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CNN’s Jonathan Klein defends Spitzer hire

Spitzier parker

Jonathan Klein’s CNN is doing just fine from a revenue standpoint. But its most high-profile real estate – prime time – has been in a bit of a free fall lately. He needed to shake things up, give CNN some buzz, try to create appointment viewing.

His solution at 8 p.m.? Hiring a once respected Wall Street prosecutor and New York governor who took a major fall in 2008 after cavorting with prostitutes: Eliot Spitzer. He’s paired with Kathleen Parker, who calls herself a “rational conservative.”

“When you’re in a room with Eliot Spitzer,” Klein said, “he’s in high def while everyone else is in standard def. He’s so smart, so locked in, the energy he throws into it, he synthesizes all of that. He sinks his teeth into issues and not in a surface way. Kathleen Parker is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist. She’s clever and insightful and provoking. Together, they make a compelling team.”

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He acknowledges the controversial nature of Spitzer but feels his intelligence and TV camera friendliness will make him a compelling personality to watch. And he defends CNN’s role as a news operation.

“We play a strong journalists’ role. Ratings have their place. The way you get them is of utmost importance at CNN.”

He also espoused patience for the new but low-rated 7 p.m. show hosted by John King: “He’s one of the best political reporters of his generation night in and night out. That will pay off.”

Here is the column set to run in Monday’s print edition:

CNN is a brand in a bit of a bind.

Airing straightforward news isn’t bringing in the viewers like it used to before mobile news alerts and Twitter, especially in the evening. CNN’s ratings in prime time are down an alarming 37 percent year to date versus 2009 compared to a one percent drop for Fox News and 17 percent each for MSNBC and sister station HLN.

With the hiring last week of  disgraced Democratic New York governor Eliot Spitzer and conservative columnist Kathleen Parker for a yet unnamed 8 p.m. “roundtable”-type show this fall,CNN is attempting to dip its toes back into the opinion pool. It’s a place CNN/U.S. president Jonathan Klein loudly declared was off limits after he canceled “Crossfire” in 2005, denouncing “head butting debate shows.”

Klein, in an interview last week, promised this show will be more sophisticated than “Crossfire,” with opinions grounded in facts, not ideology. ”Both Kathleen and Eliot see the world in a more nuanced way,” he said. “They won’t hew to simple labels.”

Bobbie Battista, a former CNN anchor who left in 2001, said she’s not surprised CNN is reviving a “Crossfire”-type show but blanched at the name Spitzer. “From what I’ve seen, he could be a very capable pundit, but I’m not sure it’s a great precedent for CNN to reward bad behavior,” she said.

Spitzer, who resigned as the governor of New York in 2008 following a call-girl scandal, acknowledged that his past may be a potential hindrance for some viewers but expects people will be able to get past it and watch the show for its content: “We don’t plan to be as linear as other shows. We hope to appeal to an audience that thinks about issues from multiple perspectives.”

CNN also has problems at 9 p.m., where Larry King is stumbling, generating rumors British journalist and “America’s Got Talent” judge Piers Morgan might replace him. Klein declined to speculate on King’s future, only saying, “We are hyper-focused on the 8 p.m. show. That’s our priority right now.”

David Hazinski, head of digital and broadcast news at the University of Georgia’s Grady College, said CNN’s prime-time lineup has become less and less important over time to its bottom line, thanks to CNN’s growing online and mobile presence. At the same time, he thinks CNN needs to think outside the box about prime time programming.

The “Crossfire” format “is like ‘Home Alone 3,’ ” he said. “It’s sticking with a formula that worked before. That’s the safe, corporate thing to do. It would take a Ted Turner or Steve Jobs to try something nobody has done before.”

Given the conundrum CNN is in, it’s hard to say even Turner could find a viable answer.

For more, read http://blogs.ajc.com/radio-tv-talk

23 comments Add your comment

Rodney Ho Moe

June 25th, 2010
11:06 am

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz

Will Dawg

June 25th, 2010
11:32 am

OReilly will continue to dominate.

Ben

June 25th, 2010
12:45 pm

I like Spitzer a lot. He was one of the best watchdogs of Wall Street for a long time. It’s unfortunate that the public’s insatiable appetite (and faux-appall) for scandal forced him to resign when the country needed him watching Wall Street the most.

