Texas Debate Part of CNN’s Big Investment in Politics

By Mark Joyella 

When the five remaining Republican presidential candidates take the stage in Houston tonight, it will have been just six days since the candidates last gathered on CNN, for a South Carolina town hall that attracted 3 million viewers.

CNN has hosted three debates already, and simulcast a PBS debate that delivered another 4 million viewers for CNN. The network has another two debates, one Democratic and one Republican, yet to come.

The town hall last week was one of two CNN produced over the course of just four days, The New York Times reports, in an effort to be “all in” on politics–a decision made 18 months ago by CNN worldwide president Jeff Zucker:


Committing $50 million more than it spent in 2012, CNN added 45 journalists to its political team. It doubled the size of its special events and logistics unit, making it possible to negotiate, plan and execute the town halls in a matter of days. Online, its political reporting has all but taken over the network’s home page.

Those resources have let CNN embark on one of the most aggressive campaign coverage plans, with reporters trailing every major presidential candidate and stationed in each early-nominating state.

And the political hiring isn’t over yet, The Times reports:

CNN’s investment in personnel for its digital side has begun to change the organization from the inside out. The network is hiring writers and reporters with no prior television experience, and Mr. Zucker said he counted Politico, Huffington Post and The New York Times as competitors as much as Fox News, MSNBC or CBS.

“We can teach someone to do television,” Mr. Zucker said. “It’s a lot harder to teach someone to be a reporter.”

And the expansion is not complete: An additional 150 people, mostly in app and web development, are expected to be hired this year as part of a 200-job reorganization on the digital side.