I doubt the embarrassment that CNN causes me is grounds for a lawsuit. Too bad. The network where I raked muck for ten years as Senior Investigative Correspondent makes decisions that give journalism a bad name, as well as making me cringe when admitting I worked there. It could be worse—like having Fox “News,” aka the Republican Propaganda Network, on my résumé.
CNN’s latest gaffe—a stupid stumble shared by Fox—was inaccurately reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the Affordable Care Act.
How does CNN screw-up reporting one of the most significant Supreme Court decisions in recent years? Fear, probably. With its viewership at the lowest level in twenty years, CNN feels intense pressure to beat its competitors—even if only by a few seconds. Except for a few people in the network’s newsroom, most television viewers give a shit who is first. They do care about receiving accurate information. Unfortunately, panic and desperation by television producers breeds horrible decisions.
Although CNN”s idiocy will haunt the network for awhile, it gained a bit of redemption this past weekend by exposing attempts by Penn State University to cover-up the Sandusky sex scandal.
Sadly, CNN “scoops” are few and far between—mainly because a sizeable portion of the network’s reporting staff has been replaced by paid pundits who pontificate about politics and the nation’s state of affairs. Unfortunately, nobody I know of keeps a scorecard to determine the accuracy of the pontifications and prophecies by so-called commentators. It would seem easy to do since these ”experts” are so predictable observant viewers can almost lip-sync their comments.
My CNN tenure spanned from 1989 to 1999, a time when the network was willing to spend substantial money on substantive reporting. I was reminded today of how far CNN has sunk while reviewing video of a couple of 1990’s exposés I will show to an LSU continuing education class later this month. I realize it’s egomaniacal to be impressed with my own work, but I was damn good—thanks in large part to a team of producers, researchers and the network’s commitment to quality journalism that no longer exists.
CNN is not alone in diminishing the quality of television reporting. I’m finishing Douglas Brinkley’s biography, Cronkite, which does a pretty good job of telling what viewers got in the heyday of CBS News and its broadcast news competitors. To the detriment of the nation, much has changed in the television business. Walter Cronkite’s venue was not perfect by any measure, but he and his staff knew enough to turn to page two before erroneously announcing a Supreme Court ruling.
Maybe the high court will one day deliver a decision allowing old muckrakers to collect damages from networks that force them to say they are retired short-order cooks instead of enduring the embarrassment of admitting they are former TV reporters.
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.