Saturday, July 07, 2007

"CNN still hasn't figured it out"

Former CNN Reporter Aaron Brown has an interesting take on the competition between CNN and Fox News:

"On the one hand, you have this very disciplined, ratings-directed news organization, or whatever they are... On the other hand, you have an organization that is trying to figure out if it can be all things to all people. Can it be an opinion network, can it be a tabloid-driven network, can it be a serious news organization? It used to be a serious news organization.

It's hard to be all those things. It's really hard to be all those things.

You end up being none of them."

Brown thinks Paula Zahn's show is symbolic. "Whatever competence she has, and whatever skills her producers have, it wasn't clear to me what the program was," Brown said. "It has never had a clear definition. In some ways, I believe the network is [similar]."

Brown said he noticed an "incredibly dismissive attitude" toward Fox when he arrived at CNN in 2001.

"It ran through every part of the organization, top to bottom. It wasn't just bosses, everybody had it. I thought then, and I said then in meetings, that this is a huge mistake. And it was. That's the truth of it. It was," he said. "And I think in many ways the organization continues to pay for it."

Brown continued: "Fox is an incredibly disciplined organization. CNN is much less disciplined. It's part of the reason why CNN's a better journalism organization. It doesn't have the kind of top-down discipline that Fox has.

But in a competitive race, Fox knows exactly what its audience wants. It's been one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in television: no matter what the story is, no matter what the circumstances are, if it's not what the audience wants, they will walk away from the story."