Once the colossus of cable news, CNN now is getting hammered from the left by MSNBC and from the right by Fox News. We suspect that's not a good thing for the news business--or our democracy--so we hope to see a revival at CNN Center in Atlanta.
But how will it happen? James Poniewozik, in an essay for Time magazine, has the best prescription we've seen.
First, Poniewozik correctly diagnoses the challenge facing CNN. He writes:
Today, with technology making raw news a commodity, the challenge for consumers is sorting out politicized counterclaims on everything from health care to meteorology to security. Viewers want someone to cut through the kicked-up partisan dust. They want to hear, flat out, when someone is full of it. CNN too often gives both sides, then shrugs. A CNN anchor interviewing two party hacks and leaving us to decide who we should believe doesn't cut it.
How to overcome it? Poniewozik has a novel idea: Practice real journalism.
CNN should focus not on both-handedness but on truth. It should let the chips fall where they may, not make sure that the chips, over time, aggregate around the middle. The slogan for my ideal CNN — or any news outlet — would be "The news: whether you like it or not."
Focusing on truth? What a concept! Such an approach probably would be called, by critics, progressive. After all, progressives make a good-faith effort at seeking the truth, while conservatives have pretty much given up on dealing in facts.
CNN, Poniewozik writes, should not care what labels become affixed to it. It should be concerned about serving an audience that is hungry for serious news.
CNN can focus on being the best version of itself for an age of contested reality, combining its still formidable news gathering with informed, impassioned hosts who are dedicated to being more than the self-conscious, nervous, vanilla midpoint between Fox and MSNBC. What should CNN do? My ideal CNN would be one that acts like it doesn't care what anyone thinks it should do.