Making the Moos-t of a Prime Time Slot

As CNN continues to try to figure out how to compete in prime time, the network recently announced that former New York Democratic governor Eliot Spitzer and Washington Post conservative columnist Kathleen Parker will soon launch their own show, a roundtable discussion of ideas set to air in the 8PM (read: O’Reilly and Olbermann) slot.

If CNN truly believes that the key to winning the ratings war is to be the news-centric antidote to the partisan opinion-mongering on Fox News and MSNBC, this is not really the way to do it. This new show is set up to run on ideological clashes. It looks like Crossfire Lite.

Dan Kennedy has one great idea — a version of the highly acclaimed CNN International that focuses on, shockingly enough, the news. (Read some more of his smart thoughts about CNN.) But I have an alternative suggestion.

Jeanne Moos.

For a long time, Jeanne Moos — known for her quirky, offbeat news packages – has been one of my favorite CNN correspondents. (And as someone who used to watch CNN for almost four hours a day at my old job, I know from CNN correspondents.) Her segments are a refreshing complement to the standard drudge of news readers and punditry. If you think about it, Moos may be CNN’s most unique asset.

Why would this work? Look at “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” One great thing about those shows it that they give people the news with a spoonful of sugar. The programs are so entertaining, you almost don’t realize that you’re getting caught up on the intricacies of Congressional debate or being exposed to the hypocrisies of political rhetoric.

In an era where those shows can win viewers – and influence – by virtue of blending irreverence with information, why can’t someone like Moos tap that market, while bringing the gravitas of a credible journalist (check out her international reporting chops) to the table and tamping down the hipster snark by a notch or three?

The fact of the matter is, CNN needs to do something bold. It is not going to capture the prime time audience by serving up some network TV newbies in an ideological face-off. It needs to distinguish itself. So (and the same argument could apply for “CNN International”) why not look within at what already makes it unique?

You can follow this Jeanne Moos Twitter bot — sadly not the actual person — to get updates on new segments. Here are some of her recent pieces:

Reaction to the USA’s winning World Cup goal against Algeria:

Analysis of BP CEO Tony Hayward’s Congressional testimony:

Is that President Obama in the video for “Whoomp! There It Is”?

I know this idea has an Olbermann’s chance at an NRA rally of becoming reality, but it reflects my belief that news organizations need to not only push the envelope, but invent a whole new kind of envelope in order to succeed — and make it worthwhile to us, the viewers.

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