The School of Media and Public Affairs' Jack Morton Auditorium has played host to conferences, film viewings and the occasional Kalb Report. But for years it was also known as the studio of the CNN show Crossfire, a political debate-oriented program ultimately canceled in 2005.
Given the 40 percent drop in prime-time viewers since 2009 for CNN, and the palpable need for programs similar to Crossfire, the School of Media and Public Affairs has an opportunity it cannot ignore. By reaching out to CNN and offering the Jack Morton Auditorium as a space that can be used for filming future programming, GW can raise its national recognition, provide further academic and networking opportunities for students, and perhaps even increase student pride and identity.
For those GW students unfamiliar with Crossfire, the program was last hosted by Tucker Carlson and James Carville and featured interviews with politicians centering on debate among the talking heads.
There have been increased calls for CNN to revisit its current programming structure by implementing shows that feature larger personalities and more commentary on current affairs. A recent article featured on Politico, titled "How to fix CNN" (Mar. 31), noted that the network, which has fallen behind both MSNBC and FOX News in ratings, can salvage itself by resurrecting Crossfire or programming that resembles it. These calls, along with the history of playing host to CNN programming and the availability of the Jack Morton Auditorium, raise the compelling prospect of GW again hosting a CNN program.
Frank Sesno, the director of SMPA, is the logical choice of administrators to reach out to CNN and make such an agreement possible. Sesno's 21-year history with CNN as a White House correspondent, anchor and Washington Bureau Chief gives him the background, understanding and basic connections with the network that would enable him to present SMPA and the Jack Morton Auditorium as the best possible space for CNN to utilize. By offering a package to CNN that could include studio space and readily available SMPA students eager for the experience of working on a nationally broadcast television program, Sesno could effectively forge another positive working relationship between GW and CNN.
The recognition associated with hosting a major network show on campus would also do a great deal for GW's national reputation and admissions. Viewers tuning into the program would be exposed to GW's name, increasing general publicity for the University. Similarly, students come to GW for its proximity to the nation's political happenings, and hosting a politically oriented show that draws even more prominent speakers to campus would enhance GW's reputation as the school in the heart of the political debate.
The academic and networking opportunities a CNN program offers would be invaluable to GW students. SMPA students could get the chance to gain experience in a television studio, and courses could be designed with the show in mind, making it a valuable part of the SMPA curriculum. Students of other majors would also benefit from the speakers that come to campus to be featured on the program.
Another more subtle benefit of hosting such a show on campus would be the increase in the sense of pride among the student body. Being able to turn on the television and know the show they are watching is filmed on GW's campus is something we think students would be enthusiastic about.
Though the content of the programming will ultimately be left to CNN, GW should make it known that our campus is ready and willing to host a television program as it did five years ago. This is a unique opportunity for both GW and CNN to mutually benefit from a partnership that existed at one point, and should again.
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