Monday, January 08, 2007

Welcome to the era of "CNN: Special Investigations Unit,"

The title reminds me of the CSI and Law and Order franchises, but I have to admit I really like this new project. I think the other Christiane is just terrific - my hero - and I'm glad that her "Steps " special was the highest rating CNN show in 2006. I wonder how this will interfere with Anderson's work at 60 minutes. It is obvious that Klein is watching his ROI on him.


Photo Caption: CNN/U.S. President Jonathan Klein, left, with news chief Jim Walton, produced documentaries at CBS.
(CNN)
CNN adding weekend investigative series
By Matea Gold, Times Staff WriterJanuary 8, 2007


NEW YORK — Heartened by the success it's found with documentaries about Osama bin Laden and waste in the federal government, CNN is debuting a new weekly investigative series this month to showcase long-form pieces by some of the network's best-known correspondents. "CNN: Special Investigations Unit," which will premiere Jan. 20, is the latest initiative at the cable news network, which has undergone a raft of personnel and programming changes since Jonathan Klein, a former CBS News executive, took over as president of CNN/U.S. two years ago.Under Klein, the network has spotlighted a coterie of stars with distinctive personalities and moved away from traditional stand-up news reports in favor of more packaged stories but has yet to move out of second place. "The logical evolution now is to add more long-form investigative work, because we've got by far the best team of reporters of anybody," Klein said. "We want to put them to use."The new hourlong series, which will air Saturdays and Sundays at 5 p.m. with a repeat at 8 p.m., will feature work by chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and anchors Anderson Cooper and Soledad O'Brien as well as correspondents like John Roberts, John King and Candy Crowley.Klein said viewer response to documentaries CNN aired last year confirmed that there is an appetite for more in-depth pieces. An August special by Amanpour called "In the Footsteps of Bin Laden" drew more than 2 million people, the biggest audience of its time slot all year. "Broken Government," a series that ran in October about dysfunction in the branches of federal government, also saw a spike in the ratings.The weekend program is being added to the schedule as Klein enters his third year at the helm of CNN. During his tenure, CNN mainstays Aaron Brown and Daryn Kagan have departed as Klein has given larger portfolios to anchors such as Cooper, known for his on-the-scene emotive reporting, and Lou Dobbs, who brings a populist bent to financial news. The network president also upended the schedule, scrapping afternoon shows "Crossfire" and "Inside Politics" in favor of "The Situation Room," a three-hour news block anchored out of Washington by Wolf Blitzer."If anything, we've been able to do more faster than I thought we would," Klein said.But CNN continues to lag far behind industry leader Fox News, which will celebrate its fifth year as the top-ranked cable news network at the end of this month. According to Nielsen Media Research, CNN averaged 752,000 viewers in prime time in 2006, down 12% since the end of 2004, when Klein took over. Fox News drew an average of 1.4 million prime-time viewers last year, a drop of 15% in the same period. Meanwhile, third-place MSNBC — the only cable news network to gain viewers last year — has been gaining on CNN in key hours. (Its "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" beat CNN's "Paula Zahn Now" last quarter.)Brad Adgate, a former CNN sales researcher who now directs research at Horizon Media, said CNN's efforts to create appointment viewing have had mixed results."It's a very, very competitive environment," Adgate said. "To expect CNN to suddenly boost ratings and get a younger median age I don't think is realistic. I think probably their best hope is leveraging their brand name to other platforms."CNN executives disagree, pointing to the network's gains in the last quarter of 2006, especially among the 25- to 54-year-old viewers sought by advertisers on news programs, an audience that grew by 17% in prime time compared with the same time period a year earlier. Its coverage of November's midterm elections fared particularly well, drawing the largest number of those young viewers on election day and the biggest audience overall the next day."You can't bite the entire enchilada at once," Klein said. "You've got to nibble away at it, and we're making great headway."One new avenue to boost viewership he hopes will be through documentaries, which the network chief called a neglected form."I think cable news in general fell a little too in love with the latest breaking developments and not enough with the explanation and context," said Klein, who produced documentaries at CBS. "There's really no true investigative journalism going on on a regular basis in cable news. People call some of their shows documentaries, but they're really just tawdry true crime stories. We're going to do real reporting."CNN is not alone in its pursuit of documentary journalism, however. Former ABC anchor Ted Koppel is producing long-form investigations for the Discovery Channel, while MSNBC has launched a new nightly "doc block" that recently featured pieces on the child welfare system and American prisons, among other topics.The first installment of "CNN: Special Investigations Unit" will be "The War Within," a piece by Amanpour about Muslim extremism in Britain. Roberts is working on an investigation about the Shiite insurgency in Iraq, while chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta is planning several pieces on the health threats caused by food contamination.Produced by CNN Productions, the new program will replace the documentary series "CNN Presents," which had a brief run in the weekend time slot and will now air as a special throughout the year. Taken together, the network plans to air 15 additional hours of documentaries this year.

9 comentarios:

Anonymous said...

Finally some details about this new project. Anderson's a big Law and Order fan, maybe he thought up the name. ;)

He's been in the promos so I guess he'll be able to do both SIU and 60 Minutes. This sounds like it'll be an interesting series.

jr said...

I guess the proof will be in the pudding, if SIU is replacing "CNN Presents" on the weekends, then it seems like just a "name change" to me. Either that or CNN has decided to try doing more of a 60-minutes (CBS) type show.

ivy said...

I agree that real inverstigative reporting is really lacking on cnn. That is long overdue, what Klein said sounds very promising. I only hope it will be true investigative reporting. Somehow I'm skeptical about AC in that role, would love to be pleasantly surprised.

marie said...

Chris, thanks for the update!

Anonymous said...

This show has a lot of possibilities, I hope that CNN takes advantage of them...

Anonymous said...

Not to hash & rehash the Ann saga, but you cannot tell me that what LorieAnn says below is anything besides totally lame.

Hi Jeff,
Charity, is not decided by a vote. It's up to the person giving the bucks to determine how their wealth is spread around. Oprah doesn't need shouting from the peanut gallery, she needs us all to follow suit. If it's a dime or it's a million we should give whenever and Wherever we can. That's my bossy two cents worth. Thanks Oprah.
Take Care

Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 10:14 PM ET

CT said...

And Betty Ann weighs in with her brilliant and not to be missed commentary:

What Oprah has done for these girls is so great. Oprah is GREAT! How amazingly wonderful that these underpriviledged girls will have opportunities and education that will change their lives and those around them. I am deeply touched by Oprah's generosity to make a change in Africa. Awesome!
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 1:39 PM ET


*gag*

Anonymous said...

ct, BettyAnn's response is even lamer than LorieAnn's. Amazing!

Ol' BettyAnn was promoting a trip to the Big Apple this past Spring to get a glimpse of Anderson, yet staged as a trip for the school. That TX town she lives in has the claim to fame as the oldest town in TX. How fitting.
http://www.sfasu.edu/pubaffairs/pressreleases/january2006/20nyc.asp

CT said...

LOL @ anon 4:16! I'm pretty certain now that the photo she sent in on AC360's NYE show was NOT the REAL Betty Ann because she doesn't sound a day under 90 with those boring comments. Actually, I know some older people who are MUCH more interesting and smarter than BA sounds!

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