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When CNN's Larry King announced last night that he would retire, it solved one headache for the struggling cable news giant, but it created another. NPR's David Folkenflik offers his take on the stakes for CNN.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: CNN executives say in spite of declining ratings for King and for the whole network, they're making plenty of money. But the chess pieces sure have been moving about the board with alacrity. Lou Dobbs left last fall, Campbell Brown last month, and now Larry King. That had been CNN's entire lineup from 7 to 10 p.m. Eastern time. Jonathan Klein is the president of CNN's American network. He says King's replacement should...

JONATHAN KLEIN: ...be intelligent, be informed, be surprising. The best interviews take you places that you never knew existed, with people you thought you knew, but it turns out you didn't.

FOLKENFLIK: Campbell Brown was relatively new to CNN, but asked to get out of her contract, saying you couldn't win against the opinion-driven shows of Keith Olbermann on MSNBC and Bill O'Reilly on Fox News. Political anchor John King hasn't been a big ratings winning, either, in replacing the bombastic Lou Dobbs.

STEVE CAPUS: You don't want to just sit her and do, on one hand, and on the other hand - which seems to be kind of the game that CNN is doing right now. And it feels, frankly, a little tired.

FOLKENFLIK: Steve Capus is president of NBC News, and in that role, he oversees cable news rival MSNBC. The runaway ratings leader, of course, is Fox News, with its largely conservative primetime shows. But MSNBC's embrace of political talk by day and a left-leaning primetime lineup has paid off.

Steve Capus.

CAPUS: All day long now, audiences are coming to MSNBC that used to go elsewhere. They used to go to CNN. This is one of the busiest news cycles we've ever seen, and MSNBC, day in and day out, is winning.

FOLKENFLIK: When Lou Dobbs left CNN, it seemed to clarify the network's position: reporting over opinion. Now CNN's Jon Klein puts it slightly differently.

KLEIN: What we will always strive to be known for is real reporting, incisive analysis and informed opinion.

FOLKENFLIK: At 8 p.m., CNN is pairing the disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, a liberal crusader, with the conservative, Pulitzer-winning columnist Kathleen Parker. It's an echo of the political debate show "Crossfire," a show Klein killed five years ago. This time, he promises, the effect will be different. But now, Klein has to fill the 9 p.m. slot, too - more pieces to chase about the board.

David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.

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