In an interview with Digiday, former CNN news chief Jonathan Klein said that if President Donald Trump loses his re-election bid, the network will suffer.
“What would go away is the bad guy in the story. There’s no antagonist. So what are we tuning in for?” Klein asked. “Grandpa is a nice guy. Everybody might be relieved to not watch as much cable news anymore and go find a book to read, a garden to plant, or a socially distanced walk to take.”
Klein knows of what he speaks. After the media repeatedly bashed George W. Bush during the last few years of his presidency, he lost his job in 2010 amid low primetime ratings at CNN which in his opinion was due in part to post-election viewer fatigue during the financial crisis. Not to mention the media’s love affair with Obama often portraying him as a savior and not the antagonist.
History could repeat itself in 2021 if Trump loses.“What Trump gave journalistic outlets was an audience that felt the urgency,” he said. “Certainly if Trump loses, that urgency among 70% of the audience might dissipate a little bit, but you’re still going to be in the midst of an economic calamity, this wrenching social debate over inequality, and have a disease that may be killing tens of thousands of people a week.”
A former CNN executive who requested anonymity admitted that Trump was good for ratings.
“I don’t think it was any more complicated than that Trump was good for ratings. Make no mistake, it’s a symbiotic relationship. The dramatic rise and relevance of CNN for better or worse is tied to Donald Trump.”
In 2018, CNN president Jeff Zucker, in a response to complaints about the amount of Trump coverage the network was airing, said that “any time you break away from the Trump story and cover other events in this era, the audience goes away,” underscoring how important Trump was to CNN’s ratings and financial success.