CNN makes you stupid


Blah, blah, blah

I came home from shopping this afternoon and flipped on the TV. All the cable news channels were in a lather about the plane crash in Toronto. Pick your poison— I settled on CNN.

fire trucks

Wolf Blitzer was, as usual, stirring the pot of speculation and conjecture. He and Miles O'Brien had a hook-up to a reporter for a Toronto TV station, and they peppered him with questions calling for conclusions that no one could possibly make yet. Was it the wind? Was it lightning? Was it...?

Poor CNN couldn't seem to decide among "Breaking News" and "Developing Story" so they used both alerts on the screen, along with the tagline "Miracle Flight 358" (see left). Of course, the CNN crawl at the bottom of the screen had nothing to do with what you were seeing. More drama, all the time!

The actual news at the moment was: Air France flight 358 overshot the runway in Toronto and burst into flames in a field near a busy highway. Airport officials believe that all aboard made it out alive. But Wolf went on and on and on in that repetitive way he has: "And there you see the smoke, the smoke that was rising, that is rising, from this Air France flight 358 that crashed this afternoon, today, in Toronto, about two hours ago Toronto time, Eastern US time, just two hours ago, this afternoon, today..." Wolf abhors a silence, so he simply generates words and phrases, constantly, one after another, without stopping, or even taking a breath, or so it seems.

Paula Zahn
The wind was so strong "...that the trees were perpendicular to the ground" —Paula Zahn

Then came Paula Zahn. Now there's someone who knows how to milk every bit of drama from any situation. While exploring the possible contribution of weather to the accident, Paula said — more than once — that the wind was so strong "that the trees were perpendicular to the ground." Maybe things are different around CNN headquarters, but in every place where I have lived, it would not be considered news that the trees were perpendicular to the ground.

If I only had a brain!

Is there not one single person in the CNN control room with sufficient education to note that mistake and whisper in Paula's earpiece, "Er, Paula, 'perpendicular' doesn't make sense"? They may not have noticed, but I predict here and now that Jon Stewart and the clever folks at The Daily Show will have noticed it. And I can't wait!

surviving passenger

There were the obligatory interviews with survivors wrapped in their blankets. Interviews with pilots. Interviews with weather people.

And after Paula, along came Larry King to go on and on about the "miracle of flight 358." Teasers promise that later this evening Aaron Brown will continue the story.

The FCC ought to require a banner across the top of CNN's picture. Like this:

CNN makes you stupid