Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The King is Back

John King was back in the anchor chair for the Tuesday edition of AC360. I'm loving that we haven't heard a word about the Willingham case in Texas for two nights, but I sort of missing balloon boy and the Hennes.
What I also missed was a segment on Afghanistan. October has been the most deadly month of the war in that country and it should have been the lead story, not buried in the bulletins. The first story of the evening was a "Keeping Them Honest" look at American Samoa and why 34 people had to die after a tsunami hit with no warning. Drew Griffin reported on 13 million US taxpayer's dollars that were spent for a tsunami warning system that never was built on the island.Next Tuesday New Jersey and Virginia will elect new Governors. Is it a referendum on the national government, probably not. But since President Obama has invested heavily in these races he does have something to lose. James Carville and Kevin Madden took a look at the 'Raw Politics' of these elections.Dr. Gupta again joined John King to talk about H1N1. The focus tonight was on children who have been hit hard by the virus and what the red flags are. Gupta said flatly that it is not smart to skip the shot for your children and also mentioned that Tamiflu is helpful if your child does contract the illness.A horrible, horrible story about the girl who was gang raped after a homecoming dance at her high school in Northern California. Dan Simon had the 'Crime & Punishment' report on how a gang rape could happen on school grounds and continue for 2 1/2 hours , while as many as 15 people watched. The follow up was with Steve Perry (CNN education consultant) and Mary Koss (University of AZ Professor).The family of one of the victims of the Sedona sweat lodge tragedy spoke out and are demanding answers from the group's leader. Gary Tuchman reported that the children of the victims want James Ray charged in their mother's murder. Dr. Gupta joined JK for a follow up discussion as to how time in the sweat lodge could have caused the deaths.

It wouldn't be John King in the NYC studio without rolling out the magic maps. The second screengrab is about the Governor's race next week and got me thinking (dreading) that I might have to blog a full night of politics. Can't blame CNN if they pull out all the stops since that seems to be the only way they can get any kind of ratings.

Speaking of ratings I couldn't help but borrow this little gem that TVNewser posted this afternoon. Jon Klein spoke to CNN employees about their dismal ratings. Here is a segment of his pep talk:
Yes, our ratings in prime were down in October. Remember - we are a 24hr network - not a 3hr network. We are also just one network in a group that attracts hundreds of millions of viewers a month. Media writers might not understand that. Our competitors don't either. Despite the bad press we don't lose sight of OUR business. We, CNN/U.S., still attracts millions and millions of viewers a month, more than our closest competitors. Writers don't talk about our users -- we are on air and on line, globally -- rather they break it down to one part of the day.
Excellent journalism is what we are focused on. We refuse to do the things that might get us a quick number or cater to the extremes that would alienate our core viewers. It's important to work at it every day - it's our mission. It's the key to our growth. If we are outstanding ALL the time (and we are getting better and better at it) we will have an impact over time.

I actually laughed out loud when I read that highlighted sentence. We are the core viewers for CNN that were mentioned and we have been alienated, no doubt about that. Let me list just a few of the ways;
Aaron Brown
Pundits and Panels ad nauseam
Miles O'Brien
Spinning ratings to the extent that even the casual viewer/reader knows you're full of it (example: Total Day? You know that is not an industry standard.)
Fact checking Saturday Night Live and taking seriously The Daily Show
Dead celebrity coverage
Discontinuing CNNi overnight in favor of reruns
Ruining AC360

Oh I know there are more and I trust you our wonderful readers to add their two cents worth in comments. ~Phebe

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All Things Anderson is a blog dedicated to CNN's AC360 and its host Anderson Cooper.


judy said...

I have to say Jon Klein is really really "full of it," and I'm usually a lady. When it comes to spin, he could write a best seller.
I do agree with some of your list, especially the panel and pundits at nauseum and the dead celebrity drill that goes on for weeks at end. (Oh, CNN, someone famous must die and soon, to save you from your own self destruction. Or better yet, let's resurrect someone like Michael Jackson and pour over his film, This Is It, at nauseum.)
Miles O'Brien was the biggest mistake ever. Remember Klein's answer when asked who would now be in charge of science? He said we have "Planet In Peril." No you HAD Planet in Peril and now CNN is in Peril, "idiot." What a waste of talent! Aaron Brown was right for walking out when he did. He was excellent and really was AC's mentor....and CNN had to fulfill their contractual obligation so at least Aaron was paid.
But I do think, in all honesty, you have to take Jon Stewart's criticism seriously...if that's what you were referring to. One thing about Jon. He doesn't make stuff up. There's plenty there already.
As for tonite's show, I think John King should have spent more time on NJ...yes we are choosing a new governor and everyone blames Corzine for the highest property taxes in the nation and they'd be right. However, they were ALWAYS high. John should have explored this situation in NJ because Obama paid us a visit just last week. Which could be a plus or a minus depending upon which side of the isle you are on.
I like John King. He's light and breezy and marriage becomes him. It show because he "glows."

