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Losing momentum, CNN plays big with the American presidential debate

Photo: Andrew Harnik Associated Press Jake Tapper and Dana Bash will moderate the first debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Thomas Urbain – Agence France-Presse in New York

Posted at 1:54 p.m.

  • United States

Beaten in ratings by its competitors Fox News and MSNBC, the news channel CNN is playing big by hosting, exclusively, the first presidential debate of the 2024 American campaign, an opportunity to reposition itself in the public eye.

The first channel in history to be solely assigned the broadcast of a presidential debate, CNN proposed to its competitors to resume the program on their antenna, Thursday evening, but under certain conditions.

The CNN logo must appear on the screen and any promotion of the event by the competitor mention the “CNN presidential debate”, according to the Los Angeles Times. Asked by AFP to confirm this information, CNN did not comment.

“It’s an incredible opportunity” for the channel, said Jeffrey McCall, professor of communications at DePauw University. CNN has the opportunity to “reestablish itself as a source of information in the minds of many Americans”.

In September 2020, the first presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump brought together more than 73 million viewers, all channels combined.

Outpaced by its rival Fox News in the audiences without stopping these 22 In recent years, CNN has even systematically ceded second place to MSNBC since 2017.

If the three stations have struggled since the departure of Donald Trump from the White House, CNN is , by far, the weakest, and only attracts around 400,000 viewers per day on average, or a third of its 2020 performance.

According to the program schedules transmitted, the four major national channels ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox will broadcast the debate, as well as Fox News and MSNBC.

« Everyone are not going to watch on CNN, but they will see CNN journalists and the channel's production,” underlines Mark Lukasiewicz, professor of journalism at Hofstra University. “And if it goes well, if the public reacts favorably, it will work for CNN. »

“It is likely that Trump will attack CNN and its moderators on air. It still works well with its base,” nevertheless warns Mark Feldstein, of the journalism school at the University of Maryland.

The former head of state has publicly criticized the network dozens of times since his first presidential campaign, accusing it of bias.

“With Trump you never know what game he is playing and if it is not an ambush set for CNN to talk about the left-wing media who are attacking him,” warns Mark Feldstein.

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“Biased” or “balanced”

For Mark Lukasiewicz, the concessions obtained by CNN, but also ABC which will broadcast the second debate, are “important for being able to control a debate”.

Unlike previous editions, the show will be recorded without an audience. “There will be no delirious supporters, ready to laugh or react to Donald Trump's attacks,” describes the academic.

Second major change, the A candidate's microphone will be muted when it is not their turn to speak. It will therefore be “more difficult” for Donald Trump to “attack” Joe Biden, to cut him off or to exceed his speaking time, considers Mark Lukasiewicz.

But for Jeffrey McCall, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, the two moderators, will have to perform a balancing act.

“It is important that they do not interfere to the debate,” he said. “If they turn this into a double press conference,” by interacting with the candidates, “they risk being accused of being biased, by both camps, but especially by right-wing viewers.”

The channel's editorial line has experienced several upheavals since the election of Donald Trump. Under the reign of boss Jeff Zucker, CNN had adopted a pugnacious style, readily critical of President Trump.

Arriving after the brutal resignation of Jeff Zucker, Chris Licht has completely changed course, promoting measured coverage, without flashes, which destabilized part of the editorial staff.

His replacement, Mark Thompson, inducted last summer, has stabilized the ship, which nevertheless continues to sail on sight, in an ultra-polarized media universe, which follows the trend of the political landscape.

“If CNN does a great job,” anticipates Jeffrey McCall, “it can demonstrate to the country that it is a professional and balanced media, and perhaps win over some viewers.”

< p> “There is always a demand for objectivity,” argues Mark Lukasiewicz, who cites the audiences, always substantial, for the television news of the major national channels. “But on cable, I'm not sure people will migrate after the debate. »

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116