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An alternative to cable news networks

June 14, 2012
By Andy Heller , Daily Press

FLINT - CNN just hit a 20-year low in the ratings, averaging a pitiful 390,000 viewers during prime time, which makes this an excellent time to announce the new cable news program that I plan to launch as soon as you give me a lot of money.

I call it JNN, which is short for Just News Network. On JNN, we will stand apart by doing everything exactly the opposite of cable and network news as we currently know them.

First of all, JNN's anchor will sit at a desk that is just that - a desk, a plain old one-person pre-fab pressed wood job, the type you get at Walmart. If a second person is for some reason required to tell me the news - which I don't think is at all necessary - then the person in the chair behind the Walmart desk will have to get up and move.

Article Photos

Andy Heller

We also will not have a "set." I loathe news sets, especially the kind with the newsroom in the background, which is meant to convey the idea that you've dropped in on a frantically busy news operation. You see cluttered desks, glowing laptops, TVs on the wall, as if that's how they're monitoring the world.

But there's always one thing missing - people. Where are all the people? The desks are always empty, the phones aren't ringing, no one is ever frantically jabbing away at a keyboard. Editors aren't yelling at reporters and reporters aren't yelling at editors. There's never even anyone standing around drinking coffee, telling dirty jokes or shooting Nerf basketballs into wastebaskets, all which I can assure you are standard newsroom activities.

In other words, it's phony. We won't try to fool you at JNN. Our set will be the aforementioned desk with a plain, beige backdrop, and that's it. Because why do you need anything else? You want information, not a swoopy, multi-level set with giant touch screens that never work correctly.

You also don't need or want "crawls," which is that annoying stream of sentences that zooms across the bottom of the screen that you only ever catch the last half of, as in " could mean the end of mankind as we know it." At JNN, if the news at the bottom of the screen is so damned important, we'll have the anchor read it.

We also won't allow "sidebars," which are those blocks of extra information or graphics they crowd the screen with that are designed to appeal to the more-faster-now generation, which isn't watching anyway. Nor will we ever - and I mean ever - allow tweets or Facebook messages from viewers about the news that the anchor just read. Why? Well, first, JNN News will be about the news, not your opinion of the news. And second, well, frankly, a lot of you are morons, OK?

In fact, a lot of what will make JNN special will be what's not in it. CNN got into trouble by being more chrome than car. JNN will take the opposite tack and strip away everything you don't need.

There will be no Wolf Blitzers, no opinions, no spin, no hair mousse, no dumb, leading questions, no live interviews with politicians (I always scream at those, "What did you expect him to say?"), no round-table discussions, no expert panels.

All you'll get on JNN is an older, non-pretty person sitting in a chair reading the news in who, what, when, where, why and how fashion without any tone or inflection to his or her voice that suggests shock, dismay, agreement or horror.

It's a radical idea, but I think it might just work.


EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at You can e-mail him at



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