Its been a while since I felt compelled to bring out the soap box, but the announced changes in CNN's daytime schedule seem to warrant dusting if off and making use of it. What's all the fuss about? Let's start by taking a look at an article from today's Los Angeles Times:
CNN is shaking up its afternoon lineup in the new year. Beginning Jan. 18, “The Situation Room” will start an hour later to make room for a new show dubbed “Rick’s List,” anchored by Rick Sanchez, that will air from noon to 2 p.m. PST. It will be followed by a two-hour “The Situation Room,” whose anchor, Wolf Blitzer, had until now been handling three live hours a day.
CNN executives declined to speak publicly about the move, but a spokeswoman that the change was made to bring more uniformity to the afternoon lineup. The shake-up also lessens the focus on political news, which is expected to be one of the main topics covered in the 4 p.m. PST hour when John King begins anchoring that time slot early next year. [Updated at 12:06 p.m.: Blitzer will continue to cover political news in "The Situation Room."]
[Updated at 12:24 p.m: Sanchez will also cover the top political stories of the day during his program, while the shows anchored by Blitzer and King will be based in Washington and have a strong political focus.]
“Rick’s List” is expected to incorporate Twitter, a tool Sanchez frequently uses. This morning, he tweeted that the show “will be full of newsmakers and thinkers we- and u- think are relevant to CNN. My access = your access.”
Blitzer, in turn, tweeted that he was fine about the change. “Our excellent team can focus on 2 solid hrs,” he wrote. “Less becomes more.”
In the short term, Blitzer will continue to anchor for three hours a day, as he’ll be substituting in the 4 p.m. PST time slot until King begins his new show. King replaces Lou Dobbs, who abruptly resigned from the network last month. There is still no word yet about who will take over for King on his Sunday show “State of the Union.”
I have to give credit to CNN's management for being consistent: with any tweak or change to the line up that they make that one could deem as an improvement (for instance Lou Dobbs parting ways with CNN and then turning over the 7PM hour to John King next year) they tend to follow it with another decision that just leaves one scratching their head and wondering "what exactly were they thinking?"
For the past four and a half years, The Situation Room has been one of the most consistent programs in CNN's daytime line up. Three hours of news, politics, and sprinkling of analysis and pundits. For me, this has been the "must see" program on CNN during the week. Earlier this year, the program was even expanded to included an hour on Saturday evening for a recap of the program's highlights for the week. This is the program that is now getting cut by an hour each day?
There are many perfectly logical reasons why CNN may have decided to make this cut.
- Maybe Wolf Blitzer wanted to cut down on the number of hours he spends on air? Maybe losing two hours a week at the beginning of 2009 worked out so well, that cutting back an additional five hours a week in 2010 makes perfect sense?
- Maybe this is CNN's way of pushing Blitzer out the door? (Although, admittedly, CNN is typically not so nice about pushing people out the door nor do they typically take years to accomplish it. )
- Maybe Blitzer is giving up an hour of the Situation Room, so that he can go back to working 7 days a week and revive Late Edition on Sundays when John King vacates State of the Union?
- Then there's the cost aspect: maybe CNN wants to limit the production costs at the DC bureau to three hours of live TV a day during the week. (Two hours of The Situation Room and one hour of John King)?
Of course, what really adds insult to injury is the hour Blitzer is losing is being given to Rick Sanchez. Who would have ever imagined that CNN would replace Blitzer with Sanchez? Think about that for a moment... they are replacing one of their best journalists/ anchors with the least capable anchor on staff. In what way does this make sense? If CNN wants "uniformity" in the afternoon lineup, wouldn't giving the two hour block to Don Lemon, TJ Holmes, Betty Nguyen, or Ali Velshi (all very good journalists/ news anchors) make more sense? Or how about giving the viewers in the US an hour or two of International programming (for instance, Back Story or Quest Means Business)? I don't understand CNN's fascination with Sanchez and "the twitter hour". The experiment of having Sanchez on at 3PM is one that should be abandoned and quickly forgotten instead of expanded into a two hour program.
NOTE: The views and opinions reflected in this post are those of Book Asylum's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other contributors to All Things CNN.