the Rational Radical  

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CNN's Two-Headed Monster

In an effort to shore up its sagging ratings, CNN has gone to a two-anchor system.

What's the point? Does it require two people to read short snippets off the teleprompter?  Or does CNN think that any single one of their anchors is so boring and so unable to hold our attention, that they need to switch off to another person every other sentence? Frankly, it recalls a cute twins act, where they finish each other's sentences.

What makes the situation even worse is that pairs of people who are this uncomfortable with each other have rarely been seen on television.

In addition, while one anchor is speaking, the other seems at a total loss as to what to do with him- or herself.  Should they look at the anchor who's speaking, look out at the audience, look at their notes, or what?  Although quite distracting, it's also almost comical as they serially do all these things, always trying to maintain an "interested" look.

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Whoa!  If you haven't seen it already, check out the new multi-tasking-rich look of CNN Headline News.  It's deliberately designed to resemble a computer screen with several windows open.

In addition to the top right corner where the announcer resides: the bottom right corner is a changing weather map, the lower left corner has stock market info and short headlines, and the upper left corner has a sort of talking points summary of what the announcer is saying, as well as added related facts.

Perhaps showing a generational divide, isn't this a bit too busy, a bit too much information?  Bill Maher quipped that CNN is confusing data with wisdom.  I wouldn't myself go so far as to imply that CNN has ever been giving us wisdom, but otherwise Maher's point is well-taken.

There's also the issue of size.  I have a 20 inch screen, and the announcer is squashed into about 30-35% of it.  It makes me feel like I'm watching a tiny portable TV.  When the announcer is replaced by news footage, it's even worse, trying to make out what's going in in the tiny reduced-size screen area. 

I guess I need to get a big-screen TV?

Worst of all (and maybe this was opening week tech glitches) the footage sometimes seemed like it was cropped for a full screen, so you kept wanting to see what was happening to the left of your view, an area cut off by the talking points and related facts area.

Commercials, need I add, are their usual full-screen size all the time.

On a positive note:

  • I did think Chuck Roberts' contrasting collar shirt one day was snazzy-looking.

  • I haven't seen Smilin' Lynn Russell lately.  She quit CNN.

  • For all I know, younger viewers may love this look and intensity of data.  Attracting younger viewers is one of CNN's goals, since their average viewer is 59 years old.  Preliminary Nielsen data since the new look was instituted indicate a modest improvement in this area.

Beyond the stylistic criticisms, there is the more serious issue of CNN's recent open courting of the conservative viewers that it feels it has been losing to Fox News.  How will this affect CNN's already not-particularly-progressive reporting of the news?  Is it true CNN's trying to hire Rush Limbaugh to do a show?!  More on this in the future.


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