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Is CNN looking for its own game change?

With the Republican and Democratic national conventions approaching, the news network is in a quandary about the direction it needs to take to regain its declining viewership, which some say might involve dropping its refusal to 'take sides' in the political debate.

August 26, 2012|By Scott Collins, Los Angeles Times

"There is so little news being made now at the conventions," said Jeffrey McCall, a communications professor at DePauw University. "The conventions have no real deliberations on platform issues and the VP picks are all made well in advance and have already been introduced to the public.

"The main, real value for voters in watching the conventions is that they can see the candidates and hear their pitches in one place, without having to follow campaign stump speeches over many days of news coverage," McCall added. "Another benefit is for voters to see up and coming party leaders who might be influential on the political landscape in years to come."

For cable networks, however, the conventions mean something else. They are a chance to make an impression on (hopefully) impressionable viewers. "This is our opportunity to show people how good we are at covering politics," Griffin said.

For MSNBC, that will mean covering the campaigns from what Griffin dubbed a "progressive" point of view. For Fox News (which declined to comment on the record for this story), it will mean continuing to offer plenty of right-wing perspective during prime time.

And for CNN? That's still an open question.

Brad Adgate, an analyst for ad firm Horizon Media, sounded a discouraging note about prospects for the middle-of-the-road network. "There is no longer appointment viewing on the network. Also people (especially young people) get news and information around the clock," he said.

"It's possible to turn it around, but it gets harder and harder with each passing year. They have to create a franchise show first that can compete with Fox News and MSNBC and anyone else, and rebuild from there. It's a great brand name, and that will help."

"When Larry King started, there was no competition," said Morgan. "Now, CNN, in the middle, has been squeezed. Everyone at CNN realizes the game has changed."

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scott.collins@latimes.com

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