Symone D. Sanders, a former adviser to President Biden. (NBC News also has separate digital offerings for hard news and lifestyle coverage.)

For news executives, finding a winning formula in the streaming game is now an urgent priority.

Streaming has supplanted cable as the main home delivery system for entertainment, often on the strength of addictive series like “Squid Game.” For a while, though, old-fashioned cable news clung on, with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News attracting record audiences in recent years. In case of emergency — a pandemic, civil unrest, a presidential election, a Capitol riot — viewers still tuned in en masse.

After former President Donald J. Trump left office, news ratings nose-dived and cable subscriptions continued to plummet — an estimated four million households dropped their paid TV subscriptions last year, according to the research firm MoffettNathanson.

Fox Nation and CNN+ both rely on a business model dependent on paid subscriptions, hence the efforts by both to generate a wide variety of programming.

“A subscriber every month only has to find one thing that they want,” Mr. Zucker said in the interview. “We don’t need the subscriber to be interested in everything we’re offering, but they need to be interested in something.”

Mr. Zucker said CNN+ was aiming at three buckets of potential subscribers. He is seeking to entice loyal CNN viewers into paying for streaming programs featuring hosts familiar from the cable channel: Anderson Cooper will have two, including one on parenting; Fareed Zakaria is helming a show examining historical events; and Jake Tapper will host “Jake Tapper’s Book Club,” in which he interviews authors.

The other would-be subscribers, Mr. Zucker said, are news and documentary fans who want more nonfiction television, as well as younger people who don’t pay for cable.

CNN, though, is not ignoring the needs of its flagship cable network, which ranked third last year behind Fox News and MSNBC in total audience.

Mr. Zucker recently reached out to representatives for Gayle King, the star CBS News anchor, about the prospect of her taking over the weekday 9 p.m. hour on CNN, said two people with knowledge of the approach. CNN has not named a permanent anchor for the prime-time slot since Mr. Cuomo was fired in December after revelations that he assisted with the efforts of his brother, former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, to fend off sexual harassment allegations.

CNN+ is also expected to include the breaking news and political coverage that CNN viewers are accustomed to — a feature that could pose difficulties for the network down the road. CNN commands a high price from cable distributors, who may cry foul if CNN+ includes too much news programming that potentially competes with the cable offering. For instance, Wolf Blitzer, the host of “The Situation Room” on CNN at 6 p.m., will also appear on CNN+ to anchor a “traditional evening news show with a sleek, modern twist.”

CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia, which is on the verge of a megamerger with Discovery Inc., appears willing to take the risk. The company is placing a significant financial bet on CNN+, budgeting for 500 additional employees, including producers, reporters, engineers and programmers, said Andrew Morse, CNN’s chief digital officer. The company is also renting an additional floor of its headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to accommodate the hires.

“What we’re building at CNN+ is not a side hustle,” Mr. Morse said.

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For third day, COVID-19 crimps Americans’ holiday travels

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Dec 26 (Reuters) – U.S. airlines canceled more than 1,300 flights on Sunday as COVID-19 thinned out the number of available crews, while several cruise ships had to cancel stops after outbreaks on board, upending the plans of thousands of Christmas travelers.

Commercial airlines had canceled 1,318 flights within, into or out of the United States by mid-afternoon, according to a tally on flight-tracking website FlightAware.com.

At least three cruise ships were also forced to return to port without making scheduled port calls after COVID-19 cases were detected on board, according to multiple media reports.

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It was the third straight day of pain for some Americans traveling over the weekend as the Christmas holidays, typically a peak time for travel, coincided with a rapid spread of the Omicron variant nationwide.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, warned of rising U.S. cases in coming days and potentially “overrun…hospitals, particularly in those regions in which you have a larger proportion of unvaccinated individuals.”

“It likely will go much higher,” he said of the Omicron-driven surge even as President Joe Biden last week unveiled new actions aimed at containing the latest wave and continued urging vaccinations and other prevention strategies.

