Upfronts 2010: CNN Doubles Down on Long-Form Programming
Cable news network stays with "non-partisan reporting" as ratings continue to struggle
By Marisa Guthrie and Alex Weprin -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/13/2010 12:56:32 PMUpfront Central: Complete Coveragr From B&C
CNN unveiled a slew of long-form programming designed to highlight what executives insist is the cable news networks stock-in-trade, "non-partisan reporting," during its upfront presentation to advertisers and reporters Apr. 13 in New York.
The cable news channel made its commitment to journalism the centerpiece of its presentation, which it called "Newsmakers."
"We are the only credible, non partisan voice left, and that matters," said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. "Our traditional competitors have abandoned the field."
"Journalism is our core value, it is who we are, but most of all it is what allows us to inform," said Greg D'Alba, the executive VP of advertising sales for CNN.
The network is doubling down on long-form programming with several specials on topics including education, the environment, terrorism and culture. Additionally, Soledad O'Brien will anchor the two-night, two-hour special Haiti - Rescued, May 8 and 9 at 8 p.m. The documentary examines the plight of Haiti's orphans through the eyes of a 7-year-old orphan.
Anderson Cooper will helm multiple investigative hours under the umbrella title An Anderson Cooper 360 Investigation. American Al Qaeda will examine the phenomenon of home-grown Qaeda converts. The week-long series begins May 10 and includes a year-long investigation by international correspondent Nic Robertson into the case of accused New York City bomb plotter Bryant Neal Vinas. Black and White: Kids on Race explores the evolution of prejudice and segregation by revisiting the watershed 1947 "Doll Test" conducted by African-American psychologists Mamie and Kenneth Clark. Black and White bows in June.
Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta will front two specials in June: Toxic Towns USA, which looks at the myriad pollutants plaguing rural Mossville, La., which is surrounded by chemical plants; and Dads for my Daughters, which follows the plight of best-selling author Bruce Feiler (Walking the Bible), who enlisted his close male friends to be surrogate fathers for his twin daughters after Feiler's 2008 diagnosis of osteosarcoma (a rare and aggressive bone cancer).
CNN also introduced multiple long-form programs under the rubric In America: Gary & Tony Have a Baby (June) about a gay couple's journey toward parenthood via surrogacy and in vitro fertilization; and Katrina Plus Five (August), about New Orleans five years later.
Additionally, CNN's Black in America, which has already had two iterations anchored by O'Brien, will return in October with Churched, which looks at the traditions of African American churches and their role in the Civil Rights movement.
CNN executives also announced CNN.com initiatives including several blogs: Eatocracy will cover food related issues; BeliefBlog will look at religion; This Just In will focus on breaking news; and Afghanistan Crossroads will provide updates from CNN's team of correspondents in Afghanistan.
Executives also stressed the multiplatform environment, saying that when CNN.com and CNN mobile apps are taken into account, it reaches far more people than just the television network itself.
"So much has been written about us lately, however is the complete story being told? There is no way it is," D'Alba said. "You bet CNN is everywhere, you bet television is everywhere. That is the real story."
D'Alba was referring to weeks of media scrutiny following CNN's Q2 ratings, with columnists of all stripes weighing in on the fate of CNN and what it should do to adjust.
Walton joked about that coverage in his opening remarks.
"I would... like to thank the members of the media in this room for all of the great coverage we have had over the last few months," Walton said, to laughs from the audience.
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