Sober CNN

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In an interview with the New York Observer, CNN President Jonathan Klein scoffs at MSNBC's cheesy true crime "doc block" and Fox News' naked partisanship, saying that CNN is the only one left doing real news; the only channel not catering to the drooling couch potato:

"When [MSNBC broadcasts 'true crime' documentaries], they're really competing with Court TV," Mr. Klein later told NYTV in an interview in his office overlooking Columbus Circle. "They're saying, in effect, we give up trying to cover the news in any meaningful way. It enhances our brand. We're the last man standing in terms of covering the news. We love that."

[…]

He told the staffers that they should not worry about attracting "couch potatoes" who turn on the TV and stick with whatever happens to be on, and "thrill-seekers," who tune in looking for the ultimate car chase or building demolition. Instead, he encouraged the newsroom to do a better job of attracting "inquiring minds" (viewers looking to ruminate in depth on current events) and "social connectors" (people looking for stories to yap about with their buddies).

So what stories are on desk for the inquisitive, "inquiring" visitor to CNN.com? Will the weepy Anderson Cooper Vanderbilt "keep them honest?" Is he ripping the lid off of it?

NEXT: Michael Vick: All Shook Up

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  1. I can never tell if television “journalists”* really believe that they are reporting news, or if they’re just cynically shoveling the sort of pablum that passes for news in teevee land. Judging from the television reporters I’ve worked side-by-side with, it’s probably some of both.

    Either way: There is no news on television. That includes CNN, Fox,or your local stations.

    *Yes, the use of scare quotes is intentional. The phrase ‘pablum pukers’ is already taken.

  2. I thought CNN debuted crappy, biased pop-reporting some years ago.

    How far the mighty have fallen. And how quickly. I guess they’re missing the firm, crazy hand of the Ted.

  3. Instead, he encouraged the newsroom to do a better job of attracting “inquiring minds” (viewers looking to ruminate in depth on current events)…

    Inquiring minds won’t be watching TV at all. The big joke here is that TV in general is not really a serious news medium. The average news story provides only as much factual information as a couple of paragraphs of newsprint.

    TV news mostly conveys emotion instead of reason. Truly informative TV news is dull as ditch water and provides information in a very time inefficient manner.

    I haven’t routinely watched TV news since shortly after 9/11 and I find that with the internet I can absorb a lot more information, from many different perspectives, by reading on the internet.

  4. First, Klein was talking about TV and you cited to something from the internet. Second, it appears that the real news is at the top and the bullshit is at the bottom. Third, the stories highlighted, even though from the internet and not TV, appear to be consistent with Klein’s focus on stories that people yap about.

    Freudian slip on the paraphrase: “CNN is the only one left doing real news;”

  5. Dear Jonathan Klein:

    Fuck you, you sanctimonious prig. Your blindness to your own bias is so spectacularly amazing that I’m shocked you can find your way to the water cooler without a cane and a seeing-eye dog.

    Hugs and kisses,
    mediageek

  6. I’m currently in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and I’m finding CNN International to be far better than any news channel back in the US. They know how to do good news reporting; they just don’t do so in the US.

  7. In CNN’s defense, I suspect that “Pregnant skydiver falls 50mph to asphalt” story may have been a plant by one of Urkobold’s minions.

  8. “In CNN’s defense, I suspect that “Pregnant skydiver falls 50mph to asphalt” story may have been a plant by one of Urkobold’s minions.”

    That’s a little too highbrow for them.

  9. Standard disclaimers about how tax money shouldn’t be used for this aside, PBS’ Frontline series does serious, in-depth news very well.

  10. Umm.. why didn’t you highlight “Ticker: ‘Law and Order’ star looks for ’08 mojo”?

  11. Sorry about the last line in my previous post. A cut and paste went awry. It should have read.

    I haven’t routinely watched TV news since shortly after 9/11 and I find that with the internet I can absorb a lot more information, from many different perspectives, in the same amount of time.”

  12. Along with Frontline, I also like PBS’ NOW.

    This week they were covering Ron Paul and his internet revolution.

  13. What Lamar said. One might as well compare Reason’s print version with Hit & Run.

  14. Edward,

    For once, I agree.

