Accuracy in Media

On Wednesday, less than a week after reports surfaced that CNN parent company Time Warner was considering replacing CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton because of the cable news network’s ratings struggles, came the announcement that CNN is canceling “John King USA” at the end of the month.

In its place will be another hour of “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” which currently precedes Mr. King’s program. King will remain at CNN and become the lead campaign reporter for the network.

Ken Jautz, the executive vice president of CNN U.S., described the changes in a memo to the staff as an effort to bolster the network’s political coverage “heading into the critical stretch of the 2012 campaign.”

This is John’s seventh presidential campaign, fourth with CNN, and making him available across our programming lineup allows us to better tap his skills and experience, especially on the ground reporting in major battleground states and among critical voting blocs.

King’s program began in the spring of 2010, and while the show never had great ratings it had managed to hold its own for a while. But its ratings have fallen 28 percent since last October with an even larger 40 percent drop in the key demo, losing most of that audience to MSNBC’s Al Sharpton.

The cancellation of King’s program shouldn’t come as a surprise, as a look at the ratings shows that King frequently lost 40 to 50% of the audience lead-in from Blitzer and often struggled to attract 50,000 viewers in the advertiser-focused A25-54 demo.

Once MSNBC added Sharpton to their lineup last fall, King didn’t stand much of a chance of surviving long term as his bland personality and CNN’s “muddled middle” programming strategy left him with a boring program when compared to the fiery Sharpton on MSNBC and the more engaging Brett Baier on Fox News.

Cancelling King’s program and extending Blitzer’s show to three hours isn’t really a programming solution as much as it is a band-aid approach to a much larger problem of generally weak programming.

Jautz and Walton need to make some bold moves if they hope to save CNN from falling into the abyss, and this one falls far short of that.

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