In years past, CNN had garnered a reputation for being the voice of the Left. Detractors even called it the “Clinton News Network,” pitting it against Fox News in the war for the ear and attention of the people. However, the more liberal-leaning news outlet has recently acquired new ownership, and that ownership has issued a warning to CNN employees — “be prepared for a time of change.”
That promise of burgeoning change has been handed down by David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Brothers Discovery and the new owner of CNN. Zaslav has wasted no time making sweeping changes that have caused unease among the seasoned CNN ranks. The long-running show “Reliable Sources” was promptly canceled, and anchor Brian Stelter was let go. Those changes were just the beginning of sweeping shifts within the network and for the American people who leaned on CNN as a reliable news source.
A Sharp Shift for Television News
The apparent shifts within CNN’s structure have left people who relied on the source scrambling to find other places for left-leaning news. The old standard for moderate or left-leaning information has been MSNBC, and they remain an option for many. According to recent studies, more people are getting their news from digital sources, such as social media, on their smartphones. However, an estimated 40 percent of people still get their information from television.
Billionaire John Malone, who sits on the board of Warner Brothers Discovery, has heavily influenced David Zaslav’s decision-making, even before the purchase of CNN. Many feel his presence looms heavily over the shift in direction at the news network.
As Malone told CNBC, “Fox News, in my opinion, has followed an interesting trajectory of trying to have ‘news’ news, I mean some actual journalism, embedded in a program schedule of all opinions.” Malone has made no secret of his wish for CNN to take a more Right-leaning angle, and many feel this desire has seeped into Zaslav’s plan for the network.
With significant changes such as Stelter’s dismissal and an uptick of criticism against President Joe Biden since the buyout, there is fear that any left-leaning aspects at CNN will disintegrate over time. This potential disintegration leaves the genuine possibility that those loyal to the network as their primary news source may slowly become acclimated to a new worldview.
The Great Importance of Balance
It’s imperative that news sources are balanced and that people seek out various news sources to help them form more educated opinions. Even if one strongly opposes the other side, it helps to understand the thought process outside of an echo chamber.
If one is only consuming media that confirms their bias, society and critical thinking may grind to a halt. A well-educated populace benefits any country, and it can be challenging to support that well-educated populace if sources of facts and essential information are skewed.
Historically, journalism has been the great equalizer that holds all accountable, regardless of their position on the political spectrum. However, somewhere along the line, networks began bolstering particular candidates with biased worldviews that better matched those of their target markets. The more entertainment value seeped into the news, the muddier the idea of journalistic integrity became.
Picking Up on the Shift
There’s hope that people who regularly watch CNN for their news will pick up on this sharp pivot. The fear exists that as CNN slowly introduces more and more right-leaning content and ideas, people will be unaware of the change.
A seamless transition may lead to more people being “baby-fed” ideas that stand in stark contrast to what they previously believed. People may have to diversify their news diet, introducing more independent news outlets like Vice or Vox. Sticking with CNN as they slowly turn up the heat in the proverbial cooking pot could be a gateway into Right-leaning media that takes a more blatant approach.
Except for MSNBC, there does not seem to be a major news network stepping in to take the liberal banner from CNN. The aforementioned independent news stations are gaining traction, especially among younger viewers. Still, older viewers who are dedicated to television-borne news media may have a harder time diversifying their viewing in favor of digital news outlets.
A Need for Clarity
In these uncertain times, clarity in our information sources is needed more than ever. We get closer to a more united country when we better understand how the ‘other side’ views things. It can be easy to villainize the other side, especially if our echo chambers feed the idea that the other side is wrong — or, worse yet, inherently evil.
People should seek out various sources to obtain better clarity when breaking news hits the airwaves. Read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, see what Vice has to say, what MSNBC’s take may be, and, even if your politics remain moderate or left-of-center, head over to CNN.
Within this variety, we will find the necessary clarity and the view outside the echo chamber. Who buys what outlets will no longer matter as we have the critical thinking skills to know what is good information and what is meant to be inflammatory entertainment.
Amani Wells-Onyioha is a political expert, civil rights advocate and thought leader. Working with Sole Strategies as their operations director, she is the engine behind progressive candidates seeking to uplift underrepresented communities.