Should CNN Copy NPR?

By Beacon Staff

This graph is making the rounds this week, with many bloggers posing the question: “Where is the NPR of cable news?” The fact is, right now, there isn’t one. Both Fox News and MSNBC appeal to certain audiences, most of which share their respective points of view (I know for the much of the day both offer straight news coverage, but that’s not when the majority of people are watching). Meanwhile, CNN is in a ratings free fall and is getting plenty of unsolicited advice on how it can be saved.

The New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat suggests:

What might work, instead, is a cable news network devoted to actual debate. For all the red-faced shouting, debate isn’t really what you get on Fox and MSNBC. There’s room, it would seem, for a network where representatives from the right and left can both feel comfortable, and compete on roughly equal terms.

Rod Dreher, at beliefnet.com, writes:

You know what I’d like? A cable news channel with a bias toward the thoughtful and interesting. A place where you might hear a discussion that raises issues and angles on issues that you haven’t heard a thousand other places.

National Public Radio, in an unusual media success story, has seen its listenership double in the last decade. <a href="http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/134/finely-tuned.html" title="From Fast Company:”>From Fast Company:

Its programming now reaches 26.4 million listeners weekly – far more than USA Today’s 2.3 million daily circ or Fox News’ 2.8 million prime-time audience. When newspapers were closing bureaus, NPR was opening them, and now runs 38 around the world, better than CNN.

Whether NPR’s low-key approach to news and culture can translate to America’s television sets remains to be seen. When Showtime began airing the popular NPR series, Ira Glass’ “This American Life,” it worked. But what would happen when segments turned to politics? Would debates without the usual heated rhetoric draw a television audience? In this environment, it would certainly be a bold experiment.