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walter biscardi
Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 9:58:29 am

Huffington Post recently confirmed CNN is yet again shaking up management as President Jim Walton is leaving as the once proud network continues its downward spiral in the ratings. As a still very proud alumnus of CNN during its heyday (1990-1995) and someone who has built and managed multiple production companies in the years since, I have some ideas and would be happy to help manage CNN back to the network it once was and still can be.



Report the News, Don’t Tell Me What to Think

When Fox News came along they came with a clear agenda on what to report and how it should be reported. The idea is to shape the viewer opinion and discussion for a pre-determined outcome rather than simply reporting the news and letting the viewers make their own mind about the events. So instead of anchors and reporters delivering the stories, they make use of endless “commentators” and “experts” to tell the viewers what they should think of the story. Fox ensures that the majority of the voices the viewer will hear follow the proper message that Fox management wants to deliver on a daily basis. In addition, the anchors have very defined positions on many of the stories.

As a result, instead of being well educated about events both in the United States and abroad, multiple studies show that Fox News viewers are the least informed about th.... When you don’t have to think for yourself, you tend to not pay attention to the information. And when Fox uses loads of panels and discussions, they can fill more time with less actual “news” so they can further restrict the amount of stories their audience is exposed to on any given day. Of course, Fox News also flat out lies when the need calls for it.

So then, why has CNN (and MSNBC for that matter) adopted this “new style” of television news with endless commentators, experts, and panels who discuss ad nauseam the news of the day? As I recall from my days at the network, CNN viewers slanted towards those who were well educated in the news and events of the world. Now by “well educated” I’m not talking about schooling, I mean people who have an understanding and interest in the events of the world. In other words, these viewers can think for themselves. They are not people who want to be told what to think, how to think and who to be angry at. These are also viewers who are not leaving CNN to watch Fox either, they’re just simply not tuning in anymore because it’s insulting to be told what to think.

The viewers are also not tuning in because, well, there’s not very much news with this format. Just like Fox can manipulate how little “news” their audience actually receives daily, this format restricts CNN from actually reporting, well, the news. At any given moment on CNN it feels like there’s a 30 second soundbite and then a 10 minute discussion on what we just heard to tell us what we should think. Boring and repetitive. I don’t care who the host is, or who the panelists are or how interesting the topic might be, boring and repetitive.

I’d be willing to bet that NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams reports more stories in its 30 minute nightly broadcast than CNN and Fox News combined in most of their 30 minute blocks. Quite honestly I enjoy NBC Nightly News more than any other newscast because they do get right to the point with the stories and they squeeze the most news into that 30 minutes because that’s all the time they have.

So how about getting back to basics and telling the story. No prejudice, no slant, no experts telling us what we’re supposed to think about the story, no arguments between “left and right.” Just tell the story and do the best damn reporting from multiple resources like CNN used to do.



Don’t allow On Air Talent to slant or take sides

This is taking yet another cue from Fox News, but it’s a slippery slope. There are hosts across the CNN family of networks that openly take sides and even make accusations without having all of the facts on hand. One host in particular is famous for declaration of guilt or innocence long before the facts or the verdicts are in.

This is tabloid journalism at its worst and has no place in a company that considers itself the “Worldwide Leader In News.” Just run TMZ or hire the Jersey Shore crew to give opinions on news events and call it day if you want go that route. It’s impossible to differentiate “serious journalism” from “tabloid journalism” if it all comes from the same place.

I firmly believe hiring on-air Talent for their opinions is the single most destructive thing that has happened to CNN’s credibility in its history. Credibility lost by allowing one on air person to declare guilt at all costs demeans the work of the real journalists working under the same banner.

At one time the mantra of the network was: “The News is the Star.” In other words, Journalists are observers who report what they find. Journalists don’t interject their own opinion, they don’t make up facts, they don’t shout down others, they observe, investigate and report on what they find. It’s time to get rid of the opinions and put talented people back on camera who actually understand newsgathering and can report the stories of the day fairly.



Tell me the WHOLE Story.

This is 24 hours of news per day. When did the stories shrink to 30 to 60 seconds with nary time to hear anything useful? What’s so important that the news has to be extremely short when you have 24 hours to fill?

