Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First Class All the Way


"We can afford more people on our air and off our air. So, goddamn it, we’re going to have more people."

-- CNN US President Jon Klein


At the risk of once again incurring the wrath of my new BFF, the amusingly unhinged "CNNfan," there's an article in the latest edition of the New York Observer that's really worth taking a look at.

It deals with CNN -- specifically the "Nothing Succeeds Like Excess" mentality the network adopted with respect to its election coverage and the amount of money it had to spend to make it a reality.

Observer columnist Felix Gillette (who, in the interest of full disclosure, wrote a profile on me back in February of this year) chronicles the inordinate number of sponsored debates, the celeb-graced parties, the mobile control rooms, the expensive A-list pundits, the SkyCams, the real-time focus group meters, the risky new show launches and, of course, the pretend holograms -- all of which cost CNN a small fortune.

Gillette talked to network president Jon Klein, who I have no doubt was doing his best used-car-salesman-on-crank routine at the time. Gillette writes:

"'When you have the wind at your back in the form of a very profitable streak, then you’ve got the wherewithal to try things, to embrace innovation, to not cringe,' Mr. Klein told The Observer on Monday morning.

If it had taken place, say, 20 years ago, the spectacle of CNN’s 2008 shopping spree might have blended into the cacophonous jangle of a city awash in media companies awash in cash. But these days, everywhere you turn, the once reliable bon vivant institutions of New York journalism look tired, anxious and ready for bed. ABC News recently relegated its executives to 'B-level' hotels. This year, for the first time since the dawn of the printed word, Condé Nast is forgoing its holiday party at the Four Seasons. Cash bars are in.

All of which makes CNN’s current swagger, from its battery of technology to its cornucopia of talking heads, seem that much more freakish—the aberrance of opulence in the leanest of times."


What's interesting about all this though -- about Klein's bravado in the face of harsh economic times -- is what's not in article.

Last week I got an e-mail from a close friend of mine, one of my former co-workers at CNN, informing me that he was among a group of CNN employees who'd just been laid off -- reportedly, eight people on the American Morning staff. The official word is that the layoffs are the result of restructuring and not a product of budget cuts -- but that's tough not to question when standard operating procedure at CNN is to find new positions within the company for employees to move to should their old ones become obsolete.

A new baby boy, a treacherous job market, the holiday season looming, and now this: out of a job. It's not as if my former co-worker fell into the bottom performance percentile among his peers at CNN, either. On the contrary, he was quite good at what he did. Still, he now joins the growing list of people cut loose from jobs in the media over the past couple of months. Almost a dozen personal friends of mine have been let go from one media position or another and are now looking for work.

Meanwhile Jon Klein's throwing parties and tossing around money like he's Diddy.

In this unsettling economic climate, somebody will have to either pay outright for CNN's magical regenerating checkbook or simply hedge the network's bet. Either way, it obviously won't be Klein.

As we all know by now, it's rarely the people at the top who suffer.

The New York Observer: "The Corpulent News Network" by Felix Gillette/11.18.08

(Incidentally, when you click the link to read the article, make sure to check the address bar at the top of the screen. No idea whether that was an accident, the working title of the piece, or just a really subversive little joke -- regardless it's hilarious.)

12 comments:

countryjoe said...

Since the subject is CNN again not that what I'm about to ask matters in relation to this article but I used to watch American Morning a few years back and always felt the urge to puke whenever Bill Hemmer talked. What is your opinion of him if I may ask.

Chez said...

Nice guy. Didn't work very closely with him since I was on Daybreak at the time. I know a lot of people couldn't figure out why Klein cut him loose.

Suzy said...

craptastic!

Heather Hansma said...

Hmm... this reminds me a lot of the actions of the CEOs of the Big Three.

All these guys made it to the top and no economic downturn will make them stop enjoying it, goddamnit!

drater said...

Nice catch on the address bar. I doubt it's a typo, but it's close enough for plausible deniability. Damn funny.

Dianne said...

My husband is in media,(radio, not TV) and cuts are being made EVERYWHERE. Scares the crap out of me.

Anonymous said...

Hey now...even Diddy reportedly has given up his jet.

Anonymous said...

Word on the street is that Klein let Hemmer go because he replaced Cooper on AM waaay back in the olden days when sane people ran the place.

