CNN’s Feist: In the Campaign Swing

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CNN, through its coverage of the Republican
and Democratic conventions,
the debates and Election
Day itself, will take what it
says will be an impartial approach
to what promises to
be a very close race for president.
CNN senior vice president
and Washington bureau
chief Sam Feist talked about the
network’s election strategy with Multichannel
programming editor R.
Thomas Umstead.

MCN: How will CNN differentiate its election coverage
from other cable news outlets?

Sam Feist: We’re going all out for the conventions, and
because of our unique role in the cable news landscape
— CNN is the only cable news channel that hasn’t
picked sides in the election — we’re going to be able to
give our viewers a different perspective on the conventions
than the other cable news channels. For the Republican
and Democratic conventions, we will give
the candidates an opportunity to offer their vision for
America, but at the same time we’re going to ask tough
questions of both sides, and we’ll fact-check both sides
because that’s our mission. In the current cable news
landscape, we’re the only ones that will frankly provide
that service to the viewers and the voters.

MCN: Does covering the election from the middle open
you up to potentially losing viewers who want to see
their points of view refl ected through news coverage?

SF: As journalists, we have no intention of leaning one
way or the other. I believe that the public as a whole begins
to focus on presidential elections right
around the time the conventions begin. As
a result, a huge amount of Americans have
not focused on this election until now, and
we think that’s an opportunity for us to not
only find a large audience but give the candidates
an opportunity to introduce their
plans to the public.

MCN: How is CNN’s coverage going to
change from what we saw on the network
four years ago?

SF: At the very least, there will be more of it. More of
our programs will originate from the conventions,
and we’ll have more on-air talent at the conventions.
… We’ll be doing full shows from the CNN Grill [set
up just outside both convention halls], so it’s not only
a place for politicos and media to gather, but also it’s
a robust broadcast location to broadcast our morning
shows, convention programs, broadcast segments and
interviews during the conventions themselves.

MCN: Are you prepping the audience for Election Day
through your convention coverage?

SF: Absolutely. First of all, the most important part of
this is our team. We want to remind people that CNN
really has the best team to bring you objective political
news, from Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer to Jon
King, Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley, David Gergen and
Erin Burnett — this is a team that really does it better
than anybody else. So the team that is introduced during
the convention will be the team that brings them
coverage of the presidential debates in October and of
election night in November.