With rising infections, airlines have been forced to cancel flights with pilots and cabin crew needing to quarantine while poor weather in some areas added to travelers woes.

Enjoli Rodriguez, 25, whose Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) flight from Los Angeles to Lexington, Kentucky, was canceled on Christmas Eve, was one of thousands still stranded on Sunday.

Delta rebooked Rodriguez through Detroit, but that flight was delayed so she missed the connection.

Speaking from the Detroit airport on Sunday, Rodriguez said she was surrounded by angry passengers, flustered airline representatives and families with young children in limbo.

“I’ve run into a lot of people sharing their horror stories here. We’re all just stuck in Michigan, Detroit, heading different places,” Rodriguez, who was rebooked on a later flight to Kentucky, told Reuters.

A total of 997 flights were scrapped on Christmas Day and nearly 700 on Christmas Eve. Thousands more were delayed on all three days.

A Delta Airlines spokesperson said “winter weather in portions of the U.S. and the Omicron variant continued to impact” its holiday weekend flight schedule but that it was working to “reroute and substitute aircraft and crews.”

United Airlines also said it was working to rebook impacted passengers, while a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said its cancellations were all weather related.

Passengers line up at John F. Kennedy International Airport during the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Queens, New York City, U.S., December 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

Overall, U.S. airports most heavily impacted were in Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and JFK International in New York.

A White House official, who asked not to be named, said the administration was monitoring the delays closely but noted that while they can disrupt plans “only a small percentage of flights are affected.”

Delta on Sunday canceled 167 flights or 6%; United canceled 115 flights or 5% and American canceled 83 flights or 2%, according to FlightAware.

Globally, 3,023 flights were called off and more than 13,742 were delayed, as of 8:15 p.m. EST on Sunday (0015 GMT Monday), FlightAware data showed.

COVID HITS CRUISES

Meanwhile, a Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCL.N) cruise ship turned back to Ft. Lauderdale, CNN reported, and on Sunday a Carnival Corp (CCL.N) ship returned to Miami after COVID was detected onboard, although it was unclear if the cases were Omicron.

Carnival said “a small number on board were isolated due to a positive COVID test” on board its Carnival Freedom ship, which again left Miami later on Sunday for its next trip with another round of passengers.

“The rapid spread of the Omicron variant may shape how some destination authorities with limited medical resources may view even a small number of cases, even when they are being managed with our vigorous protocols. Should it be necessary to cancel a port, we will do our best to find an alternative destination,” it said in a statement.

A Holland America ship also returned to San Diego on Sunday after Mexican authorities banned it from docking in Puerto Vallarta citing onboard cases, NBC News and Fox News reported. Carnival, which owns Holland America, did not address that reported incident in its statement.

Representatives for Royal Caribbean did not respond to a request for comment.

Overall, COVID-19 outbreaks altered at least six sailings in the past week, the Washington Post reported, echoing the turmoil facing the industry after COVID erupted in early 2020.

Testing woes have compounded the travel angst, as many Americans scrambled for their status amid long lines and lack of at-home test kits amid the holiday travels.

“We’ve obviously got to do better. I mean, I think things will improve greatly as we get into January, but that doesn’t help us today and tomorrow,” Fauci told ABC’s “This Week.”

Meanwhile, some states are already bracing for the upcoming New Year’s holiday weekend, warning residents to reduce potential exposure to the virus.

“Omicron is surging statewide,” Louisiana’s health department tweeted on Sunday, noting Omicron-related hospitalizations had doubled in the past week. “We are urging everyone to take safety precautions ahead of New Year’s Eve.”

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Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Gabriella Borter; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Diane Bartz and Karen Brettell; additional writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Kieran Murray, Daniel Wallis, Mark Porter and Diane Craft

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Article on Fourth Grader in ’60 Inspires Journalism Class

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

Two years ago, on a soggy January day at the University of Oregon, Peter Laufer, a journalism professor, picked up a copy of The New York Times and presented his students with a reporting challenge.

