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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Wrap: Is CNN's Cheapness the Problem?

image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter

A fascinating read about the behind the scenes budgeting issues at CNN from The Wrap:

At the first all-hands staff meeting called by CNN’s new CEO Jeff Zucker last month, a newsroom staffer asked if CNN would continue the same budgeting practices that discourage editors from assigning reported stories.
Zucker said he’d look into it. But the next questioner circled back to the same issue, and then a third one did, too.
What’s the issue?
At CNN, when editors assign stories to reporters and producers, the budgeting process requires them to count the employees' salaries against their newsroom budgets. The result is that editors often choose to save money by passing on the story pitch -- or by taking the same idea but using guest talking heads instead.
The reporters and producers are paid anyway. But the result is fewer reported stories and hoarded budgets.
The budgeting issue is symptomatic of what insiders say is a cheapskate culture at CNN that Zucker will have to change if he is to succeed at turning the news network around.
Current and former employees bemoan a deep-seated aversion to spending. “The biggest sin at CNN is spending money,” said one former executive to TheWrap.
“Ted Turner always used to say the news is the star. That was a way not to spend any money. Now they’ve got cheapness baked into their bones. They began to value it above all else.”

A CNN spokesman had no comment.
The executive recalled a discussion among editors when the South Asian tsunami hit in 2005. The first instinct was not to send Christiane Amanpour, the network’s star foreign correspondent (who they now share with ABC), to the region but instead to use the folks already based in Malaysia who would be “good enough.”
The nickel-pinching culture is, this executive said, one reason why Anderson Cooper is on twice a night, at 8 and 10 p.m. Why pay another anchor when Anderson can do it?
Or take Soledad O’Brien (above right). The former morning anchor had been moved to documentaries where she was finding success. But she was moved back to an anchor position, taking on “Morning Joe,” in part because the top brass couldn’t stand paying her an anchor salary for less intensive work.

“Ken Jautz was always offended that we didn’t cut Soledad’s salary when we took her off the anchor job,” said this executive. The attitude was, ’We’re paying her all this money, let’s get something out of her.’ But given the rating, it will end up losing money.”
So what about the popular Jautz (left), who replaced Jon Klein as president of U.S. operations?
Several say that former HLN chief represents this thrift-first mentality. In addition to the budgeting practice, which was instituted about five years ago, was the dividing of executive responsibilities for news-gathering, editorial functions and programming after Klein departed.

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Anonymous said...

That cheapness is obvious on air. This without a doubt explains CNN's pundit addition. CNN can;t get away with not reporting the news. People come to CNN to learn and keep in touch with what is happening. CNN needs to work on reporting, story-telling and communication. CNN's on air product is horrible from graphics to video and on and on. Ted Turner was right it was a huge mistake to sell CNN to Time Warner. Networks like PBS and NPR are gaining popularity because the give us news unlike cable news, which has zero clue about what news is. It is not pundits with opinions. Get out and do some
reporting. PBS, NPR, and CBS are good models for CNN. Viewers don't want CNN to be like FOX or MSNBC. They want CNN to be CNN. You can hire journos who write, shoot and edit their own stories so there are ways to keep expenses down and still produce quality journalism. CNN has got to rebuild the house of news that Ted Turner constructed.

Anonymous said...

We will eventually learn what Jeff Zucker means by
expanding the definition of news. It would be cool for
CNN to launch a music show like Fuse News . It is a
brand news music news show show from Fuse but the
show involves Rick Kaplan. The man is a big name in
the news industry. The show premiered last night and
it's music journalism at it's best. It puts Show Biz to

I don't know if you guys know about an hip hop
& rap artist by the name of Macklemore. Dude has
the # 1 song called Thrift Shop. You can't escape
this catchy song, Recently, Macklemore release a
video called Same Love. It's all about gay rights
and with all of the talk about the Scouts and gays
in the news right now there could not be a more
appropriate song for the discussion. This is coming
out of the hip hop genre which is unusual. That's a
news story and worthy of a CNN interview.

Anonymous said...

Television is a visual medium. Video matters or else you are just getting talk radio on TV.. For goodness sake who can't go on the internet find news and use photos,wall paper, words,infographics and music to put together news stories. I know people who could work wonders with the news from CNN dot com videos. It's all about creativity, imagination and innovation with a passion for journalism.

Anonymous said...

CNN definitely does not have a clue what news is
anymore. They are running a promo for Out Front saying Erin Burnett will investigate a monster storm that is predicted for the Northeast. Really ? How is this investigative journalism. Oh I forgot it comes from CNN. Clueless Nonsense Nothing.

Anonymous said...

If CNN wants to be taken serious then management needs to purge itself of the newsreaders Carol Costello and Brooke Baldwin.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:41 you are so right. Their voices are just too
annoying. CNN needs to drop the 2 hr solo anchor format and come up with some new 60 minute shows that don't rehash the same tired old stories. Also, CNN is not to good with names for their shows. They ned to fix that.

Anonymous said...

Do you guys have any word as to if CNN will be
live for 24 hours because of NEMO ?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with 7:26AM. The cheapness does show and it explains their complete lack of news gathering. I am baffled Ken Jautz has a job with CNN. He should be out the door with Whitaker. How in the world can this guy complain about Soledad's salary when they reportedly pay Burnett 2 mil for that sorry excuse of a show Outfront? Furthermore, the rumor is they are going to throw a bucket of money at Erin to move her to the morning! Seriously? Wtf? At least you get 2 hrs a day from Soledad AND ratings winning documentaries. They spent a boatload on promos for OutFront and it has been a complete failure. Soledad has years of experience and has the skills to anchor big live events. Blitzer may be expensive but he does 3 hrs a day AND anchors big evensts. Don't get me started on Mr. Moneybags (Anderson Cooper) who really blows the budget and has uncompetitive ratings. Really, CNN is penny wise and pound foolish. Fire Burnett, Jautz, and Morgan to save some cash and go report some real news!!!! C'mon Andy, get in the game!