TVWeek recently spoke to John King about his new Primetime program scheduled to begin in January.
King said in an interview from on the road in Little Rock, Ark., that his new show “will build on some things we know that work, and create some new things.” The giant touch-screen “Magic Wall” that became his trademark for explaining election results during the 2008 political campaign is one of the elements that will make the transition.
While ideas are still being kicked around, he said, “one thing I do know is I want it to be constructive and contextual, to peel back some of the big questions people have,” whether about what to do with the economy, or what’s really in the health bill or “who are the Taliban.” The debate can be “provocative,” he said, but it won’t be led by an anchor who’s an advocate for one side or the other.
Indeed, asked his view on immigration, King called it “a powerful issue in our country, an issue we need to cover. It’s a gut-wrenching and divisive issue.” Then, after a beat, he added: “We will cover it. And many, many, many, many, many, many, many other issues.”
“People always say you can’t do policy on television, I just don’t buy that,” King said. But he does get a constant complaint from viewers that, while they are interested in issues, “‘you guys don’t speak our language.’ The defining challenge, I believe, to anybody in our business right now is relevance. People are in a hurry, and they have so many options. They don’t want their time wasted. They want you to talk about things they care about and to do it in their language.”
That language won’t be the “shouting” that some of his competitors employ, he added. Those shows can be “fun to watch,” he said, “but they’re not newscasts.”
In taking on the new program, King will have to give up Sundays, where his program has been gaining traction. “I hope to carry the passion over to five nights a week,” he said.
He will also have to give up many of his days on the road, a hard transition for a former national political reporter. Even for the Sunday show he has traveled to almost all the states in his 11 months on the job — Arkansas was his 45th — and the need to spend more time in Washington, D.C., will be a challenge, he said.
“One of the things I’m struggling with is how do I reach out and keep in touch with people when I can’t do it myself as much,” he said, adding that, by getting out Washington, he makes sure he’s asking the questions that viewers want to hear.
... to read the full article: John King Scrambles to Ready a CNN Primetime Show