Jaanza said...

I missed the start of 360 and came in when James Carville was talking. You can always find pundits who will say the NJ and VA governor races will be a clear reflection on Obama but I don't see it that way. I really want to kick out my current governor - Pawlenty - for reasons that have nothing to do with Obama.

The homecoming rape story was horrifying, makes me think of the Kitty Genovese case where dozens of people saw what was happening but refused to help because they didn't want to get involved. Makes me worry about the morals of today'x teenagers on so many levels.

I agree with Jon Klein when he says exellent journalism shoudl be the focus of CNN. But then his comment about doing things to garner a "quick number" - sometimes you got to provide some sparks to get the viewers attention. Sparks, in moderation, can co-exist with excellent journalism.

Some Anderfans have commented negatively on Anderson being too much of a "celebrity" or doing too much publicity-style work. Although 60 Minutes was negatively mentioned I thnk it's something Anderson should keep on doing, it's a classy news program (even with Drew Barrymore interviews) and shows off Anderson's excellent reporting skills; the Plumpynut report is one of my favorites.

However, appearing so often on Regis & Kelly may erode Anderson's serious newsman image, as does hosting the New Years Eve program. Granted, Brian Williams hosted Saturday Night Live and he does display considerable snark when he's on The Daily Show. However, those appearances are far less frequent than Anderson's on R&K. We love seeing Anderson on R&K but maybe the vast news viewing audience sees it differently.

On_Love_Street_With_Jim_Morrison said...

I didn't watch 360 last nite. I ended up watching a mini South Park marathon. That show is addictive. Sounds like I missed a good 360 though. I'll watch tonite.

At least they didn't talk about the Texas execution case. I am so over that.

Can't wait until AC is back next week. The show just isn't the same without him. He brings something to ti that no one else can.

Phebe said...

@Judy, You make a very good point about the Planet in Peril series comment. I had forgotten that Klein had said that.
I'm not sure if you were around right after CNN hired Klein, but his first big move was to cancel Crossfire. It was widely believed he did this because of a blasting the program took on TDS.

aries moon said...

There is simply no way to spin the fact that your signature live primetime news program is getting beaten in the ratings by RERUNS. I take it from Klein's comments that they have no intention of listening to critics or viewer suggestions. Klein's inability or refusal to recognize that something is seriously amiss with the programming on CNN is bizarre. It has to be very frustrating for the anchors, writers and producers to be subjected to that overly optimistic blather from Klein when they know that what they really need is a major overhaul. For AC in particular, there are a lot of conservative bloggers celebrating the fact that his ratings have tanked and they see it as a sort of comeuppance for his "teabagging" remark earlier this year. Anderson's smart, talented and appealing and it's unfortunate that CNN can't put together a program that can better highlight these qualities - when Anderson is interested and excited about what he's reporting it shows, but those moments have been few and far between and a lot of the time it seems like he's bored and just phoning it in and that's not going to be a big draw for viewers.

It looks like Anderson chose a very good week to take a vacation, if in fact that's what he's doing.

Cyn said...

What, no one even mentions Lou Dobbs?????

And, biased as I am, I have to say that NOT having Michael Ware on Domestic at all yesterday when he was there IN THE STUDIO for several hours, talking on International about what is going on in Baghdad... *sigh* Whatever. (If you live in the US and want to know what CNN's veteran Baghdad correspondent had to say about Monday's bombings, I have links on ATC.)

Somehow they are managing to not go to opinionated screamers (thus not attracting the Limbaugh crowd) and yet doing more and more yak-yak discussions and fluff coverage rather than giving us actual news (thus alienating the audience that has stayed with them all this time.) Yeesh.

