Opinion | The perils of the impartial middle

If you seek to be a centrist news site, you had best devise a better strategy than CNN’s Chris Licht


By: Michael Bugeja

May 17, 2023


Fancy this: Fox News invites President Joe Biden for a 70-minute prime-time gala packed with progressive supporters who cheer his policies on gun control, climate change and voting rights. What would be the result if Rupert Murdoch condoned this improbable scenario and Sean Hannity gaslit the fuming audience afterward, explaining why viewers benefited from knowing the aims of the opposition?

The result would be a mass exodus from Fox to Newsmax.

Many CNN viewers feel the same way in the aftermath of CNN’s disastrous town hall with former President Donald Trump.

The backlash, covered astutely by Poynter’s Tom Jones, is a lesson for outlets that cotton to a particular political psychographic and then decide to abandon it, failing to retain regular viewers while divining for new ones. This is the case with Chris Licht, CNN’s president, purportedly in pursuit of objectivity.

I can speak with some authority about objectivity. In 2003, The Columbia Journalism Review cited my definition among the best: “Objectivity is seeing the world as it is, not how you wish it were.”

Since 2014, cable news viewers have been seeing the world as they wished it were. They seek affirmation, not information. A Pew Research study concluded that liberals and conservatives “inhabit different worlds” with little overlap in the news they consume and trust.

Among other tendencies, the study found conservatives get political news from a single source, Fox News. Two-thirds say most of their close friends and associates share their views about government and policies.

By contrast, those with liberal views get their news from a variety of sources, from NPR to The New York Times. However, they are “more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or ‘defriend’ someone on a social network — as well as to end a personal friendship — because of politics.”

That might explain what is about to happen to CNN. Licht is going to be unfriended by a tsunami of viewers.

For the rest of the article, visit: https://www.poynter.org/commentary/2023/cnn-turning-centrist-objective-trump-town-hall-chris-licht/

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