The American attention span is short, but yet I keep hearing from educated viewers (again, not talking school education here) that CBS Sunday Morning is their favorite news program on the air. Could there BE a more slower paced news show on television? Why do they like it? Because the stories are allowed to breathe and we get much more information from them than just a 60 second soundbite and some b-roll. Same with 60 Minutes on Sunday evenings.

I’m not saying you run 10 minute stories all day long on CNN, but 2:30 - 5:00 packages throughout the day would be wonderful. Give the reporters, writers, producers and editors time to who the story from multiple angles and more information. Run the 7:00 to 10:00 minute features when the story warrants. If a story runs over the “traditional top of the hour break” then so be it. The internet doesn’t run on one hour blocks so CNN really doesn’t have to either. Sure it’s nice on the TV Guides, but if it’s the difference between a chopped up 1 minute story and 10 minutes to tell the whole story, well just tell the story. We have 24 hours to make up for whatever story we missed “at the top of the hour.”

For the audience that wants to get just the quick headlines of the days events, well that’s what Headline News was designed for and they can just watch that..... oh wait..... it’s now HLN and just another network full of people telling us what we’re supposed to think and who we’re supposed to be angry with. Never mind, I can only fix one network at a time.



Bring back the Talent.

Here’s something that I know will be completely radical and I probably should not put this out there in public, but...... I would bring back a lot of editorial, reporting and production talent. Blasphemy I know because the majority of the money in a corporation is supposed to be spent on management, management perks and more management.

Management in corporate America is paid so disproportionately to the rank and file that certainly with trimming even a small portion of management from the company, that would free up money to bring back creative talent. Management can’t create a quality on-air product worth watching, but the corporation mentality keeps rewarding bad decisions that lead to ever smaller audiences and quite honestly that doesn’t make any sense.

CNN is a NEWS ORGANIZATION that reports the news VISUALLY so without talent to report, write, photograph and edit, well, you’ve got nothing to show other than a bunch of “experts, panelists and commentators” to tell us what to think. So first and foremost I would bring back the actual talent that can report and show the news. That probably means taking a look at the many levels of management to see how to start trimming that area back instead of the constant firing of the production talent that is so prevalen...

You simply can’t produce an accurate, high quality, on air product if you don’t have the journalistic and creative talent behind it. Period. Hiring a whole bunch of new folks with no credibility or contacts is not going to cut it. It takes years to build up a reputation as someone to share information with. The veteran journalistic and creative talent needs to be beefed back up so the network can get back to telling the stories and telling them accurately.



Educate the Viewer

A recent poll showed that when you remove the talking points from an issue and simply present the facts, there is more agreement than disagreement between Americans.

So in addition to telling the whole story, let’s educate the viewer on issues both large and small. Right now if CNN wants to discuss “ObamaCare” then we’re sure to see two “experts” on both sides of the issue arguing for 5 minutes and generally the person who shouts the loudest wins. How can you possibly explain something so complex as the 974 page Affordable Health Care Act with two opposite minded people merely shouting talking points in 5 minutes? There is a need to explain complex issues so regular Americans can understand them, but not to the Elementary schoolchildren playground “I Know You Are, but What Am I?” level.

Once again, we have 24 hours a day, 365 days a year of “news” to fill. Using the Affordable Health Care Act as an example, break it down and explain exactly what the law is and is not. How exactly the law affects Americans. How will it be funded? How is it different from what is available today and so on. There are 974 pages to go through and comprehend. Break the entire Act down in plain English for the viewer to better understand what the issue is. This will take more than 10 minutes to do, it’ll probably take weeks, maybe months to properly produce a special that accurately explains the law. You run these specials both on air and with full sections of the website dedicated to these issues. No slant, no opinion, just the facts and nothing but the facts.

Educating the viewer will make CNN a very valuable and “go to” resource for the general public. We already know what both sides of any issue already think, there’s no need to rehash that, tell me something I don’t know.



Use iReporters to augment, not replace.

CNN management recently decided that everyday folks with cell phones are going to be able to replace journalistic and creative professionals. They won’t. They certainly can and should augment the creative professionals, but they can’t completely replace them. iReporters are great for “in the moment” action, breaking news, and even some small town stories, but if you’re going to tell a news story, you need to tell the whole story, from all angles, in a compelling way.

