Skip to comments.It's scary to imagine Atlanta without CNN (It Is?)
Posted on 10/15/2003 3:09:46 PM PDT by Timesink
Those mocking billboards across the street from CNN headquarters must make the people inside cringe.
The signs are the work of Fox News, which doesn't just love to brag about itself (TV generally is a shameless self-promoter) but which also loves to tweak the competition.
The latest billboard --- signed by "your friends at FOX News" --- says, "Come Home Connie --- CNN Needs You."
The reference is to Connie Chung, the former broadcast news star who was hired by CNN to boost its ratings, then replaced with Paula Zahn, who hasn't boosted the ratings either.
TV news is a world of splash and zoom and noise, of celebrities and skin as well as current events. It's only natural that Fox, with its background in British tabloid journalism, has been quite clever at this game. Fox is slick, like a train wreck. It plays the underdog and it flies a million American flags.
The war for ratings between CNN and Fox seems a spectator sport, in some ways. Yet it's difficult, with CNN in Atlanta, not to feel for the network.
Talented people have been laid off, people you wish would stick around. They and CNN have helped make Atlanta a more interesting place. Ted Turner's CNN also helped put Atlanta on the world map, along with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Jimmy Carter, the airport and the Olympics.
A couple of years ago, though, CNN fell behind Fox in the ratings, and lately the ratings have kept sliding.
In the early 1980s, before it started making money, CNN was geeky but it was also feisty and ambitious and technologically hip. All that --- plus low costs --- helped propel CNN's rise. So, of course, did a lack of cable competition.
By the time of the first Gulf War, CNN seemed on top of the world. Maybe that's where its problems started.
The network got rather full of itself. The big earnings weren't reinvested in news gathering --- or so say disappointed newsies. People such as Fox's Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes noticed.
CNN also came under fire for Turner's internationalism, and there have been waves of problems since: new competitors; the sale of Ted's empire to Time Warner, which ushered in years of turnover, including boss after boss and vision after vision; the tension between the Atlanta office and offices in New York and Washington; then AOL, whose "synergism" fizzled; the dot-com bust; the plunge in the parent company's stock prices; and then the increasingly popular Fox, whose strategy and management have seemed pretty stable.
Maybe Fox will keep gaining viewers at CNN's expense, and maybe piles of advertising money will follow. Maybe viewers will get sick of being bombarded with news. Companies, in any case, will consolidate, get sold, flop or find new niches.
It's impossible to predict in detail. But it would be rash to assume that CNN will overlook Centennial Olympic Park forever.
My bottom line for now is largely local.
It was sad, and a loss for Atlanta, to watch Turner's lively and creative enterprises taken over by a huge corporation that's more than $20 billion in debt. And it's sad to watch CNN floundering.
Atlanta would be a big loser if CNN's troubles got worse.
No it isn't. This would give me another good reason to visit Atlanta.
Actually it would be better and more in character if the head offices of both Foxnews (New York City) and CNN (Atlanta) swapped locations.
I thought it was Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.
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