If this had taken place 20 years ago, same thing, sane people would have been running the place and the hologram shit wouldn't have happened.

So is this even true? How can CNN be the only one making money in times like these?

And fine revenue was $1.1 billion but you have to subtract expenses from that, take into account long term debt, depreciation on all those screens plus the shares or debentures that may be outstanding!! I'd like to see a profit figure then we'd know better where they stand but you all know how Klein likes to fudge the numbers to make it appear that they are doing better than they really are RE heeeelllllooooo the ratings!!

And that would be worldwide, right? Not just US, he should break out the US side of that as well but the truth has never been Klein's long suit.

Aaron X said...

I have long since ceased to make rational or measured criticisms of CNN, and given myself over to full-blown pummeling at every opportunity, because that's what I believe is in order when ever an organization becomes a caricature of itself. A figment of its own imagination, broadcast to every country around the world, as if what it once aspired to be, still had a a hope of actually existing today.

I believe there is no hope at CNN these days, they are lost, dragged down into the Stygian pit with the Vipers and the mongrels, to roll in the reek with their bloody money. Purge the nonbelievers, and hunt the world over for the next sensation. It's champagne and caviar dreams until we've flogged this horse to a slow grinding death in the media desert. Goodbye CNN, goodbye to you. :-)

Scandal, Patty Smyth - Goodbye To You


Those times I waited for you seem so long ago
I wanted you far too much to ever let you go
You know you never got by "I feel it too"
And I guess I never could stand to lose
It's such a pity to say

Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you

Could I have loved someone like the one I see in you
I remember the good times baby now, and the bad times too
These last few weeks of holding on
The days are dull, the nights are long
Guess it's better to say

Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you

'Cause baby it's over now
No need to talk about it
It's not the same
My love for you's just not the same
And my heart, and my heart
And my heart can't stand the strain
And my love, and my love
And my love won't stand the pain
And my heart, and my heart
And my heart can't stand the strain
And my love, and my love
And my love...

Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you

Now, could I have loved someone like the one I see in you
Yeah, I remember the good times baby now, and the bad times too
These last few weeks of holding on
The days are dull, the nights are long
Guess it's better to say

Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you
Goodbye to you

Goodbye baby
So long darling
Goodbye to you

Aaron X said...

Continuing my devastating totally 80s slam of CNN -- or as I referred to the network to a CNN PR rep at a political event during the election, who was apparently sent to try and shut me up -- CNNN (Cut a Niggas Nuts off Network).

Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Welcome to your life
There's no turning back
Even while we sleep
We will find you
Acting on your best behaviour
Turn your back on mother nature
Everybody wants to rule the world

Its my own design
Its my own remorse
Help me to decide
Help me make the most
Of freedom and of pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world

Theres a room where the light wont find you
Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down
When they do Ill be right behind you

So glad weve almost made it
So sad they had to fade it
Everybody wants to rule the world

I cant stand this indecision
Married with a lack of vision
Everybody wants to rule the world
Say that youll never never never never need it
One headline why believe it ?
Everybody wants to rule the world

All for freedom and for pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever
Everybody wants to rule the world

Anonymous said...

Hey Chez:

I was just doing some calculations, yes I have nothing better to do today and I came up with this:

8 people fired from AM

give an average of $45,000 per person (I don't know how much y'all make)

You get $360,000

OR

$50,000 per would be $400,000

wasn't this the exact amount that was spent on the fake holograms?

I think they are lying about the financial situation but gosh I'm sure it's the first thing they've ever lied about. (that's sarcasm, I'm sure you understand).

I'd like to hear more about Aaron X's run in with the CNN PR rep if we could. I bet there are all kinds of interesting stories people could tell about the evilness of Klein and CNN if we could have a forum where we could tell them and not be slammed by people like CNNfan.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chez:

Look at what I found, Klein is bullshitting the numbers.

http://www.business-standard.com/india/storypage.php?autono=340271

CNN total book value (assets-liabilities) is less than the total stock value, they can't afford to hire more staff.

The stock is at $8/share. Suzie Orman said last week, Friday I think, on 360 that when a companies stock goes under $5/share they are basically bankrupt.

I hope your 401K is out of CNN stock or get it out soon.

Can you say broke boys and girls?