There is an art to shooting and telling the story to ensure that it’s reported fairly and balanced. Reporters from news organizations can open doors and get folks to speak out on camera that folks with an iPhone won’t get access to. You need that kind of access to tell the whole story. General public folks with cellphones often just show one side of the story, the side they see when something is happening. Getting the whole story requires trained photographers and sound people along with reporters and producers with experience.

So there’s no denying that iReporters or relying on general public folks with cameras should be used to help augment production when needed, but in no way should it ever replace what trained created professionals do.



Call out the lies and the liars who tell them.

It seems in today’s political and news world, folks are allowed to say whatever they want on television with very little questioning. The attitude seems to be “if I say it, then it’s true.” That’s completely unacceptable in life, let alone condoning it on news channels by letting the people get away with it.

Let’s call them out. Make a statement on CNN, another network or at an event that seems questionable, let’s find the truth. Hold people, especially our public servants, accountable for their actions and statements. That’s one of the things the news is supposed to do, not leave it to comedians like Jon Stewart and his very talented team at The Daily Show.



Get the news right the first time.

There always has been competition to get breaking news out first. This was something CNN did very well for a long time, in part because there was nobody else doing 24 hour news. Now with so much competition, breaking news scoops are measured in seconds rather than minutes or hours. Apparently getting the news onto the air 5 seconds before anyone else means you’re better than the other guys at getting the stories. That’s all well and good until you get the story wrong.

The most recent black eye for CNN was the highly anticipated Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Health Care Act, or “Obamacare.” Not only did CNN get it wrong, it took a full seven minutes for them to correct the story.

It’s one thing to get it wrong, but to take a full seven minutes on the air to correct yourself? That’s horrific. More than anything else, those seven minutes just erodes consumer confidence in the network as a trustworthy news source. So one has to ask, is it worth a 5 second scoop to get the news wrong or take that extra 30 seconds to confirm the story is correct?



Augment coverage on the internet

CNN actually has one of the best internet news websites on the market, but it's rather stale on a day to day basis. Hit that website for an entire week and only the very top section is updated over the course of a week. All of the rest of the panels seems to stick with the same story all week long.

First off, CNN's domestic coverage should be a live feed on the home page 24/7. There's no excuse for the news coverage to not be one of the first things the viewer sees. For the overseas audience, they can change this to CNN International / CNN Espanol or another network.

Second, the website should be constantly updating to augment and compliment the television coverage. The news is all coming from the same place, so why does the website feel like a completely independent operation from the television networks? The two should compliment each other more tightly than they seem to do now.

Put more live, special interest events on the internet and off the network coverage. For example, each and every campaign stop by a politician is not a "breaking news event" worthy of live coverage on the network. Stream those to the internet and those who want to see them, can. Pick and choose events that are truly "news worthy" and not just stump speeches for network air. Same for court cases and the like. If it's not "news worthy" to the mass audience, move it to the internet for the special interest audiences.



Look for and Give People a Voice

In the case of the United States, there are over 300 million people who live in the country. If you watch any of the news networks for any length of time, it appears that less than 200 people are allowed to speak for the entire country about any topic.

There are 300 million voices in this country and while it will take some digging, some real journalistic work and reaching out to the affiliates, there are some great stories out there of Americans doing things right. Just regular people who see a need and come up with a solution. No fanfare, no committees, no arguments on Sunday Morning talking head shows..... With 24 hour news, there's a lot of room to go out and find these stories. Not just a vehicle for talking heads to spew information on what's wrong today, CNN can help present solutions to their audience. Immigration, HealthCare, Poverty, Drought, Climate Change, Pollution, Science, Education and so on.

Very often it's the people who live with the issues each day that come up with the most creative and cost-effective solutions. It's time we start finding those folks.



In a nutshell

I could go on, but these are the major areas where I would start to re-build the network. It won’t happen overnight, but given the chance, I know myself and a few other CNN alumni could put the network back on the path to credibility and profitability, in that order.



Walter Biscardi, Jr.

CNN Editor 1990 - 1995

Owner, Biscardi Creative Media, Buford, GA


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Kylee Peña
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 1:28:31 pm

Great article. In your opinion, is there a news organization out there that closely matches CNN's original mission or standard operating procedure from the 90s? Where do you get your news these days?

blog: kyleesportfolio.com/blog
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Mark Suszko
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 2:33:06 pm

BBC is still pretty good. CBC in Canada is often exemplary. Current TV has some up and comers and CNN hired a few of them away, but IMO not enough.


