Sunday, November 25, 2007

Is CNN Sick? Or Is It Merely Slick?

There is much to find fault with the cable television news networks, but it has puzzled me how many bloggers waste their time -- and bandwidth -- endlessly harping about the perceived shortcomings and biases of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

God knows that they have plenty of both, but aside from occasionally giving CNN the back of my hand over its fascination with stories on missing blondes to the exclusion of arguably more important matters, I've got better things to blog about.

But a story by Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times caught my attention because of his contention that CNN's embrace of hyperbole in this presidential campaign season is not merely bad journalism, but a coldly calculated effort to position itself ideologically the way that Fox and MSNBC have.

In fact, writes Rutten:
"We now have a situation in which the three all-news cable networks each have aligned themselves with a point on the political compass: Fox went first and consciously became the Republican network; MSNBC, which would have sold its soul to the devil for six ratings points, instead found a less-demanding buyer in the Democrats. Now, CNN has decided to reinvent itself as the independent, populist network cursing both sides of the conventional political aisle -- along with immigrants and free trade, of course.

In other words, for the first time since the advent of television news as a major force in American life, the 2008 presidential campaign will be fought out with individual networks committed to particular political perspectives. Why does that matter? As far back as 2004, the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 'cable now trails only local TV news as a regular source for (presidential) campaign information. In several key demographic categories -- young people, college graduates and wealthy Americans -- cable is the leading source for election news.' Thus, for key segments of the electorate -- groups rich in what the pollsters call 'likely voters' -- the main source of political news is now a partisan, or at least, a politicized one."
And so the long slide of the mainstream television news media continues apace.

More here.

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