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Saturday, February 23, 2008

CNN = Politics

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.

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MWmcFan said...

Cyn, I very much agree with you about CNN having way too much US campaign coverage and not enough international news. For those of us in the US that don’t receive CNNI we are stuck with very little news of the outside world. The loss of our one hour of Your World Today to the endless candidate rehashing has driven me from being a dedicated CNN viewer to watching the BBC News and other foreign news stations. The change of This Week at War to This Week in Politics is very unfortunate.
CNN - bring back your news coverage of what is going on around the world and cut down your US presidential campaign coverage.

jodi54 said...

Oh Cyn, with your usual skill you have hit the nail right on the head! Thank you for saying so in no uncertain terms. I agree with everything!

Why isn't it part of our politcal coverage to look in depth at the challenges facing the next President, then ask the candidates how they would approach the problems? They don't have to offer a fully formed solution .... what I need to see is how their minds work ... how they problem solve ... and what they understand about the issues. And I would start with the topic of Iraq. Let Micheal Ware quiz these hopefuls! (BTW, love your link at the word "bias").

Furthermore, as you said, it is unforgivable that we have been robbed of our one measly hour of Your World Today. What's happening in the world is not only important - it's pertinent to the elections before us! The coverage on the Pakistani elections was pitiful - on domestic. I "hear" that international had terrific coverage. If not for your site, I would not have seen much.

We are culpable in Iraq on every level. There is no more important story. But there has only been brief mention of al Sadr and the fact that some have broken away from his influence ... now happily firing rockets into the Green Zone.

The focus on incubating the appearance of scandal dominates! If there is a story, then cover it ... don't nurse it. The amount of time spent on minutiae is staggering. While all the time, the true troubles in the world are being sidelined, the description of it shallow. Unfortunate. Because nobody does international coverage and analysis better than CNN. Everybody does domestic, for better or for worse. But CNN can offer coverage and depth far beyond the competition, when they choose to.

And yes, they don't have to keep saying that they're the best political team, (as you so succinctly put it) ... they are - and they shouldn't need to say it.

Anonymous said...

Cyn-great post and I have to agree with everything you said. I too like politics, but I am sick of all of this and ready to get back to some regular news.

I especially agree with your comments about This Week at War becoming This Week in Politics. I feel our soldiers are being forgotten by the news media and that is a shame.

Thanks again for a great post.

Mavis said...

All evening I have been planning just how I was going to BLAST all us
Americans for not caring about the rest of the world. I was going to
say, "We are pompous and care only about what is under our nose. We are
ostriches that hide our heads in the sand."

Then I was hit in the face with cold water.

A dear friend wrote me saying how lucky I am to live in a cable market
that has CNN International as well as CNN Domestic. Even though CNNI
is at my disposal 24/7 and I pay to have it, I never watch it. At that
point I realized I am just like all other Americans, I am an ostrich
that only cares about what is right under my nose.

All evening, I planned for this to be a finger pointing comment. But
when I take a look I realize four fingers are pointing back at me.

What a great opportunity for me to broaden my horizons.

Sapphire said...

Cyn...great post. I have to agree and I have heard that they are now going to have the noon hour as a financial hour with Gerri Willis so who knows when Your World Today will be back

I loved the pic of Ali in that hat!!!

Quitty said...

Excelent post. I agree with your sentiment about the catchy slogan. Put it in your ads but don't make the talent force it into their introductions.

I saw Suzanne in Hawaii. She was wearing Hawaiian clothing because her luggage got lost. Did you know Obama was born in Hawaii?

ACAnderFan said...

I agree that CNN has way too much election coverage. There are other things going on in the world, and either directly or indirectly they are going to affect the next president.

I find it very sad that This Week At War has somehow morphed in to This Week In Politics. I think it's disrespectful to the troops. The war is very important and yet it seems to be forgtten by CNN.

monitor said...

Abslutely agree, Cyn. In politics, all we really hear is he attacks her, she attacks him, campaign drama, issues are left behind. I am a diehard political junkie as well, some days consuming over four hours of political news, I must say, CNN, and just about every news organization, including NPR/PBS somewhat, have gone overboard. It's like all the major problems in the world have ceased because of this long, winding contest. The only plus, perhaps, is a little less tabloid news.

jodi54 said...

Mavis, you lucky girl! I don't get the option to buy CNNI. The one hour of YWT is all I get. Sounds like I won't even get that now.

anne said...

Well said,Cyn!

It seems as if the entire Middle East has fallen off the map as far as CNN is concerned-and well.... we have not heard what has been happening in Burma,or the DRC either for that matter these days,not to mention what we NEVER got to see from NOLA

It seems as if CNN has well....tunnel vision,of nothing but election and politics,and I just wonder-well,there seems to be NO light at the end of their tunnel until November.

And please,would someone at CNN PLEASE retire that ''best political...''thing-before we all go insane?

Just a few of my observations,ladies!