I don’t know how many Oscars CNN personnel have won over the years.
I don’t know if they’ve won any journalism awards, either, but if they have, the reason for it would be a mystery right up there with who killed Cock Robin.
There was a time when I regularly tuned into that news station to see what was going on in the world. You know, get the skinny right from the horse’s mouth. Who would know better than Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer? Journalistic accuracy and integrity is plainly written across their faces.
It wasn’t long, however, before I began to suspect that I was getting the news from the perspective of the end of the horse farthest away from its mouth. In order to verify my suspicions in that regard, and always striving to be fair myself, I started comparing CNN newscasts with that of the Canadian news shows on the same subject.
Well, well, well! Guess what? CNN often differed significantly from CBC and CTV in the emphasis and/or the facts and/or the perspective of what was being reported.
When I discussed this interesting little observation with others, it was suggested that CNN brought a narrowly prejudicial American perspective to all news, and if we wanted to get the truth, we had better look to Canadian news channels. But even that wasn’t strictly true. Not all American news sources were as prejudiced and slanted as CNN appeared to be.
I watched CNN with a jaundiced eye from then on, and discovered that an entirely American perspective was not their only journalistic sin. They were given, one might say, to grossly exaggerating and overly dramatizing even the most trivial news items. Their sole objective seemed to be to create mountains out of mole hills and hurricanes in Quidi Vidi Lake.
Nowhere were the sins of CNN more obvious and pronounced than in their covering of the Irene phenomenon.
Perhaps I should explain why I was so interested in that storm and its devastating path up along the Eastern Seaboard.
My youngest daughter has an apartment on the banks of the East River, right across from Lower Manhattan. The East and Hudson rivers were forecast to flood so badly that lower Manhattan, and the apartments along their banks, would be buried under enough water to set a cod trap.
No question but that Irene was hell-bent on creating havoc from the Carolinas right into Eastern Canada. Apart from damage to property and financial losses, at least 20 lives were lost, and that’s unquestionably tragic. What I’m saying here is that I don’t wish to diminish the impact of Irene on those areas and people hardest hit by her.
I spent the better part of two days and one whole night glued to the CNN intrepid news team trying to get an idea of what was going to happen to the city of New York. There was no question, according to Blitzer, Cooper and company, that meteorological Armageddon was pointing its flaming sword directly at New York Harbour and, more specifically, my daughter’s apartment.
Thing is, everyone knew the potential for disaster was certainly there for Lower Manhattan. But were the boys and girls of America’s “prime news station” giving dispassionate and objective descriptions of what was happening as Irene swept her skirts up along the seaboard? Not quite. Dispassionate isn’t the first word that comes to mind.
Cooper and Blitzer had their game faces on. One look told you that what was left of Manhattan after this wouldn’t be worth a clang on the Wall Street opening bell. The boys were grim, man. They had reason to be, of course, but they were glorying in their grimness. Despite the forecast of impending doom for New York Harbour and Daughter’s apartment, I remarked to Other Half, after watching for some time, that I didn’t think this New York thing would be as bad as we thought.
She wanted to know why I felt that way. Because, I replied, CNN is trying to convince us that The End Is Near. While other stations are reporting what’s happening as accurately and completely as possible, CNN is feeding on this impending disaster like a leech feeding on blood.
In this particular scenario, they had winds pushing a huge storm surge directly into New York Harbour and up through the two rivers that run by Manhattan Island. No question but that in order to attend a Broadway play, one would need a good little punt.
Daughter was ordered to evacuate her third-floor apartment and find a safer haven, which she did after hurricane-proofing the place as best she could. Scant hours after the projected flood, she walked back to the apartment and put everything back in order again.
Note again that I’m not criticizing the decisions to evacuate certain areas and to take all possible precautions. That was sensible. But nobody gloried in it like CNN. They even had reporters up to their backsides in roiling surf and hanging on to something that looked like submarine nets while trying to speak into roaring microphones. Necessary? Hardly.
Then when someone at a meteorological location finally told Anderson that they had already seen the worst of it, he couldn’t believe it! This was nowhere as bad as he had been saying it would be.
“I’m really surprised!” he kept saying. Not “I’m delighted!” Or “That’s wonderful!” In fact, he looked dumbfounded. The expression said, “So what do we do now?”
After some time, they realized that Vermont, a state they had been pretty much neglected in their prognostications for New York Harbour, was really getting hammered and quickly moved their reporters northward.
I don’t trust the CNN people to give me straightforward and objective news reporting. They’ll exaggerate whatever’s happening to the intensity of a Wagnerian tragedy.
Can’t wait to see how they handle the end of the world in 2012.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org