  15. Sorry Lamar, Ed…almost everyone of these stories has been on CNN (TV) today too.

  16. My point is that human interest BS stories have been a part of journalism for centuries. There’s a difference between reporting Julia Roberts yelling at somebody with a camera and COPS-style non-documentaries.

  17. Third, the stories highlighted, even though from the internet and not TV

    Those stories were all on CNN…either Larry King Live or their Hollywood news show. Now it is hardly a valid critique to point out that CNN’s Hollywood news show covers celebrity antics and their human interest show (Larry King) includes human interest stories (Survivor’s stories was the theme).

    CNN ain’t deep, but it’s better than average.
    PBS does far more in depth coverage, as does BBC, ITN…

  18. Umm.. why didn’t you highlight “Ticker: ‘Law and Order’ star looks for ’08 mojo”?

    Law and Order is serious business

  19. ChicagoTom | December 19, 2007, 12:16pm | #
    Along with Frontline, I also like PBS’ NOW.

    This week they were covering Ron Paul and his internet revolution.

    Frontline is awesome, Frontline World is worthless. I don’t know about NOW, I don’t watch it because I keep associating it with that disgrace of the English speaking world, Bill Moyers.

  20. I’m currently in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and I’m finding CNN International to be far better than any news channel back in the US. They know how to do good news reporting; they just don’t do so in the US.

    I too have noticed that CNN Int’l. is worlds away from its domestic cousin. More than that, it’s the best (in my experience) among several international TV news choices.

    Whenever I’m in the UAE on business, CNN International is my first choice among the large international news agencies by far. The BBC is quite bad when it comes to promoting a point of view with their reporting and commentary. It’s odd, because, for the most part, the World Service (radio) is excellent.

    Sky is garbage, as is ITV. Both are Fox-like in that they are flash over substance, even though only one is owned by the Mad Aussie.

    Al Jazeera in English is better than them, despite its loopiness and over-willingness (along with the Arabic original) to show the most gruesome footage imaginable in news outside of snuff films.

  21. CNN Int’l is better than the BBC?

    That’s odd, because BBC America is much better than CNN.

  22. I believe in only one news program = PBS News Hour

    Say what you will, i have never seen a better news broadcast. Where else could you get Richard Perle across the table from some crazy weeping code-pink antiwar lesbo? Priceless. The fact that they get ‘experts’ every day to debate implications on the main topics is really unique. At best the network news shows have an in-house ‘topic monkey’ or whatever… like a retired general who is good for 1-2 soundbytes. But no interpretive nuance.

    The world is Jim Leher’s bitch. He PWNS the news!

  23. joe,

    Yes. CNN (US version) is garbage. For whatever reason, I haven’t paid attention to BBC America from a news perspective. It’s not much of a stretch for BBC-A to be better than domestic CNN.

    CNN Int’l is a completely different animal, though they show too much AC360 and Larry King in the gaps between good news programs.

  24. Clarification: the BBC that they show on TV in the Middle East is viewpoint-laden crap. I do not know how it differs from BBC in the UK or BBC-A.

  25. I find CNN Int’l to really be “CNN England,” but that’s just me. BBC America is definitely better than most (if not all) of the major US news outlets. I can’t comment on regular BBC though.

  26. CNN Int’l has studios in London and Hong Kong, at least. What we get here in the US might be more London-centric with a bit of Asia sprinkled in. In the Middle East, it seems to be equal parts London and Asia, which sounds about right.

  27. The PBS Newshour is on a completely different plane from every other news source on TV.

  28. I believe in only one news program = PBS News Hour

    Ah, the State News Program. My favorite, too.

  29. If the NewsHour was the State News Program, it wouldn’t demolish the inaccuracies and distortions of high government officials with such regularity.

    There are very strong walls protecting PBS from political interference by the government.

  30. Just seen on the breaking news banner at cnn.com:
    Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s brother Perry Kucinich found dead at home.

    After about 2 minutes, it dropped back below the White House fire story and the Story with Picture (TM) of a kid who almost died of a cold playing guitar for his girlfriend on a couch.

