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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

CNN - the lowest common denominator

There was a time when I would turn to CNN whenever a crisis erupted somewhere in the world, but now I can't stand to watch it. CNN has turned into a cult of personalities. Everytime something bad happens somewhere, CNN flies Anderson Cooper to the scene, puts a flak jacket or raincoat or pith helmet on him, props him up in front of some apparently dangerous backdrop and gives him all the airtime he wants. Their evening newscaster, Lou Dobbs, plays the part of a kind of Wallace Beery-esque curmudgeon who editorializes constantly throughout the newscast, which always features a story on one of his pet peeves (out-sourcing jobs, or more recently, border security). Wolf Blitzer, who I'm convinced has a some kind of speech impediment and stutters through his broadcast, always ends a story with a little admonition to the correspondent to "be safe". The talking heads who fill up the times in-between are usually drop-dead gorgeous women who don't have a clue what they are talking about, but are at least fabulously coiffed.

This kind of reporting, which is more about the reporter than the story, is one of the reasons why people are turning to alternate news sources to get information. 24 hour news channels were once thought to be a great innovation, but the problem is that there often isn't 24 hours worth of news to cover, and the gaps are filled in by personalities. I like the style of The Economist, which never identifies its writers, or has them ghost-write under pseudonyms like Lexington or Bagehot. Nobody who reads The Economist knows or cares who the reporter is - the story is the important thing. You know we're in trouble when we see Anderson Cooper on the cover of Vanity Fair, or Katie Couric's hiring at CBS is itself a news story.

Bring on the blogs.

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