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CNN's Shallowness

I’m in an airport airline club where a big-screen TV is showing CNN. It’s a split screen. Half is devoted to some meaningless hearing in the Anna Nicole Smith case. The other features a private plane that may or may not be having trouble with landing gear.

Last night and the night before I was part of a semi-debate at the University of California’s Spectrum series. Former CNN Asia correspondent Mike Chinoy, a superb journalist, and I actually agreed more than we disagreed on many of the topics in the session, entitled Will the Internet Kill Newspapers and Broadcast News? I was arguing in the affirmative, wishing it wasn’t likely but unable to solve a business puzzle that demands more innovation than I’ve seen to date from these businesses.

CNN might survive as a National Enquirer of cable, though how it will compete with Fox for that dishonor is unclear. But the more the once-proud network sinks lower and lower into tabloidism, with this morning’s non-news voyeurism and its promotion of people like Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck — demagogues who degrade the public debate and demean everyone who cares about true journalism — the harder it will be for anyone to claim that CNN does anything but provide slick (and often sick) entertainment for people who don’t want to know what’s actually going on in the world.

Update: Anna Nicole Smith is still deceased. The plane landed safely.

2 Comments on “CNN's Shallowness”

  1. #1 Cassandra Johnson
    on Feb 15th, 2007 at 10:40 am

    I appreciate your comments about the general nature of televised news media becoming an outlet for gossip and PR of celebrities. However, I find the phrase “once-proud CNN”. Along CNN and Bernard Shaw’s fantastic coverage of Gulf War Pt. I I remember hours of Jim and Tammy Faye’s home (including the air-conditioned doghouse). There was constant coverage of Fawn Hall which was a major distraction from the real crimes committed by Oliver North et al. It is important to avoid sentimentality for something that was revolutionary at it’s debut, including a high level of “tabloid” style news stories.

  2. #2 Seth Finkelstein
    on Feb 15th, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    It’s not pretty. But something has to pay the freight.

    There’s a problem with *scale*, that blog evangelists often just don’t deal with.

    If you want to have a business model that supports many viewers, there’s got to be *something*, somewhere, that finances it.

    It’s going to be a cash-cow like taxes, or classified ads, or tabloidism to drive sponorships numbers.

    The blog equivalent of this so far might be the hype of OH MY GOD THE SKY IS FALLING RED ALERT CENSORSHIP TEH FEDS THEY’RE COMING TO GET US … which seems to happen every few months.
    But I don’t think that scales well.

    But C-SPAN is a very small niche.