CNN to boost coverage of political conventions

Declining ratings cause major networks to bow out

CNN is taking on one of the biggest challenges of its 20-year history: bringing drama and conflict to the Republican and Democratic conventions of 2000.

As many as 50 CNN anchors, correspondents, online journalists, analysts and talkshow hosts will journey to Philadelphia for the Republican confab, which runs July 31 to Aug. 3, and then to Los Angeles for the Democratic assembly, which takes place Aug. 14-17.

All of CNN’s regularly scheduled programs throughout the dates will include at least some live coverage from the convention cities.

Rick Kaplan, president of CNN/U.S., described CNN in a statement as the “network of record” for the conventions, claiming the broadcast networks have “cut back dramatically on their convention-coverage plans.”

Exploiting a weakness

Because of steeply declining ratings over the past few decades caused by predictability of the nominees, ABC, CBS and NBC have abandoned their full primetime coverage of the conventions. A CBS spokeswoman said CBS News will break into the primetime schedule only for “the nomination proceedings and the acceptance speeches.”

CNN will generate more convention coverage than ever in its history, Maxwell said, because it’s supplying material for a whole brace of sister networks, encompassing CNN Headline News, CNN Intl., CNN Interactive, CNN Radio, CNN Newsource (the syndication operation that sells news programming to TV stations) and CNNfn.

Marty Ryan, a D.C.-based executive for the Fox News Channel, said Fox will funnel about 300 news staffers to Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Anchoring CNN’s coverage are Bernard Shaw, Judy Woodruff, Jeff Greenfield and lead analyst Bill Schneider.

Fox News’ key anchors are Brit Hume, Paula Zahn and Bill O’Reilly.

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