One thing I wanted to comment about concerning last night's show -- this is not John King's fault, he was just reading the teleprompter, but whoever wrote this ought to be kicked in the ass. This was at the start of the program, when JK outlined the top stories. In mentioning the horrific gang-rape incident, the quote was: "what happened is terrible. What didn't happen is far worse." Yeah, tell that to the VICTIM. As appalling as it is that no one helped her or called the cops, that is NOT worse than what was done to her.

Words matter, especially when you are covering the NEWS.

MichellenLomita said...

Hi Phebe, Absolutely agree with you about Mr. Klein's statement. Who on earth are CNN's "core viewers"?! AC360 always reminded me of a club, catering to viewers who agree with their opinions and excluding others, on TV and the blog. The statement confirms my suspicions. It proves that CNN-and especially 360-is biased and exclusive. They have alienated many viewers in favor of a select "core". Instead of making lame excuses, executives should just admit that the quality of 360 fluctuates constantly, it is not attracting viewers, and it needs a complete change. You're right, Phebe; they have ruined AC360, and I am one alienated viewer. And CNN is not really a 24-hour network. They show reruns all the time, even on live shows like 360.

Lori, IL said...

Interesting show and interesting post, Phebe. I agree with you – glad that 360 has finally moved on from the Willingham case in Texas (should have been a one night story), but I do miss Balloon Boy – because it brought out Anderson’s snarky side! He reported the story in exactly the right style – giving the absurdness of it all!

While I thought last night's show moved right along and found the stories interesting – I, too, can’t believe there wasn’t a segment dedicated to Afghanistan. Why do they so often bury such important stories in the bulletins?

Cyn, I agree with you about the very poor choice of words regarding the horrific gang-rape story. Words do matter. What this poor girl went through is unimaginable, and then to have it debated in the national news only compounds what she endured.

And why is Steve Perry suddenly the expert in all matters involving high school students? I admire him for what he is doing in his own school and own community, but I don’t think he completely understands what is happening in all cities across the U.S. His comments on the Fenger HS situation in Chicago made it abundantly clear to me he did not have a good grasp of the situation. 360 needs to find local “professionals” who fully understand the environment/culture of the area – if they feel the need for a panel.

Which brings me to the ratings issue and Jon Klein’s total denial of what’s happening.
To add to your list Phebe –
-Quit using the Breaking News Banner unless appropriate – if the story has appeared on a previous show, i.e. The Sit Room, Campbell Brown – it’s not “breaking news” on AC360!
-More international news (especially on AC360) – CNN has bureaus around the world – use them. Like Cyn said, I simply can’t believe that Michael Ware was not on the program last night. Makes absolutely no sense to me – given room for the segment on the continuing coverage of the sweat lodge deaths.
-Learn when to leave a story – unless there is truly NEW “game changing” information.
-Every segment doesn’t need a panel. That said, if you feel the need for a panel, get better panelists. (See Steve Perry comment above.) Too often, the panelists feed into the polarization of an event/situation rather than providing basic facts. (Sorry, Jon, but you do seem to be catering to the extremes – both sides, not one or the other, but nonetheless the extremes.)
-Better in-depth reporting with the facts, rather than the sensationalist slant which seems to be cropping up more and more in your coverage.
-and the big one for me w/regards to AC360 – FOLLOW THROUGH. Too often stories are hyped never to appear on air. (i.e., the Roxanna Saberi interview.) And series are announced, run one or two nights – never to be heard about again. I understand that sometime true breaking news does occur and the line up needs to be changed, but story selection on AC360 has been pretty lousy most of the time lately. It seems like interesting stories are discussed in the Morning Buzz, but what shows up on air, is totally different – and not in a good way. To me, Anderson's show should be heavy on international news and interviews with people knowledgeable in the region. His talent's truly shine in this area - and it would separate 360 from other shows airing in the time slot and I believe pull in an audience hugry for what's happening in the world, but want to see it reported on air, not read about it on the blog.

I think Anderson is a very talented interviewer and I enjoy his anchoring style, but as others have said here, AC360 has not been showcasing his abilities lately. Too often, it seems he has been “phoning it in” – guess that’s why I liked the Balloon Boy story so much – not necessarily the subject, but the fact that he seemed to be interested in the story and that made all the difference.

Lori, IL said...

part II -

- What happened to Planet in Peril? Two interesting installments and then no mention of it?

