George Graham

Be Shocked! Be Entertained!



Watching the news these days is a scary way for me to pass the time. Especially those all-news cable channels. Desperate for viewers, they are resorting to the kind of sensationalism that could bring on a stroke or a heart attack.

The new CNN is a glaring example of this brand of “journalism.”

Ever since Jeff Zucker (above) took over, the once-credible news outlet has become a circus (and of course the ratings have picked up considerably). We viewers are constantly being shocked, outraged and frightened out of our wits.

You might have caught that shocking newscast from London showing “an ISIS flag” being displayed by a Gay Pride marcher.  If you did, you were treated to one of the most egregious examples of media nonsense in years. The flag was spotted by London assignment editor Lucy Pawle, who tied herself and security analyst Peter Bergen in knots trying to analyze the marcher’s motives.

Here are some of their musings, as reported in this morning:

“If it was a political statement of some sort it was very subtle,” Pawle says. She even notices that it’s not in Arabic.

“The main question is, what are [the flag holder’s] motivations?” CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen, who must be counting his Emmys to reassure himself about his journalistic skills, adds. “The whole thing is very strange…we don’t know who this person is. We don’t know his motivations.”

And you have to admit the marcher’s motives would be puzzling – if he really was carrying an ISIS flag.The problem is that he was not. The flag CNN chose to spotlight – and misidentify – depicted an assortment of sex toys.

That’s right – sex toys.

That’s the kind of fare we get on CNN these days. When the TV personalities are not obsessing over escaped murderers on the loose in someone’s back yard, they’re exclaiming over some outlandish and overblown threat to civilization as we  know it.

It’s all part of Zucker’s plan (as reported in Politico when he took over as president) “to transform CNN from an old, tired, 24-hour breaking-news channel to an entertaining, personality-driven network.”

I guess it’s entertaining when you mistake a drawing of dildos for a terrorist flag. But I, for one, am not amused.

It’s said, really. As a lifelong journalist, I cringe at the shambles to which my profession has been reduced.

And CNN is far from alone in this race to the bottom.

As writer Jack Mirkinson observes in the Salon story:

Stupid crap gets on TV literally all the time. Nor is Pawle’s boast that she “[seems] to be the only person who had spotted this.”  The craziest part of the video is that everyone in it admits they have no idea what they are talking about

.There’s nothing that exemplifies the brainless heights that cable news can reach quite so much as the moments when the participants openly acknowledge that they’re just filling time with informationless drivel.

I guess that about sums it up. For me, anyway.

Click for the story.

Click for Zucker’s approach to the news.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for