Newly minted CNN 9 PM host Piers Morgan knows he is not a familiar journalistic face to American audiences. He also knows that the cable news landscape is full of big personalities and opinions.
Morgan has no intention of aping the competition, or using his new platform to push a political agenda.
“I have a lot of opinions, do I want to shove them down my viewer’s throats? No, there are enough people doing that on cable news at 8 or 9 o’clock at the moment,” Morgan says. “I don’t want people to view me as a political animal, I don’t put my own politics into it. CNN’s one objective with the new schedule is to be provocative, aggressive and ballsy, and to seek out the truth.”
Morgan’s new boss, CNN/US president Jon Klein, echoed that point:
“I think you have a lineup of fearless, aggressive journalists who will ask tough questions throughout the evening, they will hold public officials accountable,” Klein says. “Having Piers as part of a lineup that includes Anderson [Cooper], Kathleen [Parker] and Eliot [Spitzer] on top of that, it is a lineup that is beholden to no side, you can’t find that in primetime in cable news.”
Morgan is also not particularly concerned about the competition. He compares the cable news landscape to late night television, where all the hosts have the same format, and cover the same topics every day… often each other:
“I watch Keith [Olbermann] attacking Bill [O’Reilly], Bill attacking Keith, most of these shows are taken up by this intra-feudal arguing,” Morgan says, adding later on: “I am not going to rant on about my views, or Rachel Maddow or Bill O’Reilly, or particularly Glenn Beck.”
So who is CNN trying to reach with the new show? Morgan says it is 295 million or so Americans that are not currently watching the cable news competition:
“If you look at the total audience of television and in cable any given night, and the total population in America, they are very different numbers,” Morgan says “There are many millions of people who watch “America’s Got Talent” and know me, who may be tempted to watch this program.”
Morgan says he will stick to the tried and true format of Larry King’s program, including taking calls from viewers. However, he may deviate from it on occasion, say by adding a live studio audience as he does for his UK chat show “Life Stories”:
“In terms of one-offs, I am quite keen on the possibility of adding an audience,” Morgan says. “It certainly won’t be every night.”
Most shows will be live, though some will be taped, particularly when his “Got Talent” obligations get in the way. He also says he looks forward to being able to cover breaking news, as he did in his days as the editor of British tabloid The Daily Mirror.
“There will be nowhere in the world where I cannot get to a CNN studio, and if there is a massive breaking story I will get to the studio,” he says.
He also says the show will be free of gimmicks… for the most part.
“I am planning a Glenn Beck style-rally next summer in Central Park,” Morgan jokes. “I’m hoping a million people will show up.”