Kurtz, Panelists Worry About Fate of CNN, ‘Last Bastion of Television Journalism’

Now that former NBC News president Jeff Zucker is set to take over as president of CNN, the fate of the cable news network is an open question. In a Sunday discussion about the transition, CNN media critic Howard Kurtz and his guests passed over the network's left-of-center reporting, implying instead that CNN is somehow devoid of bias compared to its primary competitors, MSNBC and Fox News.

During a segment on “Reliable Sources,” panelist David Zurawik -- media critic for the Baltimore Sun newspaper -- asserted that the news organization is “the nation's last bastion of television journalism.”

The former reporter for the Washington Post stated that Zucker, the former president and chief executive officer of NBC Universal, “will be up against the cautious culture of an Atlanta-based network that for years and years has stuck to a traditional news format.”

Frank Sesno, director of George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs and another guest on Sunday's program, said that he cares about CNN “partly because of what it means to news and journalism” and what it means to the nation.

“This country needs this information through a broadcaster talking nationally and globally,” he added.

The future of the network is important to the broadcast news industry, which is critical to the political health of the nation.

After noting that the network needs to make money since cable news is also a business, Kurtz asserted that “as a hard news network,” CNN “does not attract loyal viewers when there is no breaking news in the way its cable news competitors can.”

With that in mind, Kurtz stated that the channel's main problem is “getting people to watch when there's no breaking news, when there's no war, no earthquake, no assassination,  no tsunami, and that's going to be Zucker's challenge.”

“When CNN went on the air,” Sesno stated, “it was the only game in town,” but that is no longer the case."

After Kurtz noted that CNN's ratings sag far behind those of Fox News Channel and MSNBC, Zurawik responded that ratings are not the only thing that drives revenue in the form of advertising dollars.

“If you talk to ad buyers, they will tell you that CNN is an incredibly attractive ad environment” because of the network's credibility, he replied.

Sesno then concluded that CNN is a profitable entity, and the network should focus on investments and not cuts to its budget.

As NewsBusters previously reported, Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist claimed that CNN was the only network “that hasn't picked sides” in the 2012 election.

While it is true that CNN is indeed less liberally biased than MSNBC, the channel has no hosts who regularly make conservative pronouncements the way Cooper, Morgan, and Soledad O’Brien do in favor of left-leaning causes. It is also worth recalling that CNN continues to be the home of Candy Crowley, a veteran political reporter now infamous for her embarrassingly biased assist to President Obama during the debate she hosted with him and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Randy Hall
Randy Hall