What does the departure of Campbell Brown from CNN's coveted 8 p.m. slot mean for cable television?
In recent years, it is clear the three major cable news outlets have chosen personality over straight news in the 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. timeline. Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and others are clear about their viewpoints and make no apologies for mixing them with news coverage.
In both cases, especially Fox News, ratings show they are welcomed.
But what of CNN? It went from the days of straight news reporting with the likes of Aaron Brown and Paula Zahn years ago to some kind of hybrid that presents straight anchor Brown, leading to interview man Larry King to sharp and studly Anderson Cooper.
In revealing that she will leave the network, Brown admitted that she cannot provide the ratings or, perhaps, personality that CNN wants. Or thinks it needs.
“To be clear: this is my decision, and one that I have been thinking about for some time. As for why, I could have said, that I am stepping down to spend more time with my children (which I truly want to do). Or that I am leaving to pursue other opportunities (which I also truly want to do). But I have never had much tolerance for others' spin, so I can't imagine trying to stomach my own,” she said in a statement according to the New York Times. “The simple fact is that not enough people want to watch my program, and I owe it to myself and to CNN to get out of the way so that CNN can try something else.”
This not only leaves CNN up in the air, but leaves the quesiton open about what cable television news is becoming. Will it continue to morph into nightly opinion shows that include some news? Or will they make sure that accurate and fair news reports have their place in the reporting that they need and deserve.
CNN will, of course, carry on and likely replace Brown with someone who will do a similar show. But that someone will probably seek to get more audience via more opinion and personality, but hopefully not less news.