When Erin Burnett joined CNN to anchor its 7 p.m. information hour in 2011, she needed to cope with an surprising technical drawback.
Before Burnett was anchoring early prime on CNN, and earlier than she was a staple of CNBC’s dayside lineup, she labored as Willow Bay’s assistant on the CNN monetary program Moneyline. That was when the channel’s New York studios had been at 5 Penn Plaza, above Penn Station and throughout the road from Madison Square Garden, years earlier than it will transfer to Columbus Circle, and finally its new headquarters at Hudson Yards.
“When I came back [in 2011] they had my address as my address from when I was 22, and it was really hard to excise from the system,” Burnett recollects.
The surprising glitch serves as one thing of a metaphor for Burnett, as she celebrates 10 years anchoring the cable information channel’s 7 p.m. hour, Erin Burnett Outfront. It underscores how Burnett has seen CNN adapt to a altering TV and information panorama. It was additionally a return to the place that began her journalism profession.
“CNN has changed massively,” Burnett says.
“We were a breaking news utility, and we were good at that,” she provides. “But now we are breaking news network, and when there isn’t breaking news, people are still there, because the network stands for something. What I believe it stands for is analysis, calling out the truth and not being afraid to hold people to account.”
Burnett has leaned into that perspective, utilizing the considerably uncommon time slot she occupies to convey collectively laborious information, newsy interviews, and sensible evaluation. It all stems from that 7 p.m. hour, which comes after the dayside lineup, when information is usually background noise in places of work, however earlier than later within the night, when information packages have to seek out methods to compete with extra sports activities and leisure fare.
“People are still eating, or putting families to bed,” Burnett says. “There is a lot of action happening in people’s houses at that time, as opposed to a captive audience that is there to watch an hour-long interview.”
CNN’s rivals have in recent times leaned into opinion within the hour, with MSNBC tapping Joy Reid to take over the time slot final yr, and Fox News utilizing a rotating solid of visitor hosts this yr.
It has paid off by way of viewership. In the important thing adults 25-54 demo final quarter, Erin Burnett Outfront was CNN’s third most-watched present, behind solely AC360 and Cuomo Prime Time, in response to Nielsen. Burnett’s present additionally topped Reid within the demo, although Fox News maintained its vise grip on cable information scores general.
Burnett isn’t an opinion host, however that doesn’t imply she doesn’t have a standpoint.
“We think of [the show] as being very much driven by analysis and interviews. And that analysis can and often does mean saying when something is or isn’t,” she says. “It is calling out the truth for what it is. I know that in the political environment we live, there is a fine line between fact and being political in a lot of people’s minds. It is not an easy world to be in. We try to focus on analysis and on fact. And that means calling people out.”
That could possibly be calling out “bullshit” from some prime Republicans and Fox News hosts for pushing anti-vaccine messages, or questioning Biden’s White House communications director Kate Bedingfield over the administration’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.
But it is also news-making interviews with individuals like Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who outlined the potential catastrophe of failing to boost the debt restrict final week (Congress would finally prolong the restrict into December).
But few tales have extra resonance with Burnett than the continuing protection of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One explicit second that stands proud to Burnett is her interview with Maura Lewinger in April of 2020. Lewinger’s husband, Joe, handed away from the virus, and she or he spoke to Burnett in regards to the loss.
“As a journalist, sometimes we cover things, and a big part of the job is finding stories and having empathy and being there to tell the story,” Burnett says. “But a bigger part of it is that you yourself, that is you, and it is not out there for everybody to see. And I think in this you realize that you are just a person.”
“There was no going home,” she provides. “This was overwhelming and emotionally gutting in a way that sometimes happens with things that we cover, but where you do go home.”
It all comes again to the rationale Burnett wished to be a journalist within the first place: To maintain individuals knowledgeable, and to supply a service to viewers on the lookout for steering and a way of stability even in deeply unsure instances. The tales that emerged amid the pandemic are textbook examples.
“I have changed as a person. And I think everybody has changed as a person, and I think that impacts how I will do my job in the future,” Burnett says. “If there was ever a time that what we did really and truly mattered, it was then. There were moments when it felt like we were really providing something that was really helpful to a lot of people.”