  31. Good God, that was bad punctuation…

    “Story with Picture (TM) of a kid who almost died from a cold, pictured playing guitar for his girlfriend on a couch for some reason.”

  32. McNeil-Lehrer News hour/ PBS News Hour rocks!

    And Rein – agreed. Thought CNN Int’l was “euro weenie tardsville”, too. I actually gave up on all english language news when living over there and stuck to the German NTV for international coverage. (or watched the newshour, whenever it was broadcast)

  33. CNN Int’l has studios in London and Hong Kong, at least. What we get here in the US might be more London-centric with a bit of Asia sprinkled in. In the Middle East, it seems to be equal parts London and Asia, which sounds about right.

    The CNN International that I got was in France, and in airports throughout western Europe, so that may explain why it was more England-central.

  34. Rip the Lid off of It!

    “Good Morning, Devil!”

    That’s just two steps away from an actual Bill O’Rielly intro, unfortunately.

  35. Standard disclaimers about how tax money shouldn’t be used for this aside, PBS’ Frontline series does serious, in-depth news very well.

    Frontline is absolutely terrific. The News Hour and BBC America are both a head above everyone else, but also seem to be a bit biased.

  36. “but also seem to be a bit biased.”

    what are examples of bias that you’ve seen in the Newshour (generally, of course). No doubt you will find a slant or angle in each, just curious of which one(s) you tend to notice.

    What do people think of the CS Monitor?

  37. When CNN (International) stops broadcasting them Planet in Peril docu’s, I might actually start watching the channel again when they’re not broadcasting Late Edition.

  38. What do people think of the CS Monitor?

    Generally, I like CSM. The do some pretty good reporting and tackle topics in more depth than many.

    As for CNN-I. I don’t care that much for it.
    It’s superior to most News shows here, but that really is a low bar. I watched a lot of it while I was in Europe this year, and it was all very fluffy as well. It also was a bit too financials oriented for my taste (although I imagine that a lot of international business travelers enjoy that).

    I do prefer most of the anchors on CNN-I.

  39. I don’t watch network news at all. Who has time to sit through a half-hour to get the equivalent of two sentences worth of news about the one topic presented you actually care about?

  40. The post-Katrina decline of Anderson Cooper really shows CNN’s true colors.

    When he did his reporting from that city, he was honest in both his reporting and in his expressions of anger at the government. People responded to that and really liked him.

    So what conclusion do Coooper and his producers draw? “They really like it when you’re angry. Go act angry on camera some more.”

  41. Jerry,

    When I started to see the overwrought promos for the Planet in Peril stuff, I decided that it would be a good time to take a break from CNNI. Luckily, I got done with my trips before they started. Else I’d have had to watch that one goofy Japanese English-language news channel.

  42. If the NewsHour was the State News Program, it wouldn’t demolish the inaccuracies and distortions of high government officials with such regularity.

    First off, PBS and NPR are very good at being skeptical of a particular administration… not government as an institution.

    Second, the walls they have are not as strong as news organizations which receive no Federal Funding.

  43. And who the hell is this Anderson Cooper guy?

    (I don’t watch CNN)

  44. I guess Paul never watched the News Hour when Clinton was president.

    As for those “walls,” I’ll note that PBS provided considerably more time to people who rejected the White House’s pre-war claims about Iraq than any of the network or cable news outfits.

  45. joe – qft – Paul Gigot was very tough on Clinton. Isn’t he from that liberal rag the WSJ?

  46. I guess Paul never watched the News Hour when Clinton was president.

    In truth, no, I listened to NPR, which suddenly found a tremendous amount of time to scrutinize congress. Funny how it worked that way. 12 years of “It’s the president’s fault” for every ill in the country, and then the 1994 elections came around and *poof* Congress suddenly had way more to do with the country’s woes than one innocent man in the Oval office.

    And re: the walls, this is the kind of stuff that PBS/NPR wouldn’t have to worry about if they’d eschew public funding.

    For the record, joe, I actually like PBS and NPR, but as I listen (or watch), I don’t put on blinders and forget what I’m listening to. Both NPR and PBS are top drawer news organizations, but they’re not without a whole unique set of faults of their own.

