This Is CNN

Is there still a market for a cable news station that tries not to take sides?

CNN, the granddaddy of cable news, has won accolades for its coverage of the unfolding disaster in Haiti. Working with a far larger number of reporters and producers than its competitors at MSNBC or Fox, the network has provided valuable and affecting on the ground coverage—and plenty of it.

CNN saw a ratings spike as they covered this important story, surpassing MSNBC in the ratings after a summer where, save for a fat period surrounding Michael Jackson’s death and funeral, they battled with MSNBC for a distant second in the nightly ratings, far behind Fox.

The network’s marketing approach these days is to proclaim that they are neither red nor blue—“No bias, no bull” and so forth. These claims seem designed to draw contrasts with their more ideologically strident competitors. Maybe those claims—and the down-the-middle orientation they are meant to highlight—appeal to some viewers. But they aren’t winning the ratings race.

In this fragmented and highly partisan era, do you think there’s a mass audience excited to watch a cable news station that tries not to take sides? If you are a CNN watcher, why do you prefer the network
over its competitors? And if you’re not, is there anything they could do to make you want to watch?

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.