Former CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin said Thursday that the news network has abandoned substantive journalism in favor of “prognostication” and “squabbling” commentary.
“Unfortunately, in the past 20 months CNN’s management has let down its viewers and its journalists by sidelining the issues and real reporting in favor of pundits, prognostication and substance-free but entertaining TV ‘moments,’” Ms. Yellin wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.
“Even though CNN has many able journalists prepared to report stories and talk to voters in communities across the country, its programs were dominated by pundits in Washington and New York squabbling over tweets and polls,” she continued. “From a journalistic perspective, this model poses real problems. Surrogates are held to a different standard from reporters and often given airtime even when they’ve proven to be reckless with the truth.”
Ms. Yellin blamed the reason for CNN’s decline in real journalism on the fact that it’s corporately owned by Time Warner, which acquired the network in 1996. Now that AT&T is attempting to finalize an $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, Ms. Yellin said the pressure to maximize profits will be even higher.
“That’s why I believe that as a condition of Time Warner’s bid to merge with AT&T, CNN should be sold to a new independent entity,” she wrote. “Though AT&T has dismissed talk of a sale, one could be compelled by regulators. A consortium of concerned Americans — philanthropists, foundations, small-dollar donors — could fund a trust to operate an independent CNN dedicated to news in the public interest. Subscription fees from cable and other service providers, along with ad revenue, would allow the network to support itself.
“Freed of the relentless pressure to drive up profits, an independent CNN could rededicate itself to ‘journalism first,’” she continued. “Reporters could focus on informing the audience and exposing wrongdoing. This would create opportunities for journalistic rigor, risk and innovation.
“Thanks to CNN’s innovative technology, seasoned journalists and global reach, it can again be the world’s most trusted TV news brand. But only if the coming years are different than the last,” Ms. Yellin wrote.
In response to the op-ed, a CNN spokesman told The Washington Post that the network chose not to renew Ms. Yellin’s contract in 2013.