1. Drop the chronic impartiality.
CNN is brain dead. They have worked themselves into an intellectual trap of having no particular point of view; they have convinced themselves that they can't become right-wing like Fox or left-wing like MSNBC. As Jon Stewart demonstrated, CNN airs a dispute in which one side may be insane — the earth is flat — but the anchors fail to explain who is right. They need to cure this problem of "leaving it there," because it's killing them — it's killing their brand, it's killing trust, it's lazy, it's superficial, and it's an audience loser.
2. Take a cue from The Daily Show.
They should figure out how to emulate Stewart, but without the comedy: pointing out the absurdity and hypocrisy of what people say across television broadcasts, calling out demagoguery, the misleading use of facts, and the people trying to confuse us. They need to call BS on our political system. They almost had it with No Bias, No Bull, but they changed the title back to just Campbell Brown. If they had carried through on that idea — especially the "no bull" part — they could have forged a real identity.
3. Don't give the audience what (you think) they want.
You can't know what the audience will accept until you try new things, but they refuse to try anything new. CNN, and many other journalists, cavalierly state that they know what viewers want based on past and current choices, but it's a narrow range of choices. No one knows what an audience wants ahead of time. (From Rosen's blog: "But I've got some ideas.")
4. Social media is more than a gimmick.
The importance of i-Report is a myth. It's useful when there's breaking news and CNN can't get a cameraman to the location, but I doubt that any producer at CNN considers it a central resource. A better use of citizen journalism would be an army of fact checkers and story spotters. That would be journalistically distinct. CNN wants to be first on the scene, but they don't want to be distinct. Being on Twitter and Facebook is responding to trends, but hasn't changed the idea of what they're doing.
5. A news channel should break news.
If CNN were doing kick-ass journalism and bringing new stuff to the national attention, and they were still in third place, that would be a different situation. But what are the big stories they've broken over the past few years? Safety first isn't going to get them there. It's the product of smug, self-satisfied programmers who think that balance is itself a demonstration of superior journalism. They need a pro-reality bias.