Today I had the dubious experience of watching a complete and utter failure on the part of a news network. CNN decided to run breathlessly onto the air with its “scoop” that an arrest had been made in the Boston Marathon bombings. News anchor John King was insisting that his “unnamed sources” in a police department were confirming it, Associated Press was running with it, and a description was made of the suspect. Then came the reality. There was no arrest, the description made was wrong, and hoots of derision followed.
It has been part of a trend these past few years. There was a time, some 20 or so years ago, when CNN was respected. While other networks were cutting back on their news bureaus, trying to save money, CNN had correspondents around the world, and you could count on them to report things that you might never hear from other networks, along with in-depth programs on a regular basis. Over the past few years, the migration has been toward “infotainment,” or as has been described “Fox Lite.”
Instead of news, we’re treated to multi-hour coverage of some event. A disaster, a car chase, an earthquake, snowstorm, you name it, and we can count on round-the-clock coverage. While interesting to an extent, the problem is that facts are often few on the ground, and in order to fill time, factual reporting is supplanted by “analysis” or “commentary” from various pundits, anchors and field reporters comment or wonder about every rumor or stray piece of information, and in general do everything except report facts.
I understand that putting attractive anchors in front of the camera and substituting opinion draws ratings – at least for now. The problem is that there’s a lot of actual news going on in the world. There was an earthquake in Iran. There are things happening locally, regionally, and around the world. You wouldn’t know it if you looked at CNN.
It’s sad, because it used to be the “place to go” when you wanted real news, and they deserved that reputation. These days? I trust The Onion more than CNN. At least there, I know it’s a gag.