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walter biscardi
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 1:32:28 pm

I get most of my news online anymore. As I said in the article, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams is the best newscast on the air right now.

I read through NPR, MSNBC.com, HuffPost, NY Daily News, NY Times online for the news. Can't rely on any one source. MSNBC is the best at refreshing their site and keeping it updated all day long. I don't watch any of the cable news networks unless something major is happening.

NPR is probably the closest to what CNN once was.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Mark Suszko
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 2:27:03 pm

PREACH IT, BROTHER!!!!!

:-)

Walter, I agree 100 percent with everything you laid out. My observation is that all the 24-hour channels have fallen into the same way of doing things, not because it is anything like good journalism, but because it is COST EFFICIENT.

First, they cut field reporting and the number of bureaus out there. What they love to do most is to get some mouth-flapper via a studio-to-studio satellite linkup, ask them a handful of slanted questions, then step two:

"Wheeling" the story for too damn long. That is, report the initial story. Then, the next hour, rehash the exact same story, but change the order of elements and call it a follow-up, though you add nothing new. In the third hour, still re-running the same piece, you now get some PR flacks or pundits to opine on it's implications via those cheap-to-get sat hookups. Now, you spend the next whole day doing reaction to the pundits reactions, and the counter-responses to those reactions to the reactions, creating an ouroboros of opinion but no new facts.


The J-schools are busting with new fresh grads eager to make a mark on the word, and not doing the local report in the 308th market either. The tech tools are cheaper yet better than ever before. Use small cams and lights , edit on a laptop, use bonded wireless to FTP the stories to base from the field, put these young tigers out in the field on commission to gather news the Murrow way. Allow the stories, as Walter says, to run at whatever length tells a complete tale, instead of artificially clipping them like video bonsai trees.


People don't watch CNN now because there's too little "N" there. Its not news, its noise. If people don't watch, advertisers don't pay.


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walter biscardi
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 2:50:19 pm

Thanks Mark! Took me almost two months to fully write that out, glad I did it....

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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Simon Roughan
Re: Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 3:38:14 pm

I would like to add my praise for this well thought out commentary. Although I think you went a little easy on some of the networks. Words like "blatant bias" and "propaganda" were not used enough. And I would agree with Mark that the Beeb is the leading source for unbiased english language news these days.
Thanks for sharing.
Gruss aus Deutschland
Simon

A picture is only as good as the glass it comes through. And the person using the camera has something to do with it too.


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walter biscardi
@Simon Roughan
on Aug 14, 2012 at 5:35:10 pm

Much obliged Simon!

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
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"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Marcus Warren
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 5:17:50 pm

Well done, Walter. I guess the question is not so much how one can fix CNN, but what would someone (like you) be prepared to do to start up something new, fresh, and objective.

Perhaps there is room on PBS for the kind of news operation you are proposing. The News Hour format provides for a lot of talking heads, so perhaps it's time for something different (in addition to News Hour). Since there is very little advertising on PBS, imagine what could be done in a half hour show; more news that even NBC Nightly News can fit in. If you are prepared to take over CNN, let me suggest the better bet is a new show on PBS. You already have a relationship there. Go for it. BTW, I am a former major market newscast producer/field producer. Call me if you need me.


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walter biscardi
@Marcus Warren
on Aug 14, 2012 at 5:36:00 pm

funny, you're not the first person to propose that idea Warren, I have enough friends from the old guard at CNN that we could probably start something up in short order that would be far superior to the "news" of today..... :)

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
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Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Greg Ball
Re: Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 7:25:36 pm

Hi Walter,

Excellent article, but I have to respectively disagree with your words about Fox News. I think at least Fox continues to show both sides of the story every day. NBC? CBS? ABC? CNN? Are you kidding? Their stories are so slanted that's it comical. For example...editing out most of Romney's speech to make him sound ignorant, or look at the editing done on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin stories to make Zimmerman out to be racist and showing images that caused people to say he wasn't injured.

As far as I can see, Fox has many opinions but at least you hear both sides of the debate. I can't think of another news org that does the same.

I misst the good old days of Cronkite just reading the news.



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walter biscardi
Re: Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 7:40:34 pm

[Greg Ball] " I think at least Fox continues to show both sides of the story every day. "

Nope, not even close. Fox started the whole game of taking sides and slanting the stories heavily to meet their agenda. There's a reason we call them "Faux News." There's very little actual news on that network, for the most part it's telling you what to think.

