.

Oct. 14 2010 12:58 PM
Alisha Hopkins from Pueblo, CO

CNN has been one of my favorite news stations since I was a little girl. I have always viewed it as a more valuable and upper class news station. Although a lot of CNN's news is found on the internet now, their coverage runs all day and is sometimes better seen on a television. Other television stations taking over the spotlight only shows that their primetime coverage is more successful like said in the audio. In class it is always discussed how new things come in and replace the old, which may represent CNN in this case. Although CNN is a very profitable station it contains a lot of news and has been around long enough to justify its profit. Truly CNN may be losing some of its audience but I think this is only temporary.

Oct. 12 2010 11:54 PM

The "partisanship of MSNBC"?

They've got Beltway Inbreds with fetishes they can't let go (Tweety and that thrilling tingle down his leg with Shrub in a flight suit), four hours of lefties (one of which is a Beltway Inbred), and three hours of Joe Scarborough.

Plus they're co-owned with CNBC. The network from which
that insulated, oppressed white guy called on the downtrodden at the Chicago Board of Trade to rise up and throw off their chains (sic). I think Olbermann has taken Santelli and Cramer to task a few times, but if KO were someplace else, it'd be more.

I offer that up to say that if a news organization owns a financial channel, it hurts coverage of financial chicanery. It's like opening up a car enthusiast's magazine and expecting a rational discussion on transportation policy or gas taxes: Not gonna happen.

PS Haven't heard the podcast yet. Hope it mentions how often Americans coming back from abroad marvel at the scope and breadth of CNN International.

Oct. 12 2010 12:10 PM
D. Douglas

CNN hasn't been a 24-hour news channel for at least a decade or two. It is about 8-10 hours of reruns (there's nothing like watching the breathless coverage of a car chase or potential airplane disaster hours after it has been resolved).

Its news crawl seems to be updated once a day at midnight. (On more than one occasion I saw "news" about the Bay Bridge closings that was hours out-of-date.)

The rest of the day consists of endless political opinion pieces, interviews that elicit nothing more than talking points, "reporters" who seem so intrigued by the new video technology that their reports (e.g., those weird drawings of where the hurricane could have gone but, of course, hasn't gone) are mind-numbing and maybe, just maybe, 15 minutes/day of real news.

They seem so petrified that somebody will click the remote that even with all that air time to kill, they won't risk spending more than a minute or two at most on any subject.

And their on-air talent is remarkable primarily for how under-informed they seem to be about everything.

I watch news programs from a variety of foreign sources and they still seem to understand the definition of "news". Maybe if CNN got back to its roots, and gave viewers a real choice from the partisanship of MSNBC (which splits its time evenly among politics, crime and entertainment) and Fox (which is, of course, an arm of the Republican Party).

Oct. 10 2010 11:03 PM
Robert from NYC

Nothing wrong with 24 hour news if it's done right as it was in the beginning with CNN. That's all changed and, well, it just isn't done right. CNN has fallen to the bottom of the slop heap. I stopped watching it years ago.
CNN also makes money with all the advertising on their website and tons of ads on TV as well, seems like about 40%. It's American free market drek.

Oct. 10 2010 10:23 AM

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