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4/27/2015 12:33 pm  #1

The night the news died

I agree with much of what Bunch writes here. While he maybe overdramatizes things a bit, I do think we now need to recognize that cable news is no longer somewhere a person can go to get actual news. 

"We don't control a lot of this stuff. We sort of make our best choices, and we'll—we'll catch up." -- CNN commentator Errol Louis, speaking Saturday night on CNN's non-coverage of social unrest in Baltimore.

The end came shortly before 9 p.m. on a nippy spring Saturday night. We'd all seen it coming for years, especially after the heart-attack-like shock of the Iraq War years in the early 2000s, when elite journalists pinned an American flag to their lapels and left their skepticism back home in the closet. But the awkward, babbling explanations by Louis and his fellow CNN panelists about why they -- and, in fairness, their competitors on MSNBC, Fox and even Al-Jazeera America -- were pathologically unable to ditch their black-tie-dyed puffball coverage of the D.C. media's so-called "nerd prom"  truly felt like the respirator plug had finally been yanked, violently, from the wall.

It was a death of an idea that had once thrived and then hobbled through its old age -- that Big Media was something could drive the national conversation, that bringing graphic images and hard realities about the things that matter into America's living rooms was their noble primary. That moving pictures could make a damn difference.

To call what happened on Saturday night a slow-motion train wreck would be to attribute too much momentum to the thing -- it was more like a guy slowly walking 500 paces into a brick wall and breaking his nose. It was clear that TV planning for the big event, the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, featuring President Obama, had been in the work for months. Once upon a time, this WHCA dinner (which annually also stars a comedian; last night it was Cecily Strong of SNL) was an okay idea -- schlubby journalists and the officials they cover getting dressed up for one night, drinking a lot of wine, sharing some bawdy jokes and raising a few dollars for scholarships.

Then came the long downward spiral of red carpets, celebrity "dates," and media obsession, in which the cable networks like CNN and MSNBC devote hours to comedian-laced panels of pundits analyzing and trumpeting their own event; MSNBC even halts its profitable celebration of mass incarceration in America, "Lockup," to cover this as a major breaking event. It mattered not that -- in the years after the self-congratulatory press corps failed to ask tough questions about Iraq, after affairs like the Valerie Plame leak scandal revealed how the notion of afflicting the comfortable had succumbed to cozy access -- the whole thing looked so unseemly to most folks. Even when Steven Colbert showed up in 2006 to address the whole emperor-clothes issue -- telling journalists to go home and write that novel "about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration?...You know, fiction!" -- it didn't kill the party vibe. 

No, only one thing could really screw things up last night, actual important news. The day started with unspeakable tragedy in Nepal with news of a massive earthquake and an ever-rising death toll -- the kind of overseas natural disaster that cried out for coverage, not only for the human interest but to drive a global response and donations for the victims. (If you wish to donate, here is more info.) As night fell, another type of tremor -- a social one -- was hitting much closer to home. Less than an hour up I-95 from the posh ballroom where the correspondents and President Obama were gathering, tensions over policing seemed about to erupt in a major American city. The violent killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose spine was snapped in the custody of Baltimore police who'd stopped him for no obvious reason, is an American tragedy, driving thousands of people into the streets on Saturday. Most were peaceful, but some young people on the fringes shattered windows, looted convenience stores, and stomped on police cruisers. Some 40,000 baseball fans at Camden Yards were abruptly told by city officials that it wasn't safe to leave.

Think about that for a moment, in relation to TV news. CNN and their rival networks have been known to cut away from regular programming to show planes with stuck landing gear circling a runway, or random police chases of random suspects in a random city. But now a city telling 40,000 people not to leave a baseball game because of social unrest, albeit briefly, wasn't news? Are you kidding me? More important was the broader stakes, that the citizens of a great American city, stripped of its factories and caught between high crime and appalling levels of police brutality, were trying to make a statement, that their lives mattered. But to the Beltway revelers...they just didn't.


I think you're going to see a lot of different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. - President Donald J. Trump

4/27/2015 3:49 pm  #2

Re: The night the news died

IMHO cable "news" has been designed for a targeted market (and is working well in that regards), but as noted it certainly is NOT designed to bring the entire news. The general viewing audience winds up being the loser in the whole thing. 


"Do not confuse motion and progress, A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress"

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