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This is CNN?

Posted by Kara Miller, Culture Club  May 4, 2011 08:51 AM

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Once upon a time, when James Earl Jones - channeling the mystery of Darth Vader and the brashness of Ted Turner - told us that "This is CNN," we knew what he meant.
But times have changed.

Last week, when CNBC's rising young star Erin Burnett said she was bailing out of CNBC and heading to CNN, you had to wonder what awaited her.

More visibility? Probably. More prime time, more flexibility, more leverage? Without a doubt.

But CNN also has a reputation of offering anchors golden opportunities - and then pushing the door-in-the-floor button. Think Aaron Brown, Paula Zahn, Campbell Brown, Kathleen Parker. Prime time is littered with big-name journalists hailed as saviors, people poached from great news-gathering organizations, men and women who weren't hired to be Bill O'Reilly - and, not surprisingly, couldn't outshout him.

So, as Erin Burnett - a serious, effective, down-the-line journalist - packs her bags for CNN, I can only hope that they use her effectively. Burnett should not be treated as a proxy for the network's strategy. Rarely can individual stars (see Katie Couric, Erica Hill) single-handedly fix disastrous ratings - no matter how talented they are.

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About the author

Kara Miller is an Assistant Professor of English, specializing in journalism, at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. She also serves as a guest panelist on WGBH-TV's “Beat the Press” and contributes to 89.7 FM WGBH (NPR). More »

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