It pains me to criticize my former employer—the company that paid me far more than I ever thought I was worth (truism for most TV reporters), and contributed generously to an IRA that now allows me to live on the seventh hole of a beautiful golf course and occasionally swing a club, even though the flight of the ball is absolutely unpredictable. My hurt in criticizing CNN is not nearly as painful as the torture of watching the grand-daddy of 24-hour news networks desperately trying to stop its ratings from going into the toilet.
Whoever (or is it whomever) makes CNN’s final programming decisions needs to wear a papersack over his/her head. I keep my television set tuned to CNN throughout the daytime hours just in case real news breaks. The channel is usually muted so I don’t have to endure an endless line up of talking heads and political pundits. I don’t know where the network finds these alleged “experts,” many of whom (or is it who) are so predictable I can lip sync their commentaries.
Appearing on the Piers Morgan’s nightly celebrity fest a couple of weeks ago, CNN’s outspoken founder, Ted Turner, said he had hoped his baby would become television’s New York Times. Instead, it has become the cure for insomnia. A Huffington Post blogger did a pretty good job recently analyzing the problems that make the network so boring.
Among CNN’s most egregious sins is the failure of its anchors and “reporters” to challenge inaccurate and/or stupid comments made by politicians. Notable exceptions to this criticism are Soledad O’Brian and weekend anchor Don Lemon. Given the Republican Party’s views regarding women and homosexuals, it seems ironic that CNN’s most macho on-air personalities other than network war correspondents are a woman and an out-of-the-closet gay. I should also include Anderson Cooper as a tough interviewer, though he undercuts his authority with silly bullshit segments and attempts to be cute.
The worst offender in failing to challenge inaccuries is Wolf Blitzer. He is not a simple minded guy, but for reasons unknown Blitizer allows guests to get away incredibly idiotic claims. Maybe he is trying to be “fair and balanced,” the satirical slogan of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox “News,” aka the Republican Propaganda Network.
Presumably, CNN is trying to compete with Fox “News,” far and away the cable news ratings leader. But what purpose is served by CNN winning a battle with fools, a definition that fits a majority of Fox’s personalities. The network appeals primarily to tea partiers, racists and malcontents.
Rather than good news judgment, CNN tries to boost viewership with new toys like political correspondent John King’s razzle-dazzle digital boards that cause many confused people to ask the musical question, “What the hell was that?” To pay for all its technical wizardry and huge stable of pundits, CNN has fired a lot of reporters in recent years and closed a number of substantive newsgathering units.
As former Senior Investigative Correspondent in CNN’s fifty-member investigative unit during the network’s heydays, I bemoan the downward trend of Ted Turner’s invention. Sadly, he made the decision to turn over controlling interest to Time Warner Corporation— a decision he has regretted ever since. But the network was already in descent. Young and blonde folks were replacing old dudes like me.
Granted, CNN needed to adapt to a change in viewer demographics. But like most of its decisions beginning with wall-to-wall coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the network has been guilty of overkill—a whine for another post. Suffice to say that it was exploitation over responsibility.
Anyway, there may be a positive to CNN’s journey to the toilet. Aftr all, if viewers miss a story, they can tune in and see it repeated—again, again and again, ad infinitum.
My memoir, Odyssey of a Derelict Gunslinger: A Saga of Exposing TV Preachers, Corrupt Politicians, Right-Wing Lunatics…and Me is available at amazon.com, soft-cover or Kindle and at independent bookstores like the Cottonwood in Baton Rouge. It offers $19.99 worth of laughs and much more. The book is an account of my illustrious (I choose the adjectives) investigative reporting career.