USA Today’s Michael Wolff gives his take on whether Jeff Zucker can save CNN at a time TV news audiences are growing more “fetishistic,” and the old-school TV news broadcaster “has been lost.”
Jeff Zucker, CNN’s ambitious chief and as tactical a television mind as exists, seems in many ways to have concluded that there probably isn’t. To an ever and ever greater degree, cable news is about sliver audiences— even Fox News averages only a million viewers a night — targeted to melodramatic or campy political sensibilities. In the case of CNN, which tries to rise above single-bore politics, its specialty is the melodramatic and campy news event— the ever-missing plane —that draws the ever-declining news audience. This reflects a problem with the cable audience — it’s overly fixated, if not fetishistic.
But it may also reflect a problem with cable news talent. The very idea of what we used to call a television broadcaster, charismatic and authoritative, has been lost — with, arguably, Barbara Walters, retiring last month at 84, being the last living example in America.
Wolff also suggests ambitious up-and-comers are looking away from the traditional anchor chair, and turning their eye toward a more globe-trotting platform.
Now ambitious television talent wants another job. The savvy want to be Anthony Bourdain. That’s the most frequent pitch in the business: To be the Anthony Bourdain of…heath, technology, art, war…fill in the blank. He is a post-news newsman. And gradually he is becoming the face of the new non-news CNN. Indeed, quite a better face than its struggling anchors and hoary correspondents.