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Take Five: Jon Klein

Why has the competition between cable news networks heated up so much?

We're all getting excited about the political season. The presidential campaign season is starting earlier than expected, and I think it gets everybody's mojo going. And that's a good thing for viewers. It's a good way to motivate the staffs. It's a little fun in the middle of the day. I don't think it's any kind of serious marketing strategy. Everybody's just jazzed.

Do you think negative ads impact viewers' opinions or viewing habits?

The programming you do on the air is what impacts viewers' opinions and viewing habits. For all of us, the image we have with viewers is pretty well locked in and not that easy to change. The way you cover the news or choose not to cover the news is what will influence the audience.

What was the idea behind your ads reacting to Fox News?

Honestly, I think we react with bemusement. The journalism speaks for itself. Any news network or so-called news network's work defines it, and that will do most of the talking for us.

Naturally, if somebody throws a punch, you want to throw a counter-punch, but it will probably all simmer down after that.

We're all busy doing what we need to do, so I don't think any of the executives really has too much time for this.

Given cable news ratings, do you think you're in a three-way race?

I don't think any of us really feels we're in a prize fight here. We're in the very difficult business of covering the world, a world that's become more complex and difficult for viewers to grasp, and that's what consumes us. Not spitball fights.

Where on your schedule are you in need of growth, and are you worried about MSNBC beating you in the morning?

We had growth in all of our key dayparts in January. The trends over the past two years have been phenomenal for us. We're moving full-steam ahead and definitely heading in the right direction.

We really obsess over our coverage and how we swarm all over the news every day. That's what really preoccupies us.

We've got the most news in the morning, and that's a great path for us to follow. That's what viewers expect out of CNN, and it's what we're delivering.

You've drawn criticism from people saying you're over-promoting Anderson Cooper—what do you say to that?

All you have to do is watch Anderson night in and night out to know that he's the preeminent journalist of his generation. It's no wonder people try to attack him. He offers depth. He does real news, and he goes to where story is.

But what about people saying CNN has promoted him at the expense of others?

They should run their business, and we should run ours. Anderson has earned the renown that he's gotten by virtue of the absolute kick-ass reporting that he does.

He goes to dangerous places, puts himself at great risk, asks tough questions, demands honest answers. That's why the audience embraces him and he wins awards. The people who know the news know that Anderson Cooper deserves the acclaim.

Is there room for growth in cable news, or are you grabbing share from each other?

In a country of 300 million, we ought to attract more than a few million news viewers every night.

The mission for us, whether on-air or online, is to provide massive amounts of information and understanding about as many of the things the audience cares about as possible.