USA Today media columnist Michael Wolff throws dirt on the sinking fortunes of CNN in Monday's paper, denouncing the cable-news audience along the way: it’s “overly fixated, if not fetishistic.”
Wolff then unloads on MSNBC host Ronan Farrow as the “nadir of television gravitas, the “child anchor...mimicking the adults.” Ouch:
The nadir of television gravitas may be Ronan Farrow on MSNBC. He's a third-rate movie plot: The child anchor, self-serious and mimicking the adults, finding himself, through happenstance and cynical television logic, embarrassingly on the air.
And then there is Piers Morgan, whose show went off the air in March. His painful discomfort with the role, and yet sweaty and desperate determination to play the part, should give anybody pause about thinking they might survive in the chair. Nobody survives, not intact.
A corollary to this is that nobody wants to go on television to be interviewed anymore - and television news is an interview medium. In part, this is because anybody large enough for an interview understands he or she will be reduced by the low stature of the people interviewing them. It's the cable curse.
Wolff thinks everyone in cable wants to ape celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and his CNN show.
The Bourdain show has been a hit on CNN, and respite from the lost plane, but in order for it to make money for CNN, it has to be repeated many times, ideally, endlessly. CNN, in other words, has to become the Discovery Channel — and it is clearly trying to.
But what about the news? What about reasonable and intelligent voices? A strong and engaging narrator? A conversation lightening rod for the rest of us?
And, more specifically, what about the 9:00 p.m. hour?
As I say, this desire to restore CNN to some aspect of what it really never was and what, anyway, it is not going to be again — an assertive and authentic news source — continues against all logic. But here is my suggestion.
Jeremy Paxman is the most famous broadcaster in Britain, a legendary interviewer and indomitable figure and, after many years, he has just, restlessly, left his job as the host of the BBC show Newsnight after 25 years. Yes, yes, there are the obvious dangers, after Morgan, of another English accent on CNN. A bad fumble, Piers.
But Paxman is the real thing. What news needs, what it cannot coherently exist without, is authority. Two generations of cable news have pretty much wiped that out in America. So it probably has to be imported. With Paxman its withering authority. With vast superiority and haughtiness, which, of course, television executives undoubtedly believe will turn off an uncomprehending American audience.
By the way, Piers Morgan now hates Paxman, since Paxman told people that Piers Morgan taught him about hacking into phones.