I don't know about ABC and CBS, but NBC has the best reporting of any team I watch on a regular basis.


[Greg Ball] "For example...editing out most of Romney's speech to make him sound ignorant, or look at the editing done on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin stories to make Zimmerman out to be racist and showing images that caused people to say he wasn't injured."

Fox is the king of selective editing and let's not forget the great Sean Hannity special about "Obama the Secret Terrorist" before the last Presidential Election. Fine reporting at its best to be sure...... As I said in the article, Jon Stewart is the only person on television right now who can clearly show the hypocrisy that is television news today with Fox leading the way day in, day out.


[Greg Ball] "As far as I can see, Fox has many opinions but at least you hear both sides of the debate. I can't think of another news org that does the same."

The "other side" is just a token person to have in there to make the story "fair and balanced" according to Fox, but it's in no way truly "both sides of an opinion." It can't be, that's not the way Fox was designed to operate. The agenda for the day is laid out in production meetings each morning and you can tell what that agenda will be by simply watching the early morning show. You will hear a key phrase or phrases that will be repeated throughout the day on Fox to skew the viewer opinion. This cycle is repeated daily.

For better or for worse, Fox News completely ruined cable news. And since they have the ratings, it's up to everyone else to simply follow suit.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Greg Ball
Re: Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 8:28:25 pm

I guess we just have to agree to disagree Walter.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 11:27:12 pm

Greg, your view on Fox telling both sides reminds me of a bit from "The Blues Brothers":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSZfUnCK5qk



And I think for all our sakes, we'd best just let this particular sub-thread fade away from this point.... I can assure you, nothing good will come of pursuing it.


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Bill Davis
Re: Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 14, 2012 at 11:42:26 pm

Fox was a success because they saw the advantages of segmentation and polarization and realized that they could assemble an audience out of people who wanted their worldview supported and barely challenged. It worked, so the "other side" did the same thing with MSNBC. It's "comfort TV" for a particular type of viewer. No different from "sports TV" being "comfort viewing" for sports fans or HGTV being comfort viewing for homemakers.

CNN's problem is that their "brand" has traditionally been "here's what's happening NOW" - and smart phones and the web and twitter have disrupted the concept of "NOW" information dramatically.

It's no joke that Comedy Central provides as many people in the prime younger demos with their "NEWS" these days than many nightly news casts - John Stewert simply provides a much more satisfying viewing experience for them.

So you can have "left news", "right news", and "funny news." And all CNN can pitch is that our news is what? Newsier? How is that going to break through and assemble an audience in the face of so many more comfortable choices?

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Mark Suszko
Re: Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 15, 2012 at 1:34:34 am

Bill, your post reminded me of something regarding the "segmentation" you reference. Some time back as talk radio was in ascendency, some stations tried running conservative and liberal programming back-to-back on the same channel, trying to be fair to both sides. The program directors found, much as you describe, that it was better to pick a team and service it exclusively, to get a larger, more loyal audience for "opinion programming". The folks that came to hear Rush wanted no part of listening to a liberal counterweight, and the liberals would only listen when their guy was on.


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Jeff Meyer
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 15, 2012 at 1:53:11 am

I rather enjoyed this article. I think I'd like to add that blogging has probably played a bit of a role in defining what is considered "news" or "journalism" today. Often when people search out news about a subject on the internet Google can point them to a blog, which is littered with opinions and bears no journalistic credibility - yet is accepted as an authoritative source.

The networks need to embrace that they won't be first to report on a story now. Bloggers and social media enthusiasts will beat them every time. Instead the market for them needs to become, as you're suggesting, more robust, unbiased, authoritative reporting on a subject.


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Mike Cohen
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 15, 2012 at 4:27:01 am

Check out the HBO series The Newsroom, expertly written by Aaron Sorkin. The premise is that a prime time cable news anchor and his team set out to remake their once top rated program. Each episode follows one or more actual news stories from 2011 and the team's efforts to accurately cover it. However the anchor has an agenda and is always going toe to toe with Jane Fonda's Ted Turner/Rupert Murdoch type character.

I agree that CNN has become USA Today the network. Stories are brief and somewhat useless. The only time there is in-depth coverage is when disaster strikes and Anderson Cooper is live 24/7. Only problem with being live 24/7 is Anderson runs out of facts, so he starts with the opinion.

