Remember When CNN Was a Source of Straight News?

If you’re old enough to remember watching the first Gulf War on television, you must be wondering what happened to the no-nonsense network that brought the war into your living room. It’s hard to believe that was the same CNN you’re watching today.

The Cable News Network, as it was called back then, was the first television company to devote its entire programming schedule to reporting the news. Previously, nightly news broadcasts offered by the three major networks were summaries of the day’s events. CNN was the first to cover events as they occurred and to follow those events, however long they took to develop.

You got the news, the whole news, and nothing but the news, 24 hours a day.

When Time Magazine chose CNN founder Ted Turner as Man of the Year in 1991, the network was given credit for rewriting the definition of news “from something that has happened to something that is happening at the very moment you are hearing of it.”

TTed Turnerhat was then. This is now.

Turner, the whirling dervish who created CNN, sold out to AOL-Time Warner and quit the company “in disgust” in 2003. In April 2005, commenting on Turner’s choice for the Alan Cranston Peace Award, John Avery of the Danish Peace Academy said, “Everyone will have noticed that CNN has changed in recent years. It can no longer really be called an active force for peace. This is because Ted Turner no longer owns it. When he sold CNN to Time-Warner, Turner lost control of the programming, and today CNN broadcasts the views of the establishment. For example, during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, CNN broadcast the official U.S. government view of the invasion.”

What happened to CNN?

It’s obvious that corporate “suits” now control the network, and to a large extent determine what the so-called newscasters say. You don’t think for a moment that Wolfe Blitzer came up with the phrase, “the best political team on television,” do you?

Anyone who has spent time in a real newsroom can recognize the phony Hollywood window-dressing at CNN today. It’s a wonder the newscasters don’t wear trench coats and a tag proclaiming “PRESS” in their fedoras. News is always “breaking” and “exclusive.” Every little development is “dramatic.” If they had presses, they would “stop the press” in a heartbeat.

I’ve spent half a century in the business, and I can tell you real journalists don’t act like that.

Of course, CNN now has competition from Fox News (part of Australian mogul Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda complex) and MSNBC (the MS stands for Microsoft, the same giant company that made the computer I’m typing this blog on), and you know what NBC stands for, don’t you? Well, it used to stand for the National Broadcasting Company, but now it stands for “a colony of the worldwide General Electric empire.”

The most recent figures I found put Fox ahead of CNN in average audience. And most people recognize that Fox’s claim to being “fair and balanced” is a bad joke. You can’t really call the Fox and MSNBC telecasts “news.” The kindest way to describe them would be to coin a new word – “infortainment.”

Faced with this kind of competition for audience numbers and advertising dollars,” the suits” at CNN have come up with the response you would expect from them: an endless dog-and-pony show.

What about bringing us the news without fear or favor?

You must be kidding. The “suits” bend with the wind, favoring whatever political group is pressuring them at the moment. This is business, buddy. The “customer” is always right.

gwgraeme

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 Jamaicans.com

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