  47. Oh, and by the way, joe, you’re upholding my point that PBS/NPR are good at criticizing a particular administration.

  48. In truth, no

    So in other words, when you make the statement that PBS has treated this administration differently from the last, you are doing so without any evidence beyond your feelings.

    Got it.

  49. But sure PBS programs have their biases.

    For example, Repblicans and conservatives are given much more airtime on the News Hour than liberals and Democrats.

  50. Er, I watch the NewsHour almost every night, and they pick on Congress at least as often as they pick on the prez (though that might be due to his having become a cross between a cipher and a broken record).

    Though, I uust admit that did like FoxNews during the Clinton years. After all, I am a third-party parisian, right joe?

  51. I’ve never been to parties with Parisians. I wouldn’t know.

  52. “””What do people think of the CS Monitor?”””

    Better than most.

  53. “””I’ve never been to parties with Parisians. I wouldn’t know.”””

    Then you don’t go to parties. 🙂 I always run into them and have a little fun. The one thing they lack, left or right, is a grasp of reality. Issues of cause and effect are beyond their abilities. X happened because Bush/Clinton is a … They haven’t a clue.

  54. joe, Jean Bart says otherwise…

  55. So how does he explain Nancy Grace?

  56. So in other words, when you make the statement that PBS has treated this administration differently from the last, you are doing so without any evidence beyond your feelings.

    Joe, whether you agree with my “feelings” or not, are you telling me that PBS isn’t treating Bush II differently than Clinton? Keerist, I would hope, for the sake of PBS that they are…

    But, if you must have a timeline of my PBS/NPR viewing/listening habits, they are as such:

    80’s/Reagain/Bush I: PBS, lots of viewing, NPR, not so much.
    90’s Clinton: PBS, not so much, NPR tons.
    2000’s Bush II, PBS (almost none), NPR (almost exclusively)

    Much of this can be attributed to my tv viewing habits. My tv viewing has decreased linearly since the 80’s. The arc is apparent.

    If you really want an honest opinion after listening to public news outlets for the better part of 25 years, here it is:

    80’s: Gross liberal bias.
    90’s: Liberal bias, but moving toward better balance due to sharp criticism by conservatives, plus threats of losing funding. Those “walls” were under assault.
    2000’s: On balance, quite fair. Considering Bush II, they’ve remained remarkably composed.* Main commentators are notably liberal, however production and news slant reasonably fair. Still, deference to conservative views still seem forced, but I’m not a “conservative”, so it doesn’t really matter.

    Let’s put it this way, strangely, given our neo-con environment, I haven’t heard anything slipping from the mouthes of the NPR regulars that’s caused me to nearly drive off the road. Maybe that says something equally about me.

    *I remember several NPR broadcasts where the “objective” commentators lost complete composure and slipped into single-sentence liberal editorials about this crazy, never-before-seen new republican congress in the middle of a non-partisan piece.

  57. OK, so the big story on CNN.com is Brittany’s preggers sister. I guess there is some merit to the idea that CNN is hooked on the human interest crack….

  58. .. nothing personal against the fine folks at Reason, but I generally find that journalists, and in particular TV journalists, have an abysmal grasp of basic physics and science in general.. I always think to myself, “If these idiots don’t know what they’re talking about with something that I know, why should I think that they know what the hell they’re talking about with something that I don’t know?” ..

    .. Hobbit

  59. State News Program. My favorite, too.

    this is typical

    yes, we should object to the fact that it’s “state” funded, but as we’re annoyingly reminded every 10 minutes, they take 80% of their funding from the public. so its not like they have to cowtow to some particular policy implication. They’re not exactly like North Korea’s YTN or some putin lackeys. Difference in degree if not in kind? whats the point of the criticism if this particular channel happens to be the best at poking the eye of the admin in all cases? it is sort of a desperate criticism when most other sources are like an MTV video of soundbytes. They (PBS news hour) are like the last bastion of real news in the face of a host of byte-streaming barbie-dolls doing 24/ rehashing of things we already know.

    Jim Leherer is your daddy

  60. Hahahahha, CNN criticizing anyone for naked partisanship is absolutely hilarious.

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