I applaud Warner Brothers’ boss David Zaslav’s appointment of Mark Thompson to head CNN. He’s led successfully the world’s greatest broadcaster, the BBC, and played a leading role in re-fashioning the New York Times and made it fit for digital purpose as well as “ fit to print.”
I was in London during his tenure as director-general and admired his steady and no-drama leadership.
I do have an unsolicited short list of “ to-do” items for Thompson when he takes over CNN.
1. Get rid of nearly all of the partisan, hyperbolic, over-paid political consultants who appear on-air alongside CNN’s own professional team of reporters and analysts. I’d keep David Axelrod who’s a thoughtful and rational analyst but I’d relegate the rest to sound clips in reporters’ packages or interviewees appearing separately from CNN’s political pros. CNN’s own reporters will give you a standing ovation.
2. I’d also do the same with armchair generals and other paid military experts whose own backgrounds are never clearly put in context.Should we believe a pro-Iraq war general or senior officer when he discusses Ukraine or Middle East politics?
Rely more on CNN’s own highly experienced foreign correspondents the same way the BBC does with the veteran international correspondents such as Jeremy Bowen and Lyse Doucet.
3. Crack down on many CNN’s own hosts and presenters for injecting their own biases into their anchoring of controversial topics or issues and their framing of questions to guests and panelists. Show them examples of the BBC’s star broadcastershosts such as Laura Kuennsberg and Nick Robinson and study how they display aggressive and edgy interviewing styles without revealing their own opinions.
4. Restore CNN’s reputation for international reporting beyond “ breaking news” coverage of conflicts and natural disasters. CNN has done admirable and brave reporting on Ukraine and Russia but reduced dramatically its coverage, on the CNN U.S. channel, of providing insightful international reports that spotlight parts of the world neglected by most other media. Appoint the great Christiane Amanpour as the host of that daily two- hour bloc of programming.
5. Don’t try and compete with MSNBC as the anti- Trump news channel. Don’t try and pursue wavering Fox News viewers as this is a fool’s errand. They’re beyond conversion.
Instead make CNN great again and restore it as the authoritative, credible news channel of choice for Americans.