Tag Archives: media criticism

CNN follows its irresponsible pattern–with Japan earthquake

I feel like I have been picking on CNN lately but they continue to provide such obvious examples of what is truly irresponsible about today’s media. While avoiding much of the wild pundit entertainment of FOX and MSNBC, they instead try to preserve the pose of objective news while vigorously trying to get eyes on their screens. Yesterday’s post highlighted the fact that this kind of coverage isn’t concerned about reality–it’s concerned about the script.

The script calls for someone to be bad, be evil, wear the black hat. Today on CNN, they have found their black hat–the Japanese nuclear industry. Which according to the CNN report is too cozy with the government and has a history of cover-up. Accusing a party involved in a disaster or crisis event of “cover-up” is completely predictable. I challenge you to find a bad news story in the news that doesn’t have an element of accusation about cover-up. So, here it is: CNN’s “expose” of the Japanese nuclear industry’s cover up.

Here is what fries me about this. What evidence is provided? Two “experts” with very official sounding titles. The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. And Citizens Nuclear Information Center. To the reporter’s credit he did let us know that these two official sounding “experts” were both anti-nuclear activists. Now, you would think a story as important as this, with as much at stake in the world given the very frightening nature of what is going on, would require authorities beyond two avowed nuclear opponents.

But this is exactly what is wrong with news. The concern is not about what is fair, honest and truthful. The concern is about stimulating fear, concern, even outrage. Because that is what motivates people to turn their eyes. Yes, I saw the story about “Japan’s past nuclear power coverups” on the CNN site and clicked on the video. And I watched the ad. It worked (even if my interest in the story was a little different.

There will be many who will take full advantage of the worldwide fears today about nuclear risks because of the tragedy in Japan. We can expect that of organizations whose agenda is to limit or end use of nuclear power. We do not and should not expect that exploitation from our major news organizations.

Secretary of state lauds Al-Jazeera, rips US media

Youch. If I was sitting in the chair heading cable or network news programming, I’d be a little unsettled after hearing what Sec of State Hilary Clinton just said about me.

The AP article is worth the read, but here is the relevant quotation:

“Like it or hate it, it [Al Jazeera] is really effective,” Clinton said. “In fact, viewership of Al-Jazeera is going up in the United States because it is real news.”

“You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news that is not providing information to us, let alone foreigners.”

Fox News president Michael Clemente appears puzzled. He said he found her remarks “curious.” Maybe some of Fox News’s problems is they’re not hiring the sharpest tools in the shed to run things. Nothing curious about it. She’s saying it like it is. The other networks and channels, perhaps wisely, are reserving comment.

However, former reporter Frank Sesno, is much more outspoken, to the point, and in my opinion right on when he says:

“She’s right,” said Sesno, who is now director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

“Cable news has become cable noise. It was intended to be an opportunity to inform people, and instead it has become an opportunity to inflame people.”

I like that quotation a lot. The opportunity to inform has given over to the temptation to inflame.

There is some very intriguing irony here. Al Jazeera, seen as a propaganda organ for the Arab (translate in many minds: terrorist) world is praised for its news quality. It is the propagandists who are supposed to inflame, not inform. But, we have CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, CNN and FOX all dedicated to informing, right? That’s why we’ve been treated to a non-stop display of a pathetic crumbling star fighting for a few bucks taking up all our air space while in Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Bahrain the world is erupting. It is a sad commentary on the state of our media, an even sadder one on the state of our American minds.

New York Times–defensive and silly in responding to Jon Stewart’s criticism

I’m no Jon Stewart fan, I must admit, but closer to it now after his stinging criticism of the news media at his “Restore the Sanity” rally at the Capital Mall on Oct. 30. Stephen Colbert joined in the fun which was supposed to be a response to Glenn Beck’s political rally earlier.

I won’t comment on the back and forth of political opinion makers here, but rather on the outrageously silly response of New York Times reporter David Carr regarding Stewart and Colbert’s attacks on the media.

Carr reports on the accusations of the two speakers against the news media for “keeping fear alive.” He quotes Stewart:

“’The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous, flaming ant epidemic,’ he said, to roars of approval from the crowd.”

Well said, in my view. But what does Carr think? Well, it is obvious to Carr that the comedians target is really only cable TV and then he makes the ridiculous assertion that nobody pays attention: “Most Americans don’t watch or pay attention to cable television. In even a good news night, about five million people take a seat on the cable wars, which is less than 2 percent of all Americans.”

Mr. Carr clearly needs to get his head out of his New York office a little more. With the segmentation of media there is no question that audiences at any one particular time are small. But Carr seems to think that only his paper has any sway over public opinion.

What strikes me most is the underlying defensiveness, not just of Mr. Carr, but of the news media in general. I recall an editorial a week or so ago from a Florida newspaper haranguing BP CEO Bob Dudley for criticizing the media for hyping the spill impacts, reporting the projections of oil flowing to England. The paper acknowledged that it was one of those who heightened the fears but was absolutely unrepentant. Criticizing the CEO instead for even suggesting the media might have done anything wrong.

Business is mistrusted, the president is mistrusted, Congress is mistrusted–but none as much as the media. It is time that reporters and publishers of our treasured and extremely valuable press institutions like the New York Times stop being defensive, stop their silly reactions to serious criticism from comics, and take a long hard look inside. Why are they mistrusted? Maybe because in their pursuit of readers, all they seem to know to do is heighten the fear, anxiety and hatred of others.

“If we amplify everything, we hear nothing,” Jon Stewart said. I’m starting to think I like this guy.