Why aren't TV journalists landing top jobs at CNN and MSNBC?
(UPDATE: CNN has confirmed that Elliott Spitzer and Kathleen Parker will host a new roundtable discussion show, debuting in the fall to replace Campbell Brown's 8 p.m. program.)
This feeling grows as word spreads that the rumors are true: Former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer will be joining forces with Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker for CNN's 8 p.m. timeslot.
America's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan is reportedly in contention to replace Larry King at CNN; years ago, the hot rumor centered on American Idol host Ryan Seacrest getting that gig. And former West Wing producer Lawrence O'Donnell has just been hired to develop a 10 p.m. show behind Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.
And there's one striking similarity to all the buzz:
None of it centers on someone who is currently working full-time as a broadcast journalist or pundit.
Most surprising of all, is the recent move by CNN, which once touted its status as the last old school newschannel. In giving high profile roles to John King, Campbell Brown and Anderson Cooper, the channel has tried to build a successful brand on traditional news reporting and analysis, only to struggle in the ratings against powerhouse pundits such as Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann.
Now they've hitched their opening hour in primetime to a disgraced former politician and a newspaper columnist who has never hosted a cable news show before.
I get the math; cable newschannels in prime time are no longer about news -- they're about entertaining displays of emotion and partisanship which reference the news, in the same way a pop song about pollution might reference the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
But in resurrecting a roundtable show which will echo its long-canceled partisan debate showcase Crossfire, CNN seems to be stepping back toward a style of programming it claimed to disavow in canceling Crossfire in the first place.
If the most traditional cable newschannel hands marquee jobs to people outside that world, it may send a new signal about what succeeds in prime time in cable news -- and how limited the options are for traditional TV journalists who still hope to make an impact there.
Hope Piers has his resume handy. Looks like CNN is thinking way outside the box these days.