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CNN Chief: Programming Should Have a Point of View, But Remain Non-Ideological

In the latest issue of Broadcasting & Cable, Andrea Morabito has a wide-ranging interview with CNN/U.S. executive VP Ken Jautz (subscription required).

The lineup changes Jautz has led come up a number of times, as do the recent comments made by Roger Ailes about Wolf Blitzer. The result sees Jautz arguing that CNN programs should have a point of view reflective of their anchors, but should also strive to be non-ideological:

Would you consider another political debate show in the future?

We do provide opinion from various sides of an issue. We’ve attempted to move away from the he-said-she-said, down the middle journalism and programming. We do in fact provide more analysis and more opinion and more debate within these various programs.

One of the things we have done with these shows also is that we have allowed the shows themselves to come to their own point of view on certain issues they are looking into. That point of view is based on their own reporting and based on fact and not based on ideology. A good example of that is one of the first changes that I made a year ago in coming into this was revamping the Anderson show, AC360, and we underscored much more the “Keeping Them Honest” segment, which basically is about aggressive independence, holding institutions and politicians and people accountable. That set the tone for the overall lineup.

Roger Ailes recently told the AP why he thinks CNN can’t compete with Fox News, saying that while someone like Wolf Blitzer is an excellent reporter, he’s not a star. How do you respond to that?

We think that there is room for a fact-based, non-ideological network whose programming is focused on and based on quality journalism. We think in this day and age there are a lot of people who want and appreciate that. We think there are a lot of people who are tired of partisan, ideological carping. And therefore, I think that any of our principal hosts who are all experienced, solid journalists have a following and deserve to have a following, and a lot of people appreciate their skills.

But would you describe Wolf as a star? Do you prefer another term?

I’ll repeat again that we aim to create a lineup of hosts who are proven journalists both in and out of the studio, who are excellent communicators and have a following. I’m not going to characterize it more.

But your tenure at HLN was defined by creating stars like Glenn Beck and Nancy Grace, and that had to be a consideration when your bosses picked you to run CNN. Based on your success there, do you think primetime needs “star anchors” to drive ratings?

Yes, I do. What I was commenting on was positioning of network and programming. As for people, I do think programming should be engaging and compelling and at times entertaining. Yes, one of the goals for us for the year was to create more distinctive and engaging programming. And I think we have done that. And we have done that partly through the lineup change, because I think many of our talent are in fact stars and very engaging hosts. Not only are they quality journalists or reporters, they are proven, as I said, inside and outside the studio and therefore they are engaging hosts and communicators.

You can read the entire interview here.

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