Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Surprise! You are being replaced

Soledad O'Brien and Miles O'Brien (not related and shown to the left) are anchors of CNN's "American Morning". They are being replaced after only a few short years as hosts of the morning show.

I read this information from a Washington Post article on Wednesday and it just made me think how scary and insecure a job in the news business can be. Read the article here.

Ratings are clearly the issue here. According to the article, "American Morning," which emphasizes straight news over light features, was down 6 percent in first-quarter ratings and averages 372,000 viewers every morning. The Fox Network has a competing morning show called "Fox & Friends," which mixes news, personalities and features. It remains the cable news leader in the morning time slot with an average audience of 695,000 viewers. Both networks have seen a decline in morning viewers however.

So, I guess CNN is trying to attract more viewers by changing anchors, but it makes me wonder if they should change the content and focus of their morning show too. Instead of purely hard news headlines and topics, maybe the CNN show would benefit by intertwining lighter features with personal stories from the public that many can relate to. I think morning news should be a bit lighter, a bit more encouraging, supportive and optimistic. But, then again, you can't force the news and after all CNN's American Morning show still wants to convey the importance of the hard, cold, often discomforting and depressing facts. Facts that viewers may not want to hear, but need to hear. Facts that you won't find on the TODAY show or Good Morning America. CNN has a reputation it has to uphold.

Soledad and Miles will remain as CNN correspondents, so they aren't totally kicked to the curb, but I am sure that it can't feel good to be demoted in such a highly competitve buisness.

I guess replacing the faces that people wake up to makes some difference, but I don't think replacing Soledad and Miles with John Roberts, a former CBS anchor and correspondent, and Kiran Chetry, who recently jumped to CNN from Fox News, will dramatically effect viewership.

As a graduate student who hopes to one day sit behind an anchor desk, it makes me think how volatile that seat can be. If for some reason, ratings start to slip, it seems that the anchor is the first to go...replaced with a fresh, new, even younger face. It is scary to think of years from now after gaining experience in the journalism field, being replaced by someone who might not have as much experience and skill, but who looks, sounds, or conveys a different personality that the station's top officials will hope draw more viewers.

It will be interesting to see if the anchor switch at American Morning will boost ratings. It might for a while, but if the content or format of the show doesn't change than I don't think new viewers will be compelled to watch.


At Wednesday, April 04, 2007, Blogger MK said...

As an infrequent viewer of morning television, I shocked myself by feeling disgruntled with this development at CNN. If I happened to turn the TV on in the morning, I tuned into CNN and I always admired the work that Soledad and Miles did. It was just the right tone for me as I scarfed my oatmeal. If I was to spend 10-15 minutes trying to catch some news in the morning, I certainly didn't want to see celebrity after celebrity trotted out to promote their latest movie or that crying girl from "American Idol." I wanted some NEWS and I felt I could at least get the headlines from CNN. If the fare is going to get lighter on CNN, then I might have to figure out which channel is Headline News on my cable system. I'll give them my 15 minutes and they will give me the world. Maybe switching from CNN to Headline won't affect the universe that dramatically, but I'm certainly not going to go for a change in tone. (I hope Roberts does well in his new role - good luck.) But the radio is sounding better and better in the mornings - sorry, TV.

At Thursday, April 05, 2007, Blogger AJS said...

I always liked Soledad and Miles -- they seem like they have really good chemistry. I particularly enjoyed Miles, because he appeared to be an actual human being -- he had expertise as a pilot that he brought to other CNN shows -- not just a talking head anchor. I watched Kiran Chetry (a poor man's Soledad, if you ask me -- and have you noticed how the two look almost identical?) this morning, and she and Miles just weren't connecting the same way I've seen Soledad and Miles do it.

But the bigger issue is that I think CNN should have given the show a chance to garner more ratings without getting rid of the hosts. It wasn't that long ago (less than a year and a half) that CNN switched American Morning to 6 am Eastern from 7 am, and cut Daybreak. Clearly, it wanted to get away from hard news and toward more features. But I always loved falling asleep on those too-late nights up to Daybreak, and I thought it was a shame they got rid of it. Now, the transition seems to be shifting even further from actual news in the morning, as LL points out. But I think if CNN does go to a Today-style or Fox & Friends (the stupidest show name ever?!) type broadcast, it will really be selling viewers short. And it won't be the "Most Trusted Name in News" for long with that attitude toward, you know, actual news.

At Thursday, April 05, 2007, Blogger AG said...

I have never preferred Cable News in the mornings, because I prefer local and the Today show. But this brings up interesting points. Obviously, I've watched Soledad and Miles before and thought they had a solid show, or at least, had no reason to think otherwise. But, is this going to be the story of our lives?!?! The deeper in I get into this business, the more I start to think to myself, 'Is this a good idea?' It seems if ratings do go down, you are out of luck on the anchor desk at least... I always thought being at the anchor desk would be a dream come true. Stories like this and Medill have completely changed my mind. While it is unfortunate, I am a realist and would like to have some sort of stability. Can you really find that as an anchor?!?! Now, I'm just not so sure.

At Saturday, April 07, 2007, Blogger ji said...

Two words: GET READY! This business is about ratings and looks. There will always be a fresher face, a younger woman, a drop in ratings etc...The fact of the matter is that you have to be ready for this. Yes, for Soledad and Miles that does sound horrible. But in this business your job is never secure. And, once you get too old (unless you know a great facial plastic surgeon), your time is up. I am sure that Soledad and Miles bank accounts are not suffering---I do not pity them. Don't you agree that once you graduate from here, you will be gunning for their jobs in a couple years? Lets be honest, in our first jobs, we will be replacing someone who either moved on or got fired. And one day, you will move on or get fired or simply get too old for this business.

At Saturday, April 07, 2007, Blogger Amanda M. said...

I am one of those people who watch the Today show. But honestly I feel it's okay because that show is a newsmaker. Besides Meredith banging her head on the ice, major things happen on the show - politicians say things there that are then reported on by shows like American Morning. I turned on American Morning last week because the Today show was acting so dumb, but they had a story about a polar bear's popularity leading to the death of a panda bear in a German zoo and endless coverage of a rapping Karl Rove. I was disappointed and burned by their embarassing behavior. Back to the Today show.


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