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.