The cable channel CNN Headline News has officially gone down the crapper. Last month they changed their format to feature "younger faces" and "hipper content" in an attempt to compete with MSNBC. In the process, the channel has become worthless. Please allow me to break it down rant style:

The New Look

Yep, it looks like a web page now. A graphic "slide" related to the current story hovers in the upper lefthand corner. This might be a picture of a shark with the words Shark Attack, bullet points of facts about the story they're showing, or short quotes from the people involved in the story. Below this, the Headline section, comes hypertext complete with different colored, underlined subjects and a brief excerpt from the article. The problem is, we can't click on it to get the whole article. The blurbs often aren't enough to make sense of what we're reading even if we wanted to. Then, the weather takes up the lower right portion of the screen and scrolls through different large graphics with current temperatures. I'm glad I can see a sun icon while I find out the temperature in Texas. And finally they have a tiny, tiny window where the video is shown. On the web, video has to be tiny thanks to bandwidth restrictions. On TV, there is no excuse. If only the commercials were in that tiny box as well.

The Content

The concept behind "Headline News" is that you get the latest news headlines right away. Pre-AOL makeover, the channel used to show the top news stories at the top of the hour. These days if you tune in at the top of the hour, you're likely to see a 5 to 10 minute live-on-location report about stem cell research. Great for CNN, bad as a headline. Which brings me to the Headlines section: This text area is not usually news, but promotions for various CNN shows. "Oprah will be on Larry King" was one I saw recently. That's a headline? Their "news stories" lately aren't much better. They had a "Breaking News" segment a moment ago detailing the dinner menu for a state event at the Whitehouse. To which the anchor replied, "Mmm, good eats at the Whitehouse tonight."

The Sell

We all know news has become entertainment. I enjoy the short attention span media as much as the next person. But AOL Time Warner seems to have taken it past entertainment to a new level of marketing. We aren't getting news on CNN Headline News. We're getting commercials - of course - but now the content passing as news between the commercials is merely more commercials for more AOL Time Warner media products (which may, in fact, be commercials themselves). To come up with this new format, they probably paid some consultant a huge sum to spin yarns about the new visual language of their target demographic (younger viewers like me). Instead of speaking to me, however, the channel has become the confused MTV of news. That's not a good thing.

Comments

Do people really still get their news from television?

I gave that up the minute I first got online.
heh. now it seems to be the *only* place to get news.
The other day, I switched the channel to Headline News and for a second I thought I was at my computer. It was the strangest thing!

I wonder how long they will keep that format. I've stopped watching the channel all together. Wonder how many others have.
So true. Equally wrong is the new ESPN SportsCenter scoreboard. It seems to have debuted today. It presents a lot more information (which has long been my complaint about their old screen) but is just horrible to look at. My eyes darted all over the place, I had no idea what I should look at first - it broke every rule of layout. There are so many better ways to present the same amount of information.

Your excellent critique of HN has inspired me to do the same for ESPN :)
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