Of all the forgettable moments of my life, perhaps none stick out more than those lonely Tuesday nights in Spain spent watching CNN International – notably any spot involving the late Jeff Greenfield.
Greenfield is not dead. But he became one of the first casualties in the early 2000s of CNN’s now highly publicized turnover of on-air talent. Since then, it’s been a slot machine of new faces. Remember Aaron Brown? Lou Dobbs? Even the venerable Jon King has seen his show “Jon King USA” canceled.
The network is now limping along in the cable news basement, reaping ratings below even those of MSNBC.
In the wake of the mass exodus of viewers in recent months, CNN has made its boldest move yet, awarding an as-yet-unnamed program to celebrity chef provocateur Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain, if anything, is the total antithesis of the prototypical CNN host. He’s charming, funny, witty and also highly likeable. That was what CNN thought it had in Anderson Cooper. The notion of a dashing correspondent, in the field wearing a V-neck, is appealing, but unfortunately Cooper exudes an Upper West Side sensibility that does not go over so well with the rest of the country. He’s one fifteenth as likeable as Bourdain’s index finger. And that’s being generous.
CNN struggles to keep viewers because it struggles to keep us entertained, writes Michael Massing in the Columbia Journalism Review. His stinging column about the network cites “boredom” as the cause of its ratings erosion.
I like Bourdain. I have read all his books, laugh at his crude humor and think his personal brand might reinvigorate whatever slot he takes over at the network.
The play for Bourdain suggests the top brass know what ails them. Bourdain is an investment in “newstainment,” which, after all, is what attracts audiences – certainly more so than the regurgitation of hours-old news found first and reported long ago on Twitter. He may very well be the first step in the resurgence of CNN.