The Right Direction for CNN

New CNN boss Jeff Zucker has been making some sweeping changes over at the troubled network, and thank goodness he is. It’s been long overdue.

What has the former ABC executive done in the last few weeks? Well, he completely blew up Starting Points, CNN’s old morning show, and hired Chris Cuomo to co-lead a new morning show. CNN’s morning show was terrible, especially when you put it up against Fox & Friends, no matter what you think of the network’s politics.

Zucker ended the contracts of longtime CNN contributors James Carville and Mary Matalin. And Managing Editor Mark Whitaker stepped down in a statement that makes your ears perk up:

We have a new leader with his own forceful ideas about where to take CNN’s reporting, programming and brand. For him to succeed, I believe he deserves his own team and management structure and the freedom to communicate one clear vision to the staff.”

Zucker has hired Rachel Nichols, the longtime ESPN reporter, to host a weekend sports show and contribute throughout the week. CNN barely covered sports before. John Berman and Jake Tapper are also joining the CNN roster.

And all of these changes have happened in less than a week. It signals a shift towards bigger personalities that can build fanbases for their timeslots and an emphasis on other areas of interest beyond politics, such as pop culture and sports.

In other words, are more entertaining and engaging CNN. That’s exactly what it needs to stop its ratings disaster. Anderson Cooper, the network’s biggest star, still lags behind all of Fox News and much of MSNBC and its standard bearer, Rachel Maddow.

Some of you may worry that CNN’s commitment to breaking news and independent, nonpartisan reporting is about to go out the window. But I think that’s shortsighted thinking that would doom CNN to self-destruction. You can be entertaining AND not have your network take one side or the other in the endless political chatter. And bringing in topics like sports will broaden its appeal.

Good luck, Zucker. It’s going to be a painful transition, and a lot of people are not going to be happy by the time you’re done, but this is the way to save CNN from a slow and painful death.

Image courtesy of CNN