CNN’s Klein Addresses Journalists at NAB

Apr 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

As broadcasters develop methods to deliver news content to different digital portable devices, the most important element is not the architecture, but trust, said Jon Klein, CNN president in a keynote at NAB. Mr. Klein was slated to speak about “IPTV” and he surprised audiences by instead delivering a speech that outlined several key points journalists should follow to aggressively do their jobs in a digital era.

That starts by imposing better standards on news before it enters the digital pipes, he said.

First, journalists must dig up the facts and report them. The “infotainment” of news has gone too far, he said. There’s “too much ‘tainment and not enough info,” he said. They also need to avoid innuendo and opinion, he said. Fox News Channel has demonstrated that viewers do indeed have an appetite for opinion, but Mr. Klein believes that while bias may appeal to some viewers, most just want the facts.

Since Mr. Klein joined CNN in December, the network has grown its share of prime-time cable news viewing among adults 25 to 54. In December CNN’s share of that audience was 19 percent and rose to 29 percent in March, while Fox News Channel’s share dropped from 58 percent to 45 percent, according to Nielsen numbers provided by CNN. “We’ve cut their lead in half,” he said. That’s come from refreshing stories more regularly and covering a wider swath of topics, he explained.

Journalists also need to make sure they cover what matters. Viewers want the latest news, he said, not a rehash on the Michael Jackson trial each day. The press should also police themselves and establish clear standards and ethics. To that end, he suggested the White House Press Corp cancel its gala dinner next week and use that money to develop standards. “When a fake reporter infiltrates the White House, who suffers the most? The White House? No, the press corps.”

The session was earmarked as a keynote leading into a panel about IPTV, rather than a session on trust and credibility. Mr. Klein connected the dots by explaining that IP is likely to be the means by which news is delivered in 10 years.

He said, “I think it’s pretty clear that digitization creates momentum all its own. It’s such a cleaner, better way to both create and deliver content and it is for sure a much better way to ingest content because of the portability factory. We’ve got to as content creators think about ways that we can grab on to that and manage how our content is perceived and treated out there. … We have to impose standards before it leaves the factory that whatever gets our name on it is the best, most trustworthy content you can have.”