There was a day when a 24-hours news network sounded like a brilliant idea. We live in a complex world full of complicated events that highlight the worst and best of humanity.
From violent wars and corrupt politicians to heroic deeds and acts of selflessness, how could a network not fill its programming with constant and original news updates?
However, with the technology that allowed networks to report 24-7 from every corner of the world, we learned something very important about the public: from cuddly kittens to sickening carnage, we’ll watch the same images over and over and over and over and over again. Who needs a news cycle when you can just hit replay again and again?
The public is strongly addicted to emotional footage, and after September 11, coupling dramatic scenes and outlandish scenarios with charged commentary and paranoid speculation fractured viewers into different but loyal viewing demographics. We all know the stereotypes about the people who watch Fox News and the people who watch MSNBC, as stalwart news anchors like Brian Williams continue to scratch their heads.
Just as times were changing back then, times are changing now, and Jeff Zucker, CEO of CNN, fully understands this. Throughout the past decade the public sensibility has evolved and viewers began migrating from the constant barrage of loud news and bombastic analysis to shows that focused on the more pleasant aspects of life such as food, travel, health, history, science and reasonable opinions on real, everyday challenges.
Though yesterday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon demonstrated there will always be senseless violence and inexplicable trauma in our world, the public appears to be internalizing the frailty of life and living by the mantra we all—at least in theory—agreed to after September 11: the best revenge is living well. And now CNN’s network is beginning to reflect that with more accessible programming.
As Mr. Zucker tailors CNN’s programming to fit a new mentality espoused by the public, advertisers and advertising dollars are following. New shows featuring Anthony Bourdain, George Stroumboulopoulos and Chris Cuomo have already netted ad revenue from Miller Coors and BMW, and others appear poised to follow. Will the public tune in? We’re guessing it will.
News, after all, is supposed to focus on history not histrionics. These shows that highlight culture instead of controversy are a step in the right direction.