Saturday, November 28, 2009

CNN: National Enquirer of the Air

The Balloon Boy Couple poses giddily with Joe Biden

Once upon a time, there was a 24 hour cable news channel called CNN.  You could go there anytime and find out what was going on in the news.  That is to say, if there was a newsworthy event in the world, you could find out about it there.  I liked it.  You could depend on their reportage to be unbiased and professional, insofar as that is humanly possible.  It was reliable.  It was sometimes even a lifeline, like the time we were up at the cabin in Oregon and Jennifer, 17, was at home alone in San Francisco when a major earthquake hit, taking out the freeways and part of the Bay Bridge.   We  could actually see what was going on, and though it was horrifying, we at least had some idea of what was up.

I guess it still covers things like that, but the rest of the news now seems to have gone somewhere over the moon.  We have endless rehashes of the truly appalling escapades of reality TV wannabes.  We have Rick Sanchez and his twittering -- hours of looking at the news through the tweets of his fans.  As if I care at all what his fans think -- or what he thinks, for that matter.  His questions are often inane and designed to provoke rather than enlighten, though he presents them with an intensity that suggests they are profound.  

There are apparently pretty people who simply hold down the fort there for an hour or two.  There is the business news lady who does not seem to understand that many of us are not in  her tax bracket and therefore, her advice to us is absolute nonsense.  If you're worrying about how you are going to pay for the groceries, you are really not going to be terribly interested in the best place to invest your dividends to get the most bang for your bankroll.   There is the medical report lady who does not seem to know that not all of us are interested in liposuction or the latest food fad news.  Is chocolate really better for you than red wine?  Or was that pomegranates and avocado?

We spent hours chasing Balloon Boy over the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in a toy balloon that anyone with a mind more developed than that of a lizard could tell was not big enough to hold a small boy or carry one any distance at all.  That family was in hot pursuit of a reality TV show. We have now spent several days watching a pair of pseudo-socialites crash the Obama's first ever state dinner party at the White House.  Why?  Didn't you know the answer to that before anyone on TV even said the words out loud?  From the very second you first saw that fatuous pair?  They were, of course,  in pursuit of a reality TV show.  The Balloon Boy Couple. 

Now we've moved on to Tiger Woods, who had a bad fight with his wife and crashed his Escalade into a fire plug and a tree.  (On purpose?  He wasn't drinking. He isn't talking to the Highway Patrol, either.  Could you get away with that?)  His injuries, which actually amounted to a cut lip, were at first said to be  serious.  We have now had two days of that, nearly non-stop. 

There are still a few good reporters left on the CNN payroll.  Fareed Zakaria is outstanding.  Candy Crowley.  Don Lemmon.  Christine Amanpour. 

Back in the days of Bernie Shaw, CNN used to be an all news all the time channel -- serious journalists getting in there and getting the story.  Now we have poor bumbling Wolf Blitzer, who seems embarrassed to even have to ask questions of the people he interviews, or John King with his enormous interactive toy computer which reminds me of the endlessly unfolding war maps that took up whole rooms in Max Shulman's WWII classic satire The Feather Merchants.  At least they finally paid Lou Dobbs a lot of money to go away and stop his obsessive and outrageous racist rants. 

CNN has deteriorated into little more than a gossip rag: the National Enquirer of the Air, I call it. 

photo credit: Huffington Post

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