When did CNN become irrelevant?

by Susan Getgood on April 21, 2013

in Boston, Journalism

CNN, once the definition of broadcast news quality, has become irrelevant. If you didn’t already think so, the network did a bang-up job proving it this week with its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, which at times matched the standard of reporting of that bastion of yellow journalismThe New York Post.

I’ll let Jon Stewart explain CNN’s latest gaffe: 

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Most Busted Name in News
Daily Show Full Episodes Indecision Political Humor The Daily Show on Facebook


And this is just the latest example. CNN’s news fails are a staple of Stewart’s material. Here’s another clip for your viewing enjoyment:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
On Topic – Cable News – CNN
Daily Show Full Episodes Indecision Political Humor The Daily Show on Facebook


CNN pioneered the 24-hour news cycle. Its tenacious, determined coverage of the 1989 Tienanmen Square occupation and military crackdown was a seminal moment for the young network and literally redefined the news. I was in Hong Kong at the time, and remember being glued to the television watching the CNN reports from Beijing. CNN literally had the story before anyone else — even the US government.

How did this once shining star become the punchline?

It is tempting to blame social media and the rise of the “citizen journalist,” and there is some truth to the assertion. All CNN’s vaunted “boots on the ground” aren’t worth nearly as much as they used to be, when anyone with a smartphone can be a reporter.  You don’t have to look much further than the 2011 Egyptian uprisings to understand just how powerful first-person reporting has become.

But untrained “citizen reporters” gathering their news from police scanners and eyewitness accounts get it wrong just as often as they get it right. Terribly wrong, as was shown this week by the Reddit community’s erroneous identification of someone as a suspect in the Boston bombings.

CNN hasn’t become irrelevant because we have become reporters. CNN is increasingly irrelevant because it has stopped practicing responsible journalism. In the rush to be first, it seems to have forgotten how important it is to be correct (h/t a Facebook friend whose name I don’t recall for this turn of phrase). Its reporting isn’t that much better than that of the man or woman on the street. And that’s a shame.

I expect Fox to get it wrong more than it gets it right because of the inherent political bias of the network. There’s a reason why we call it the Faux News network…

But I used to want more, expect more from CNN. I don’t anymore. It’s not quite Bullshit Mountain (Jon Stewart’s favorite name for Fox) but it’s not the news I need.

I want the news outlets I follow to be responsible journalists. To accurately report the news — the narrative of what has happened — and to provide the objective analysis and context for the news. So, I didn’t watch CNN on Friday as I followed the events in Boston. 

I wanted careful, objective reporting without invective, speculation or rumor-mongering.  I turned to local Boston TV and radio, periodically checking in on WCVB-TV’s live feed on the Internet, and listening to WBUR, Boston’s NPR affiliate. And when my friends on Facebook and Twitter complained about CNN, I advised them to step away from the TV and “go local” with me.

I’m actually quite sad that CNN — the news network that for years fed my news addiction — has become so irrelevant, and wish I could say that it will learn from the debacle of its Boston coverage. But I am not hopeful, if reports of CNN president Jeff Zucker’s congratulatory memo to staff are accurate.

With multiple sources reporting, I’m guessing they are.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Previous post:

Next post: