"It makes you wonder what direction CNN is going in. For 24 years there was nowhere else I wanted to be because of the 24-hour platform we had at CNN. I would hate for other programming to get in front of that."
-- Former CNN producer Kim Segal
Segal's been based out of Florida for as long as I can remember and she's highly regarded by just about anyone who ever worked in news in the Miami area.
What she's talking about here is the fact that, thanks to programming restructuring by Jeff Zucker, CNN just last month laid off around 40 people. One of them was apparently a pregnant producer who was just a few weeks away from giving birth to twins. It's the nature of the business that there are occasionally bloodlettings, but when you couple the release of editorial staffing with nonsense like the hour-long special on Justin Bieber the network will be running tonight, it honestly does make you wonder what the hell they're thinking over there.
The problem, unfortunately, is that numbers-wise CNN really has nowhere to go but up, so if Zucker can somehow stave off the hemorrhaging and create even a mild bump viewership he'll be hailed as a success. His entire career he's been known as a self-mythologizing boy wonder of quick-fixes and clever little tricks that work well in the short term but which prove disastrous over time. His tenure as the head of NBC saw the network go from #1 to an almost unimaginable #5 in the ratings. By any measure he should've been radioactive in television for decades after that, but there's no accounting for the value of name recognition in TV and a constant willingness by management to put spoiled milk back in the fridge in the hope that it'll somehow get better.
Five years ago CNN had a major talent purge in December that not only led to the end of Miles O'Brien's 16-year career with the network and the dismantling of most of its science and technology division, it began a long and steady drip of lay-offs and cutbacks. Granted, that was right at the very start of the economic crash, but it's important to keep in mind that it's always easier to get rid of people than it is to hire them. Doing more with less is a corporate mantra and nowhere is it held to more tightly than in corporate media; if they could figure out a way to run the whole fucking thing with animated GIFs come-to-life, believe me they would.
If Zucker had so far shown that his intention was to return CNN to its position as the gold standard of television news, it would be one thing. But, as Segal says and Justin Bieber specials and poop cruise coverage proves, that's just not the case. That makes laying off 40 people feel even worse than it already should. Because there's no defense in doing it so you can go on cranking out crap.