In a media environment awash in malignant misinformation, there is an obvious open path a revived CNN could follow under new CEO Mark Thompson.
It’s to rebut the lies as enthusiastically (and entertainingly) as Fox and others spread them.
So I call on CNN to relaunch itself as the anti-Fox.
That doesn’t mean left-wing propaganda instead of right-wing propaganda, however.
It means that where Fox lies, CNN explains and shows.
Where Fox is anti-truth, CNN is pro truth.
Where Fox is anti democracy, CNN is pro democracy.
Where Fox spreads conspiracy theories, CNN debunks them.
Where Fox encourages division, CNN celebrates pluralism.
And it means doing it with passion and gusto. That would draw an audience.
The CNN I have in mind would identify what the public misunderstands the most, then throw everything they’ve got at helping the public understand it better.
This CNN would actively invite viewers who aren’t news junkies and who may be low-information voters to come in and get better informed.
Such a CNN would enforce consequences for lying. It would deny liars an open mike. It would confront them about their lies. It would identify them as liars before, during and after their comments on any issue.
This CNN wouldn’t be partisan, but it also wouldn’t be afraid to be perceived as partisan. It’s sadly true that the modern Republican Party has become so deceitful and divisive that taking a pro-truth pro-pluralism stand will inevitably appear partisan to some.
The fact is that Republicans already overwhelmingly consider CNN liberal. New CNN would consider that liberating.
Did I mention that this CNN would be fun? Anchors and reporters could revel in calling out the preposterous fabrications of Fox and other right-wing “news” sources. They could also mock the rest of the elite media for both-sidesing issues that are utterly asymmetrical, and for being afraid to say what they know to be true. Fun!
(Did you know that more Democrats watch Fox News during prime time than CNN? This new CNN would fight for that audience and more. It would simultaneously woo and drive people away from Fox.)
A new CNN would get rid of the endless panels of talking heads who just fill time. A bonus: There would be no need for a token right-winger to “balance” anything.
This CNN would interview newsmakers not pundits. It would use its correspondents to interview interesting people all over the country and the world. (Those correspondents are a terribly underused asset.)
It would take viewers places they can’t go themselves. It wouldn’t confine itself to the studio.
The new CNN would reject the constant two-party framing, which limits journalists to covering what the leaders of those two sides consider in their interests.
Instead, it would publicly identify the biggest problems facing the nation and the world. It would respectfully consider diverse views. It would ask hard questions of people on every side. It would demand evidence. It would explore intent. And it would identify lessons learned.
Yes, CNN would still host discussions about major political issues. But they would be constructive, rather than contentious; probing rather than performative. Who is proposing intelligent solutions? Who is blocking them? And why?
And I don’t just mean exploring national and international problems, I also mean local problems that are widely shared: Transportation, housing, crime, homelessness.
There’s plenty of room for dramatic but constructive disagreement and exploration regarding any of these issues.
The new CNN would also reflect these same values on its website, which remains one of the most trafficked news sites in the world, despite the lack of fanfare.
That’s a huge audience, and unlike the New York Times and the Washington Post, there’s no paywall.
The new CNN would tweak those other news organizations for only making their content available to customers who can afford it. ‘
CNN, it would say, is for the people.