Same goes for Erin Burnett. She's easy on the eyes but intersperses opinion with news. Like Jeff Daniels in The Newsroom, she and Anderson have an agenda. Problem is that an agenda paints CNN as a biased left-leaning news outlet, so you have lost 50% of America right out of the gate, and 50% of the remaining audience is a immediate risk for intermittent viewing.

I hear Al Jazeera has pretty balanced coverage, but of course an Arab-owned news service will never fly in America.

BBC World Service is probably the best news. NPR gives proper time to stories but is also somewhat left-leaning.

I get my news from Google News, but look at a variety of articles and consider the source. Reader beware.

I read an article a couple of years ago suggesting that many Republicans are big Stephen Colbert fans, but that they do not realize it is satire.

Odd that John Stewart is considered a reliable news source, since he has a comedy show.

Yeah, the iReporter is a neat idea but eventually some citizen reporter is going to get himself injured or killed trying to get iPhone video of some disaster.

Mike Cohen


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walter biscardi
@Mike Cohen
on Aug 15, 2012 at 12:08:30 pm

Check out the HBO series The Newsroom, expertly written by Aaron Sorkin.

I tried the first night, but it was so far from believable I couldn't watch it. It's also pretty much West Wing and SportsNight just rewritten in a news operation. Same writing, different premise.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
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Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Brad Wright
@How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 15, 2012 at 4:41:50 pm

I find it very interesting that you accuse Fox News of right-leaning bias early in your post, yet you give the left-leaning MSNBC a pass. A number of the web sites you list as your primary news sources lean left as well, and this fact makes it difficult to read your post as a truly unbiased observation. I would go so far as to say it makes it all sound a bit hypocritical. You complain about bias in cable news, yet you frequent news sources with a very clear left-leaning bias. That being said, I do agree with you that cable television news is broken, and I would extend that sentiment to television news in general.


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walter biscardi
@Brad Wright
on Aug 15, 2012 at 6:47:59 pm

I find it very interesting that you accuse Fox News of right-leaning bias early in your post, yet you give the left-leaning MSNBC a pass

I never said anything of the sort. What I actually said was: When Fox News came along they came with a clear agenda on what to report and how it should be reported.

It's very true they have an agenda, they're not shy about that. I also said... So then, why has CNN (and MSNBC for that matter) adopted this “new style” of television news with endless commentators, experts, and panels who discuss ad nauseam the news of the day?

So in that sentence I'm asking why would CNN, MSNBC and the others want to adopt a news style with an agenda.

I did not make a statement about bias in my article, I made a statement that opinion is replacing news in cable television news and I stand by that.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Mark Suszko
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 15, 2012 at 5:52:29 pm

The facts have a natural left-leaning bias:-) (ducks, runs)

"Oh, you wanted to RECORD that?"


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Herb Sevush
Re: Blog: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 15, 2012 at 9:44:23 pm

Walter -

You've just described the thesis of the new HBO series "The Newsroom."

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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walter biscardi
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 16, 2012 at 1:12:48 am

Looks like Chuck Todd at NBC News has been reading my blog. He actually called out a governor who made a claim that Chuck knew was sketchy. Chuck asked him to validate his claim and the governor could not. THAT's journalism and exactly what I meant when I said "call out the lies and the liars who tell them."

http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/08/15/693381/branstad-welfare-waivers...

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Cris Daniels
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 16, 2012 at 3:14:37 am

Well they didn't call CNN the Clinton News network for nothing... Frankly all the news outlets are horrendous, and clearly tied to their parent company in every regard. A perfect example is NBC, which wouldnt dare running a hard hitting story on the Fukushima disaster, why? Because GE built the reactors and they own 49% of NBC Universal, and GE is well represented in the White House which means and instant pass.

No need to over-analyze , journalism simply lacks credibly objectivity. Plain and simple. I work in news and I say this, so I'm not ignorant about the system.

The cable networks are also experts at harping on garbage stories, while much bigger stories that have long term implications for the country are treated as simply back page material.

Then you have utter lies regurgitated, such as the rebounding economy. Any breathing human knows its a wreck. You see it one the street, in the stores, and hitting your neighbors. So when some ivory tower goon tells you we are "reaping the benefits of insane government spending" , well that stupidity doesn't jive with reality, and people react by changing the channel.

