CNN’s New Ideas

Jomathan Klein has moved aggressively to make CNN’s prime-time producers shift their focus to longer, more-polished pieces, eventually creating a sort of “60 Minutes” every night. It’s an art he knows personally: for two decades he worked as producer at CBS and, as the network’s executive vice president, he oversaw its prime-time programming. Forever roaming the halls and popping in on —producers, he’s transformed CNN culture—news meetings are now singularly focused on finding characters and discussing storytelling technique. In the past, CNN was plagued by a bumbling media image. Klein has imposed strict message discipline and many staffers refused to talk on the record about the network for fear of losing their jobs. Privately, though, many staffers express discontent with the new regime, saying it’s not possible to make “60 Minutes”- style pieces on a limited budget and tight time constraints.

The ratings have yet to pro-vide consolation: in May CNN averaged only 610,000 viewers in prime time, still well above third-place finisher (and NEWSWEEK strategic partner) MSNBC, but still far below Fox’s 1,401,000 viewers. CNN officials say they have numbers to be proud of, pointing to strong improvement in the key 25-to-54 demographic and a powerful performance by the brand name when CNN’s numbers are combined with those of its sister network, Headline News. That network has improved dramatically in the ratings thanks almost entirely to its legal-affairs program hosted by Nancy Grace. Last Thursday, Grace drew 804,000 viewers, more than any CNN prime-time program save for “Larry King Live.”