CNN chief defends its formula of non-biased news

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[April 20, 2010]  NEW YORK (AP) -- CNN said that it's in a "category of one" among television news networks in how it delivers non-biased news, and promised to continue emphasizing its journalism despite a ratings free-fall on its flagship network.

The network's sales pitch to advertisers on Tuesday came two weeks after the Nielsen Co. revealed that CNN's weekday prime-time viewership during the first three months of the year was down 42 percent from 2009.

"We will never abandon our core faith in having nonpartisan reporting," said Jon Klein, president of CNN U.S.

Anchor Anderson Cooper said he had never been as proud of working at CNN as he was covering the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. CNN arrived before others and stayed longer, he said.

"It was the best of CNN, and it showed the primary example of what CNN does better than anyone else," Cooper said. "A lot of people talk about the news. But somebody needs to report the news, and we do that every day."


Despite that emphasis on reporting, CNN used about a quarter of its presentation having analysts Candy Crowley, John King, David Gergen, Mary Matalin and Roland Martin talk about the news.

CNN has said that its critics are making too much of its prime-time troubles. Less than 10 percent of the company's worldwide revenue comes from prime-time on the U.S. network, said CNN chief executive Jim Walton. He acknowledged some of the doubters on Tuesday, getting laughs by saying he wanted to thank the media "for all the great coverage we've had for the last few months."

CNN laid out no new programming plans, except for a series of documentaries scheduled for the next couple of months.

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The names weren't mentioned, but Klein's reference to biased reporting clearly referred to Fox News Channel, which is far ahead in the ratings and having a boom year, and MSNBC.

"They're just wrong," said Phil Griffin, MSNBC president. "Viewers are abandoning them. They have an outdated model and they continue to hide as their ratings collapse."

Griffin said CNN doesn't recognize than many news viewers are in tune with what is going on in the evening, and they want things discussed in a fresh way. MSNBC also suffered a ratings decline in the past few months, although not as steep as CNN's.

CNN made a concession to a big day in New York, rescheduling its presentation from the afternoon to morning to avoid a conflict with the Yankees' home opener.

CNN was able to tout a smaller success: Its HLN (formerly CNN Headline News) network has seen its prime-time ratings triple since switching to an opinionated talk lineup in prime-time five years ago. Those hosts, Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell and Joy Behar, entertained advertisers with discussions of tabloid stories.

"I should send (Tiger Woods) a dozen roses for putting my show on the map," Behar said.

[Associated Press; By DAVID BAUDER]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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