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Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker Could Revive CNN's TV Ratings Mojo

4 years ago
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The disgraced former governor of New York will soon step into the one-hour nightly 8 p.m. EST time slot at CNN to be vacated by Campbell Brown. Despite what you think of Eliot Spitzer as a human being, from a programming standpoint, the channel that Ted Turner built in the heyday of cable television has negotiated a very exciting deal for itself. Since his previous full-time job ended abruptly in 2008, Spitzer, now billed by CNN as a "legendary prosecutor and progressive governor," has been rehabilitating himself as a journalist. (For those who have forgotten, he was caught in an FBI sting illegally contracting with a call girl for illicit reasons.)

CNN's President Jon Klein confirmed Wednesday, after weeks of rumors, that the former attorney general and white-collar crime avenger (later known briefly as "Client # 9") will be paired with "iconoclastic conservative commentator" Kathleen Parker to co-anchor the original 24-hour cable news network's evening prime-time program. Parker first pierced the consciousness of many fans during the 2008 election when she wrote that then-newly hatched political phenomenon Sarah Palin was (at least at that point) still playing a farm team game of politics.

parker spitzer cnn

Whatever else the counterpoint view of Parker will bring to the mix, she is decidedly not "out of her league." Her syndicated column runs in more than 400 newspapers throughout the heartland, and last year she won a Pulitzer Prize for her witty political commentary.

So much of TV news stardom comes from being in the right place on a big story at the right moment in your career. Parker coincidentally lives much of the time in this season's most politically interesting state on the map -- she commutes to D.C. from Camden, S.C., where her husband practices law.

(South Carolina has had an outsize share of political sex scandals. When Gov. Mark Sanford was caught cheating on his wife, Jenny, the South Carolina first lady refused to subscribe to the steely stoicism of Spitzer's wife, Silda. The Sanfords are divorced but cordial, and the Spitzers are still married. We wish both couples all the best in the next news cycle. )

According to the press release, Parker and Spitzer will host "a spirited, nightly round-table discussion program." Viewers will be sure to tune in to see how "spirited" their discussion truly is the first time a political sex scandal hits the headlines after the show debuts this fall.

Though journalism is still a semi-respectable occupation, many in his new profession believe Spitzer continues to hold dreams of re-entering the elective office sweepstakes. The ever suspicious citizens of New York City like my PD colleague Walter Shapiro, will no doubt be the last to forgive him, but a chagrined politician could do worse than have a seat in hundreds of thousands of living rooms every night. Wherever the meteoric ascension and crashing decline trajectory his career takes his future, for CNN at least, the notoriety of their new anchorman is bound to be value added.

I admit I have not watched Spitzer's more recent appearances in front of the camera as guest pundit and opinion maker with soiled portfolio. I understand from colleagues he's got pretty good "Q" (that special quality some viewers find irresistible in newscasters), but Q isn't enough (nor, for that matter, is IQ, or Campbell Brown would have had a hit show), and it's an open question whether the new guy on the CNN bench will be believable as their latest integrity filter for news delivery.

Producing television, like running a state government, is an immensely collaborative profession. With television news, most of the magic comes from the other side of the camera -- in the lens view and in the edit or control room. Spitzer lost a lot of credibility when he betrayed his constituency and political supporters along with his wife.

He should internally acknowledge early and often the essential news gathering, whispering in earpieces, modulating of microphones, (also, makeup application and key light placement) provided by his new colleagues. The competition for the new headliner duo will include Bill O'Reilly on Fox, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, and Nancy Grace on a CNN sister channel, and Eliot will need a supportive team to take on "the toughest time slot in cable news."

The CNN logo has struggled maintaining an audience in the years since "Crossfire" was a nightly fix for news junkies. (After CNN announced the program, New York University media professor Jay Rosen tweeted: "Fun thing for media watchers over the next few days will be CNN trying to explain that its new show is NOT Crossfire Returns. Not. Not. Not.")

While comedian Jon Stewart, whose media criticism effectively ended the two-decade reign of "Crossfire," will likely not be scheduled to guest on the new Kathleen & Eliot show, I bet Comedy Central's Daily Show producers have been gathering archival video since CNN's announcement confirmed the deal early Wednesday.
Filed Under: Woman Up, Media
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7 Comments

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Sam

So, does Elliot Spitzer have to register as a sex offender in DC?

October 05 2010 at 5:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vivralafrance

CNN will always be the best news organization in the world. They are always the first on the scene and the first to report. CNN is the news organization everyone turns to when a crisis or disaster happens. CNN has more reports , contacts, infrastructure , news bureaus then all other news groups. CNN will always be on top, and like always everyone throws rocks at the top dog and is jealous.

June 25 2010 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lockerobert3

Personal issue are far less important than intellectual integrity and public courage. My wife (who is not an America) on coming here, said (after six months) in answer to my question, "What do you think of Americans?" Americans are friently but they are simple people." I asked, "what do you mean simple?" "Because," she replied, "Americans unlike Europeans will accept the most simple minded explanations for cause and effect," like blame Obama for the oil spill and the financial collapse. Obviously, just in terms of temporal and spacial logic, he cannot be blamed for either. But Americans will accept and endlessly repete such simple minded explanations. That is why we need commentators with some insight into events, who can clarify them in ways that elevate public discussions. I think Spitzer can do that, despite his "personal" failings.

June 25 2010 at 11:45 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
rkthompson1329

it is going to take more than those two libs to "revive" CNN.

June 24 2010 at 8:22 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
FRED

Help cnn ratings? Not likely, not even Rush Limbaugh could help cnn.

June 23 2010 at 10:55 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to FRED's comment
vivralafrance

CNN is a news organization, and only employers journalists and those with experience and insight into legal issues or politics etc. and has experience and education in those arenas . Mr. Limbaugh is a great entertainer and personality, but like Mr. Beck brings nothing to the table in the area of education, knowledge, and experience. He will be remembered as one of the great entertainers of this period, a tabloid reported, and a very successful TV personality akin to the likes of Jerry Springer, Montel Williams, Larry King, Glen Beck, all the reports on Saturday Night live ( Chevy Chase, etc.).

June 25 2010 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
maggies3@yahoo.com

I've seen Spitzer several times on MSNBC lately and have been unimpressed. Feel like he's trying too hard to show how smart he is. Parker, however, I have enjoyed when she's appeared on Chris Matthews Sunday show,

June 23 2010 at 9:43 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
andrc657

Congratulations to Eliot Spitzer. He has certainly paid dearly for his past mistakes and deserves another chance to contribute. Hopefully his new show with Ms. Parker, along with Olberman at MSNBC will give O'Reilly some stiff competition.

June 23 2010 at 7:31 PM Report abuse -11 rate up rate down Reply

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