He read from a feature at the bottom of Page 2 that highlights an article from The Times’s archives each day. It covered the experience in early 1960 of a fourth grader in Roseburg, Ore., not far from the college. She had written to her congressman for the names of Russian schoolchildren with whom she and her classmates could be pen pals, but the State Department denied the request, fearing they would be influenced by Soviet propaganda. The headline on the article read: “U.S. Bars a Girl’s Plea for Russian Pen Pals.”

Credit…The New York Times

“Find that girl!” Mr. Laufer told the class, an exercise designed to teach his students the skill of locating a source and, possibly, a bigger story. He thought she might still be living nearby.

For nine students, that simple instruction turned into a journalism project, which included an on-the-ground reporting trip in Nevada, digging through F.B.I. files from the National Archives and meeting face to face with modern-day fourth graders in southern Russia. This year, they published their findings in a book, “Classroom 15: How the Hoover F.B.I. Censored the Dreams of Innocent Oregon Fourth Graders.”

“It is such a small story, but it resonates so much with the time that it was in,” said Julia Mueller, who worked as the project’s managing editor and wrote a chapter in the book.

Using public records and online databases, the students located the subject of the article, Janice Hall, now married and living near Las Vegas. Her name had been misspelled as “Janis” in the original article, which made it more difficult for the class to locate her.

In 1960, during a tense period of the Cold War, a time when both the United States and the Soviet Union saw every move by the other country as a tactic aimed at world domination, Ms. Hall never had the chance to correspond with Russian students. The reporters were determined to understand why.

They abandoned the syllabus, renamed the course Janice 101 and devoted the rest of the term to unpacking the story.

Each student took a slightly different angle. One examined the fear of communism that had gripped the United States. Another reporter, who was headed to Las Vegas for a spring break trip with her sorority, made a detour to meet Ms. Hall. Yet another interviewed the family of Ray McFetridge, the teacher who had conceived of the pen-pal project and who had died years earlier. Students even obtained the F.B.I. case files on the incident through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Why wouldn’t you want people to be friends with people across borders?” asked Zack Demars, the lead reporter on the project, outlining the students’ central question.

“I think we discovered that it was because of the level of fear at the time,” he added.

Mr. Laufer, a former NBC News correspondent, thought that a reporter needed to go to Russia to meet with current pupils. He wanted his journalism students to explore what would happen if they tried to connect schoolchildren today.

“We decided that we were not going to leave this hanging,” Mr. Laufer said. “If they couldn’t do it in 1960, we were going to do it in 2020.”

The class decided to take letters written by fourth graders in Yoncalla, Ore., and deliver them to Russian students.

In December 2019, months after the course ended, Mr. Demars took a 13-hour train ride from Moscow to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, where Mr. Laufer had a contact who agreed to act as a guide.

Mr. Demars met with Russian fourth graders and gave them the letters from their American counterparts. They peppered him with questions: Did he have pets? Did he play sports? What did he think of Ariana Grande?

He also spoke with a group of high schoolers. They discussed American schools and movies and asked to follow him on Instagram. He thinks of these new followers as modern pen pals.

“I don’t talk to them all that often,” he said. “But we interact every now and then, and we have that level of human connection.”

Mr. Demars is now working as a reporter at a small local newspaper in Oregon. During the project, he learned the value of recording individual experiences, which can offer future generations insight into a particular era.

“When I’m out reporting, I’m looking for those things that are commonplace right now but deeply unique to the time period,” he said.

Ms. Hall, 70, said she was amazed to hear from the college students, who are about the age of her grandchildren.

She was also awed by the project, and particularly by Mr. Demars’s persistence: “He hooked up these two fourth grades,” she said, “which is exactly what we were trying to do.”

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