Monday, May 12, 2014

Cable News Nothing

I have just watched CNN for an hour, and I feel I must comment about it. There was a time, during the Iraq war, when I admired CNN and counted on it for reliable news. That time is gone. During the past hour, the best that CNN has been able to manage is an extensive coverage of the first openly gay professional football player, and an interview with disgraced LA Clippers owner, Donald Sterling.

In the first, openly gay anchor Don Lemon questioned a supposedly expert panel about the player's now viral kiss of his boyfriend upon learning that he had been drafted by the NFL. This incident, which ought to have merited a passing comment at most, was the subject of nearly half an hour of national TV time. The expert panel admitted, each in his or her own way, that they had never seen anything like this phenomenon, and, so, could not possibly be experts upon it. Leaving aside the point that this is now professional football player burst into tears and kissed his boyfriend, the fact that Lemon -- the same news anchor who asked a guest whether the missing Malaysia airliner could have been swallowed by a black hole -- felt that it deserved the nation's attention for an entire news program, when children are missing in Nigeria, innocents are being slaughtered in Syria, missiles are being launched in North Korea (over Stalinist prison camps), Vladimir Putin is trying to morph into a latter day tsar, and Democrats are refusing to participate in an effort to learn what really happened the day an American ambassador and three others were murdered in Libya, represents a new high in journalistic lows.

Then there was the continuing public pillorying of 80-year-old Clippers owner Sterling, who had the misfortune to make a damn fool of himself in an illegally tape recorded phone conversation with his girlfriend, who is less than half his age. I have read the transcript of that conversation, and if he could not tell that he was being baited and set up for exposure by a resentful mistress, he does not deserve to have a professional sports franchise, let alone two billion dollars. For those offenses he ought to be dismissed out of hand by the news, not to say by the NBA, but Anderson Cooper felt it was essential to scoop the other cable-gapers by interviewing the hapless octogenarian at length, and to the exclusion of all else that is plaguing our world these days. Who cares?! Sterling is a very foolish, fond old man, as Shakespeare said, who ought to resign in shame and be forgotten. But such is the fodder of cable news these days, which has such low standards that it cannot resist twisting the knife in any open wound.

Add to this the fact that CNN has striven almost singlehandedly to keep alive the missing Malaysia airliner story for nearly two months, pointlessly reporting every day and night that there is nothing to report, while parading the same "I really don't know anything new either" panels of experts. I submit that CNN, which has ceded its news pedigree to cooking shows and faux-documentaries in a feckless search for ratings, has ceased to exist as a serious source of news. This is news as social networking, hash-tag journalism, with stories driven by twitter. It is, quite simply, a bad joke.