I truly think AC360 needs to be completely revamped with a totally new structure and thought out - long range plan.... Since the first of the year, from a viewer's point - the show doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, trying new things for a night or two, then dropping the idea totally and moving on to something else, only to repeat the process. Viewer's like stability. They like to tune in to a program and know what to expect, instead of tuning into a crapshoot -- suffering through many mediocre to lousy programs, to be rewarded with a good show once in a while. Consistency is key and "consistency" is not what comes to mind when I think of the 2009 version of AC360. I hope CNN gets it's act together, Anderson deserves better...

And don't pretend rating don't hurt the morale of the anchors -- we all know differently....

Now that Klein is done re-vamping CNN.com hopefully he will wise up and re-vamp CNN the on-air station! We can hope, can't we?

@Jaanza – I don’t feel Anderson’s appearances on R & K hurt his newsman reputation. Except for a few of us that watch both – most “newsies” won’t be tuning in to R & K.. I hope he continues to work for 60 Minutes. His stories for 60 Minutes showcase his interview abilities and allow him to tell a story – which he has stated, is what makes him happiest as a journalist – telling other people’s stories….

ff said...

"A horrible, horrible story about the girl who was gang rapped after a homecoming dance at her high school in Northern California."

"gang rapped"?

Phebe said...

@ff, Thank you so much for catching that. My mind tends to read what I think I have written, not what I have really written. I appreciate all the help I can get when it comes to proof-reading.

Austin said...

I find it ironic when Anderson is in the anchor chair folks complain about this that and the other, & yet when he isn’t in the anchor chair folks complain too. The man is dammed if he does, and dammed if he doesn’t. There’s just no pleasing people one way or the other. What’s a guy to do?

judy said...

@Lori: While I usually agree with you, I find I don't quite tonite.
I do agree with Jaanza. I too, feel that his frequent appearances on R&K hurt his credibility as a news journalist. I really can't stand to watch R&K even when AC is on. It is just too boring and banal. Completely wastes his talent and time. In fact, come to think of it, it's begining to resemble 360 or is it the other way around?
"60 Minutes showcases his interests and abilities." No, it hasn't. At least not recently. Yes the peanut butter one, on world hunger sticks out, because it did showcase his interest in African hunger, but what AC's done lately on 60 Minutes, took no investigative reporting at all. The Drew Barrymore piece could have been phoned in....and he really was "dressed to the nines interviewing her."

On_Love_Street_With_Jim_Morrison said...

@Lori, I agree with you about Anderson on R&K and 60 Minutes. I love when Anderson is on R&K as it shows his lighter side and I don't think it hurts his creditability. Most people who are news junkies are probably not watching him on R&K. I think the audiences for 360 and R&K are probably different.

I think 60 Minutes is good for Anderson. He is really good at one on one interviews and that's what he gets to do on 60 Minutes. I personally loved his interview with Drew Barrymore. I think its one of the best things he ever did on 60 Minutes.

annie said...

Hi Everyone!

Thank you Phebe and friends for a great blog. I've been reading for a while but only felt compelled to comment today.

A pep talk is meant to inspire and enthuse. CNN staff need to be excited again in order to regenerate the channel. That Klein felt the need for a pep talk suggests they are working in fear and negativity and that just breeds more fear and negativity. No one can work well when feeling scared and hopeless. The problems you all bring up in your comments are better dealt with in smaller meetings so ideas and grievances can be shared. I Hope the pep talk had the desired effect and we'll have much improved programming from now on.



Wonz said...

@Austin - I think everyone here is happiest when Anderson is in the anchor chair. The thing is - we have been disappointed in the show this year - not necessarily Anderson. We remember how good 360 used to be and are saddened to see the direction it has been taking. The balloon boy story seemed to bring out the snarky side of Anderson - something most of us love and had been sorely missing from the show. I think most people that comment here try to offer constructive criticism - in hopes that someone at CNN is listening and makes some changes. Obviously the ratings reflect the way many of us feel about the show's direction. If we didn't like Anderson and care about his show - we would simply change the channel.

@ Annie - I agree with you about what a pep talk is supposed to do. The problem is that the small meetings you mentioned - don't seem to be going well, if they are happening at all. Many of us have been sending in feedback about the direction the show has taken and how we think it could be better - but no one seems to be listening and the ratings seem to reflect this. Too bad it took reaching rock bottom to get any type of response from Klein. I'm afraid that no matter what they do now, some viewers have been lost forever.