Craig

June 25th, 2010
1:24 pm

These two just might beat MSNBC but, they will continue to get their butts kicked by the dominator…FOX NEWS. I can listen to the Grape Vine every night at 6:28 and hear story after story that CNN would never report because it does not fit their liberal leaning views. Face it, the liberal side of the media is done. The problem is they are to irrogant to admit they need to change and thus, they continue to lose viewership and readership like Time, Newsweek, and yes, the AJC. Time to look in the mirror people and admit you are out of touch with the majority. Correct yourself or die on the vine. Oh wait, our beloved leader might give you all a bailout. I know it has been discussed.

Howdy Ho

June 25th, 2010
1:45 pm

Maybe good chemistry but a wild move for the sake of ratings.

A FOX NEWs WATCHER

June 25th, 2010
1:51 pm

WHoooooooooo Watches CNN..? ? ? ?

A FOX NEWs WATCHER

June 25th, 2010
1:51 pm

WHooooooooooooooo-? ? ? ?

Dan Lowe

June 25th, 2010
1:53 pm

Now, I can finally watch CNN and enjoy doing so. Huge fan of Spitz! Great move. If the NY Post can hire that woman, why should CNN not turn around and hire the better half of that combo.

A FOX NEWs WATCHER

June 25th, 2010
2:00 pm

CNN…..part of the propaganda army of the OBAMA White House..CNN…….”Speaking for the White House—blah…blah…blah…???

A FOX NEWs WATCHER

June 25th, 2010
2:00 pm

CNN…..part of the propaganda army of the OBAMA White House..CNN…….”Speaking for the White House—blah…blah…blah…???

A FOX NEWs WATCHER

June 25th, 2010
3:14 pm

CNN has no scruples…..any more than the OBAMA-Atlanta-Urnal does…Both are rotten to the core..I mean rotten.

A FOX NEWs WATCHER

June 25th, 2010
3:14 pm

CNN has no scruples…..any more than the OBAMA-Atlanta-Urnal does…Both are rotten to the core..I mean rotten.

[...] The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Rodney Ho writes about the Spitzer/Parker news on CNN… Jonathan Klein’s CNN is doing just fine from a revenue [...]

Daryl-Atlanta

June 25th, 2010
3:57 pm

Dick Morris, now on FOX, who’s another smart guy did the same thing with prostitutes; even let one of them listen in on a chat he was having with Bill Clinton. Who cares;m and if so, why? It’s “just” TV.

Michael

June 25th, 2010
4:03 pm

What I don’t get is what the heck did Fox hire Palin for all those millions? She had one episode of one show and that’s it. No appearances on panels, no interviews, nothing. They can’t find a use for her?

Instead she goes on Facebook to post things?

wishmirandawashere

June 26th, 2010
12:01 am

Actually Palin been on the night time cable shows on FNC a number of times. I doubt that she’s getting “millions” just to appear on FNC. Most of her money has been made from the 2.5 million book sales plus speaking fees (BTW Colin Powell makes nice $$$ on speaking fees). As for Dick Morris I agree. I cant stand him. I usually have to change the channel when he’s on.

Doofy

June 26th, 2010
9:39 am

CNN? Are they still around? Are they even relevant?

Hank Williams Jr.

June 27th, 2010
10:27 am

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

rod

June 27th, 2010
5:53 pm

Spitz ruined many lives in his role as chief NY Nazi. HIs fall from power was the second biggest laugh highlight of my life with Johnnie Boy Edwards second and BillY Bob Clinton 3rd.

Notso Fast

June 28th, 2010
9:39 am

CNN will do anything for ratings but I guess the same is true with the other networks. News is not important anymore, it’s how it’s presented that is important.

Right Said Fred

June 28th, 2010
10:50 am

This isn’t about him using hookers. He cost thousands of innocent people their jobs doing his “watch dogging”. Worse, he always took the moral high ground and demanded harsh punishment for his culprits. Then when he was caught he begged for privacy, forgiveness and the chance to show he could come back. Something he never allowed his victims. He’s a bad man who should have been convicted on IRS and conspiracy charges if nothing else.

Twekshemele

August 2nd, 2010
4:00 am

Great work. Hope you never stop writing.

Twekshemele

August 2nd, 2010
7:03 am

I think I will bookmark your blog as it is really interesting and has a lot of helpfull posts.