This just in: CNN is a disgrace. It’s worse than even I thought.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, on the broadcast, “CNN Newsroom” the anchors were talking about the demonstrations that followed the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York.
After showing video of demonstrations in New York and Washington, CNN commentator Sally Kohn said, “We want you to know that our hearts are out there marching with them.” Okay, no one is confusing Sally Kohn with an unbiased journalist – or any kind of journalist, for that matter. She’s an uber left wing commentator who predictably says uber left wing things.
But after Ms. Kohn said what she said, two other women at the anchor desk raised their hands in the air, a sympathetic gesture to demonstrators who put their hands up and chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” A third anchor held up a piece of paper with the words, “I can’t breathe” hand written across the page – a reference to the words uttered by Eric Garner on Staten Island after being brought down by a police officer who oddly wasn’t indicted, despite the fact that Mr. Garner died shortly thereafter.
Here’s why this matters: “CNN Newsroom” is supposed to be a straight news broadcast – not an opinion show. At the risk of sharing too much “inside baseball” let me explain:
You can’t put an opinion show on the air under the name of a hard news broadcast. It’s against the rules. But the cable network has a problem. If you could bottle CNN you’d have a cure for insomnia. So Jeff Zucker, who runs the network, is trying to spice things up. And so he puts four women around a desk – several of whom aren’t bad looking – and tells them to spout off. I get it. But you can’t do that under the banner of a hard news broadcast. Credibility and trust matter in news, as hopelessly naive as that sounds.
What CNN is doing is attempting a lame rip-off of the Fox show “Outnumbered,” where four (truly) hot women – and a different guy each day – throw around their opinions on the news of the day while showing a lot of leg.
But “Outnumbered” is clearly an opinion show. Around the CNN water cooler they’re calling the network’s Saturday afternoon’s poor imitation of “Outnumbered” … “Hot Talkers” – even though only a few of the anchorettes (I did that to be needlessly provocative) are only semi-hot (yes, more needless provocation).
CNN needs to decide what kind of show it wants. If they want to turn “CNN Newsroom” into an opinion show to boost their ratings, fine. But a news organization can’t pretend to be straight news and then have its anchors raise their hands in sympathy with the protestors.
So here’s an idea for CNN: Until you figure out what you want to be, stop lecturing us about how you’re the news organization that’s down the middle; that we can count on you for unbiased news that isn’t driven by ideology. Sanctimony, when it becomes funny, doesn’t work.
As a friend put it in an email to me: They don’t even pretend anymore.
As I said, it’s worse than even I thought.