So regardless of political affiliation, people aren't as stupid as the media suggests , and tune out before being insulted by 12 hours of wildfire coverage when the world is going to hell in a hand basket

I would also make the case that Fox makes no real pretense of being objective , not that I'm a big fan of Hannity or anything. But Bob Beckel isnt objective either, and nobody cares. The problem is journalists that call themselves objective but are clearly not so, such as Dan Rather who perpetrated the stupid forged document idiocy until he was fired. Why die on your political ideology? It's is a career killer yet they can't even see it.

Tim Russert bless his soul was the ONLY guy worth anything, a fabulous equal opportunity hard hitter, and he was rewarded with a loyal audience and fine reputation. So let's not make this into rocket science, because it isn't. Y


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Brad Wright
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 17, 2012 at 5:02:13 pm

I have to disagree with you, Walter. You did make mention of MSNBC, but it had no where near the emphasis given to Fox. They are both equally as bias, just opposite sides of the coin. You're responses to the blog post are what point to a clear bias on your part, especially the "Faux News" reference, which is becoming quite tiresome. Otherwise, the you make some valid points about the state of television news.


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walter biscardi
@Brad Wright
on Aug 17, 2012 at 7:33:15 pm

I have to disagree with you, Walter. You did make mention of MSNBC, but it had no where near the emphasis given to Fox. They are both equally as bias, just opposite sides of the coin.

As I mentioned in a response to another post, I did not mention bias anywhere in the article. I said Fox has an agenda, they are not shy about it, and I don't understand why CNN and MSNBC would want to turn their news organizations into the same formula. News with an agenda. Which agenda the three networks choose is their own choice. I personally don't watch any of them.

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Timothy J. Allen
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 18, 2012 at 5:42:57 am

I can't speak on the network level, but on the local news level I saw no clear cut right or left conspiracy. If anything, the bias in the stories were based on which source responded FIRST to the reporter's inquiries. Even if a reporter got comments from an opposing side of an issue, the issue was already "framed" in the mind of the producer/reporter from the talking points provided by whoever responded first... and reporters would rarely dig more than three phone calls deep to find a balanced story.

Hanlon's razor might have said "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity," but I think "Never attribute to bias that which is adequately explained by laziness" is just as appropriate - at least at the local news station level.



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walter biscardi
@Timothy J. Allen
on Aug 18, 2012 at 1:20:41 pm

Our local Atlanta NBC affiliate, WXIA has done a really nice job completely revamping their newscast to focus less on "if i bleeds it leads" and more on not only finding out the concerns of the citizens around the area, but actively getting involved to help make area lives better.

It's a really good newscast with actual useful information and good stories that you literally do not see anywhere else on any other news cast. The rest of the local news literally show the same set of stories no matter which one you watch.

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Brad Wright
Re: How I Would Fix CNN (and cable news in general). Thoughts from a CNN Veteran
on Aug 20, 2012 at 11:14:56 pm

Of course, Fox News also flat out lies when the need calls for it.

Comments like the one above, as well as the link to the "Out Foxed" book, are what I would consider biased. Those biased against left leaning views could make the exact same arguments regarding MSNBC. Either way, the comments, and the link, don't do much to help your argument against bias in TV news.


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walter biscardi
@Brad Wright
on Aug 21, 2012 at 1:40:48 am

Comments like the one above, as well as the link to the "Out Foxed" book, are what I would consider biased.

The comment is based on fact. Fox News has been proven time and time again to have flat out lied when it suits their needs. I'm not sure how it's biased to point out the truth and then substantiate that truth. I could have linked to dozens of clips from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart but that would be beating a dead horse by that point.

All networks do get stories wrong from time to time, no question about that. Just Fox has had an ongoing habit of that for quite some time now. Far too many instances to merely just be journalistic mistakes.

No doubt they have built an audience so no reason for them to stop doing it if that's what their audience wants to see. Does nothing for journalistic integrity, nor does the recent announcement that CNN is eyeing reality programming to get out of their ratings slump. Nothing like sliding deeper into the abyss......

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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walter biscardi
@walter biscardi
on Aug 21, 2012 at 1:41:46 am

Ok, the CNN link didn't work, let's try again..... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/13/cnn-reality-shows-talk-shows-ratin...

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
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