Thursday, August 23, 2012


CNN is my main source for television news on a national and international level. I have it on in the morning while I'm getting dressed and I watch it when I'm at the gym in the afternoons. I'll tune in once more right at bedtime to catch up on any breaking news story.

CNN, like all other cable news channels, has 24 hours to fill 365 days a year. News doesn't take a day off. It's a tremendous challenge and a drain on resources. From early morning to prime time CNN does a good job of providing live news coverage. But if you tune in from nine o'clock to midnight on a week night, the news you're getting is not new. Here's why.

The week night line-up is ERIN BURNETT: OUT FRONT from 6:00 to 7:00, ANDERSON COOPER 360 from 7:00 to 8:00, PIERS MORGAN (an interview show, not a hard news show) from 8:00 to 9:00. Then at 9, it's the re-run of the earlier ANDERSON COOPER, at 10 the rerun of the earlier ERIN BURNETT and at 11 the rerun of PIERS MORGAN.

I fully understand that some nights are slow news nights and there's not that much news to report. For breaking news of that type, CNN does have the HEADLINE NEWS channel and there are other cable news outlets. I also understand that CNN is hemorrhaging viewers and money as more and more people turn to either other cable channels or get their news from other sources, primarily online news websites. CNN has to do something to try and stop the bleeding and it makes sense from a business standpoint not to spend the money to fill those last three hours every night with brand new, live content. But still, I expect a 24 hour news channel to be just that.

All of this reminds me of when I worked in local television news. There were many nights when nothing of note occurred between our six and ten o'clock newscasts. In fact, the ten o'clock show was usually much the same as the earlier one, with a few new wire stories added and the order of our local stories shuffled up. We tried to have a fresh lead whenever possible. On many nights, we had the show ready to go by nine o'clock (or earlier) and we spent that last hour in the newsroom watching TV and simultaneously waiting for something to happen and kinda secretly hoping nothing did.

We did not have any live remote capabilities in the late '70s. Our nighttime news crew consisted of our anchor, our producer (me) and maybe one reporter who had already finished his/her packaged story and left before we went on the air. We often joked that we should just record the newscast at nine and go home early. We figured the viewers wouldn't know the difference. But we always knew that the first time we tried a stunt like that would be on the night that the Texas state capitol building would blow up and we'd look awfully damned foolish if we didn't lead with that story.

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