While naming Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker as hosts of a new 8 p.m. “roundtable” program on CNN was expected, it is still a transformational moment for the network, which has long positioned itself as being about journalism, not opinion.
“It won’t be straight down the middle, it won’t be non-biased, it will be structured just the way you would have a discussion with anybody interested in having a civil, rational conversation,” Parker, a Washington Post columnist told TVNewser soon after the announcement.
While CNN is certainly not abandoning the field of journalism, the new program will not be based on firsthand reporting, though the final format is still being developed.
Spitzer, the former New York governor who resigned from office after his involvement in a prostitution scandal, says that the program will present their opinions and the opinions of guests, but that “we are not going to present them in a way that is bombastic and unrelenting.”
In a memo to employees Wednesday, CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein defended the decision to hire commentators for one of the network’s most valuable and prestigious timeslots. Specifically, Klein argued that while Spitzer and Parker are commentators, they will base their comments on facts:
[O]ur new hosts’ backgrounds and perspectives bear obvious differences. But they agree on at least one thing: that honest, vigorous, wide-ranging debate and discussion – driven by facts, not hysteria – is the best means of uncovering the solutions America craves.
Of course, political commentators have traditionally not let facts get in the way of a good point, as CNN’s “Crossfire” showed. In one of his first orders of business as CNN’s new boss in 2005, Klein canceled “Crossfire” telling the New York Times he wanted to move CNN away from “head-butting debate shows.”
But the new show does seem to contradict what Klein told advertisers at its upfront presentation in April: