Saturday, February 23, 2008
CNN = Politics. It sounded like a catchy slogan, but in the past several weeks it has become a near-literal truth: all politics, almost all of the time. If a story doesn't involve an actual crime being committed, it better have a poll attached to it if it wants some attention.
Last week, with Pakistan holding historic elections, we in the US were lucky if we got ten minutes of coverage about it per day. You remember Pakistan -- nuclear power, home of the Taliban, hideout of Osama bin Laden? The outcome of that election was just slightly important for this country's future... yet the network that should have been explaining the ramifications of the voting there was instead firmly focused on the election here, despite the fact that it is still nine months away.
Ballot Bowl was a terrific idea: allowing us to hear the uncut, unfiltered speeches of candidates in ways we never have before. But what was great on the weekends is far less welcome every weekday. Did we really need to lose the one single hour we were getting of international news with Your World Today? Are we not xenophobic and isolationist enough already?
Similarly, This Week at War has morphed into This Week In Politics. Do our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve even less attention than we have been giving them, simply because things may be going well for the moment? We can't honor their sacrifice and commitment by spotlighting them for one single hour every weekend? Even if it returns after November, think about how much has changed in Iraq since May of last year... nine months is a long time to turn away from a story as chaotic as these.
I am a dyed-in-the-wool political junkie. I volunteered for my first presidential campaign when I was 12. But even I am up-to-here with the nonstop campaigning, and we are still months away from the start of the "real" campaign!
Additionally, having to fill the better part of seventeen hours per day leads to the worst kind of excess in journalism: whipping up controversy. Each tiny thing gets shouted up, graphics are plastered across the screen as replay after replay tries to make it headline-worthy. Please. Leave this kind of distasteful idiocy to the competition. We -- those of us who have chosen to make CNN our trusted source of news -- deserve better.
(And I hate to say this, but when you come up with a catchy slogan to describe your own team of reporters, then try to convince everyone else of its truth through sheer repetition hour after hour ... it's really kinda pathetic. Even if it is true. Stop talking the talk; trust your people to walk the walk -- they'll do you proud. Every time a journalist repeats that line his credibility is lessened, so keep the promos about it in the ad space. Better yet, let others sing their praises. They really are good enough to earn it on their own.)
I completely understand the wall-to-wall coverage in the evenings, when ratings are all-important and CNN's political coverage is bringing in a lot of viewers. But can't we have a broader range of coverage, including international news, during the day? Are we really not going to have in-depth programming about the war until after the election? The economic shows have deservedly been left on in their weekend slots, isn't it possible to move This Week at War to an earlier time for the next few months, or bump the SIU repeats for now?
If voters need more information about anything right now, it is the economy and the wars and the ways in which international events are affecting both. CNN has always given us valuable assets in those areas. We need them back.
(And yes, I have a definite bias about this... but that doesn't mean I'm wrong!)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Where in the World...?
It seems like there wasn't as much travel this week, but that's only because people tended to stay in one place for several days...
Saturday, Don Lemon continued to report from DeKalb, Illinois about the campus shooting. Sunday on Late Edition, we saw Candy Crowley in Chicago and John King in New Orleans.
Monday, John Roberts was off, Dana Bash was in Houston, Wolf Blitzer was in New York, and Suzanne Malveaux was in Waikiki. (Rough assignment!) And Michael Ware was in Islamabad, reporting on the Pakistani elections.
Tuesday, Christianne Amanpour was in New York, discussing the Fidel Castro "retirement." Dana Bash was in Columbus, Ohio as she follows the McCain campaign. Wednesday, Sanjay Gupta was in El Centro, California for his flight with the Blue Angels. John Roberts hosted Election Center from Austin, Texas.
Thursday, Dana Bash continued to tour Ohio, reporting from Toledo and Perrysburg. John King and Campbell Brown were in Austin for the debate.
Friday, Dana Bash was in Indianapolis, and Ali Velshi (above, although the photo is from Saturday morning) was in Austin to kick off a Texas tour on the Election Express. John Roberts was back in New York for both American Morning and Election Center, arriving just before a big winter storm hit.