After CNN ousted Chris Licht, who attempted, at least, to moderate CNN’s biased news coverage, the floundering network has found itself in limbo, unsure of how much more it wanted to lean into a professional, “definitely not biased” news infotainment network.
Now, new boss Mark Thompson has signaled a clear direction for the network in this election year: All Donald Trump, All the Time, with changes once again to its morning and midday line-up. All CNN is really doing, though, is shuffling deck chairs around the network as ratings continue to languish behind networks like the History and Hallmark channels.
What Thompson and other CNN executives don’t seem to get is that the brand is the problem, the brand that has found itself in peril over the course of the past six years. CNN can reshuffle the same dishonest media news personalities while attempting to juice the last remaining drops of credibility it’s attempted to fashion over the last thirty years, but all that has gone out the window for a network that still insists on existing as a kind of zombie form of liberalism, that unlike MSNBC, refuses to admit its editorial leanings.
CNN will move Kasie Hunt to mornings now. Hunt (like most current new personalities) made her name as a correspondent during the 2016 presidential campaign, hounding various GOP candidates while ignoring Democrats, which is pretty much a standard résumé requirement to end up in a CNN chair these days.
CNN has also moved former White House grandstander Jim Acosta from a little-watched Sunday daytime show to a little-watched, weekly daytime slot. Acosta will presumably also offer live, breaking-news situations. Acosta famously made his reputation by making Trump administration White House press briefings about him and his questions about immigration and the Statue of Liberty — a topic he has somehow all but forgotten as the country faces a border crisis not seen in thirty-five years, and New York City threatens to deport criminal migrants.
Since Jim Acosta’s attention-seeking antics were rewarded with his own CNN show, his line-up has included a who’s who of Donald Trump’s circus cadre. His regular guest rotations have included George Conway, Adam Kinzinger, Mary Trump and others whose sole existence is to somehow remind everyone how very bad Trump is, and also how much they used to suck up to him personally and professionally.
But Thompson and CNN see an election year coming and are once again attempting to put CNN at the center of the anti-Trump universe, positioning itself as both a Donald Trump elevator network, while trying to maintain Jeff Zucker’s hires of #Resistance. Back then, it sacrificed mainstream cachet for the viewership of fierce partisans — and it’s hoping to repeat the trick eight years later.
Viewing audiences, for the most part, understand that MSNBC leans left, while Fox News leans right, and see through the fact CNN badly attempts to perform the news while pretending to be both. CNN’s integrity problem won’t be solved until it cleans house, completely, and returns to actual trustworthy news analysis, not the furrowed moral preening of personalities like Jake Tapper and his last-honest-man-in-journalism act.
But CNN is once again banking on Donald Trump, all the time, every time. Is that really what audiences want?