I still remember when CNN launched in 1980. I was in high school, and the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage significantly affected my decision to study broadcast journalism. CNN was the first all-news television channel in the United States and opened the door to “continuing coverage.”
For hours, we watched the rescue of Baby Jessica and the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. CNN was the only news outlet with the ability to communicate from inside Iraq during the initial hours of the Coalition bombing campaign, with live reports from the al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad. CNN changed the face of journalism during those formable years of TV news coverage. Journalism crossed the lines of just telling the news into a new realm of how often you saw it, in what tone you heard it, and how much you witnessed during live broadcasts.
Today, the delivery of news is not so defined. Website, social media and digital platforms have profoundly changed not only how we get our news, but also what news we are getting. The comment section of online news stories are often more popular, or at least more entertaining, than the actual news story. The ability to “like” and “share” news now allows others to instantaneously watch or read what we are following. As the number of online and social media offerings grows, we are sadly seeing the demise of newspapers. In 2011, 152 American newspapers ceased operations. Rapidly declining advertising revenues continue to be the industry’s core problem as the majority of us seek our news online.
Now, plans are in place for significant changes for CNN.com and CNN digital platforms. The channel will launch a redesigned website (see screenshots here) and install a back-end system that its editorial producers can utilize. This comes after the recent merging of their digital and television newsrooms into one entity. With a new emphasis on their talent, CNN anchors, reporters and writers will become more prominent, enabling the sharing of content across platforms.
Online viewers will notice the viewing screens on CNN.com will be larger. The focus will be photos and video that take up most of the screen, and, depending on the time of day or the type of story, the colors on the site will change, shifting to blues and grays during the day and to red for breaking news. Concurrently, CNN will update its digital formats, pushing out design features to fit hand-held devices. Even ads will be formatted for devices, allowing CNN to sell ads on both their desktop and mobile versions.
I believe the most critical CNN enhancement is a new tagging system, which will make it easier to find content and increase social sharing. Like Facebook, the technology could change the way users get their news digitally from CNN. If users are following a story, like wildfires sweeping the West, they can select the tag and get updates on the topic pushed to their smart phone, email or social media. “The grand vision here is that at some point we can dynamically publish the site for the individual,” said CNN Digital Senior VP KC Estenson. “We are heading toward a world with more personalization, this is your CNN.”
It is fast and furious, and ever changing. Like the way Amazon.com uses a method of tailoring products for the individual, CNN will provide news and information specifically for you; CNN will be Amazon.com news. It’s the newest form of customer relationship management.
While I appreciate the rapidness of online and digital news and the content-specific method of news delivery, I miss the days of watching the news on TV. I miss the age of storytellers like Bob Dotson of NBC News. Dotson was an influential journalist who let the video and sound tell the story, and NBC News was smart enough to give him the precious airtime needed to tell impactful stories.
I hope online, digital and new media remain true to journalism. Watching good stories about good people doing extraordinary things around the world makes us smarter, makes us kinder and makes us love stories. That’s why many of us became journalists.