Tag Archives: CNN

East Coast Media Fails To Give Adequate Coverage To California Wildfires

A friend in Oakland, CA, wrote yesterday, telling me the smoke is so thick in the bay area that he can’t go outside for more than twenty or thirty minutes before his eyes and throat start to burn.  Concerned, I got up this morning and turned to Morning Joe on MSNBC,  and then CNN, hoping to get the latest on the wildfires that continue to ravage the nation’s most populous state.   What I saw was disappointing.

CNN, gave the story all of two minutes, with no context at all.  No word on what, if anything, continues to burn or where.  Nothing about the air quality over vast portions of the state, even in areas like Oakland, which isn’t near a burn area.   At least I don’t think there’s any active fire close to Oakland at this time.  It’s difficult to tell, with such poor coverage.   Not a single frame of video from Southern California for example, where fires continue to burn, and even now, evacuees are just being allowed to return to their homes.

CNN did do a live interview with California Congressman, Ted Lieu, but not to discuss the wildfires.  They brought him out to talk about whether Nancy Pelosi will be able to regain the position of Speaker of the House.   Congressman Lieu, forced the issue.   The first words out of his mouth were to express concern for the people of California and to thank first responders who continue fighting the fires.  The anchors immediately changed the subject back to Nancy Pelosi and said not another word about the wildfires.   It almost felt as though they were afraid to talk about it.   Is California on another planet?

Two minutes for such a massive disaster impacting so many people?  Why?  East coast bias?  Is that why the major news outlets all but ignore California, even though more than 600 people are now missing or unaccounted for with the number of dead from the Camp Fire at 63?   The Camp Fire in northern Calif alone, has destroyed more than 11,000 structures including 9,700 homes and 290 businesses.   52,000 people had to evacuate as the fire has now grown to 140,000 acres.   Conditions, apparently meaning the wind, temperature and low humidity,  are expected to grow worse over the coming weekend.

According to one source, containment of the Camp Fire, is at something around 40%.  I really don’t know, from watching CNN and MSNBC, as they said nothing about containment or where the fire is still burning, or whether anyone or anything continues to be threatened.   If MSNBC is going to cover nothing but politics, okay, fine.  But I do seem to remember them providing hurricane coverage?  And CNN?  There is no excuse for what CNN is failing to cover if they wish to be considered a news outlet offering something more than political punditry.   Remember their hurricane coverage?  They were all over it, but then, that was an east coast story, wasn’t it?

In Southern California, down by Los Angeles, the Woolsey Fire, has now grown to something above 98,000 acres.  Some residents are being allowed to return to their homes in the Malibu, Lake Sherwood and Hidden Valley areas.   Containment here, is said to be around 57%.

To their credit, NBC, did send Lester Holt to California, but their reporting lacked context, presumably because they no longer have the kind of fully-staffed bureaus they once had in the west, and understanding the scope and scale of California is not something you can pick up in a few hours at the scene.    It’s not the reporter’s fault, it’s the companies they work for.

Imagine more than six hundred people unaccounted for with 52,000 evacuated and smoke so thick that you can’t go outdoors, and all of it happening from New York City down to South Carolina.   Think the networks would be giving that more coverage than they’re now giving California,  our most populous state with the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world?   They’d be all over it, 24 hours a day seven days a week.  Like they cover hurricanes or winter storms that hit the east coast.

Don’t tell me the east coast media has no anti-west coast bias.   I have friends in California and I think about it every day the state continues to burn.    Calif should get considerably more coverage tomorrow when Donald Trump arrives dragging the White House press corps with him.   I wonder if he’ll throw paper towels to the evacuees?

Needed: A Little More Experience And A Little Less Snappy Banter

CNN’s media maven,  Brian Stelter, has suggested that the public needs to be skeptical of both the President and the media’s coverage of the President.   The house is on fire, and he wants to conduct an academic argument about which way to point the hose.

John Berman and Poppy Harlow are sitting there taking it all in, treating the 31 year old Stelter as though he’s some great sage, even though he hadn’t been born when the Watergate hearings took place.   He would have been nine  during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.   Give me a break.

The press and the intelligence community may be the only bodies standing between the nation and fascism.   The press needs all the support it can get right now to deal with the Administration’s lies and constant deflection of the issues.   The legitimate press is under attack.  Stelter, and others of his generation, may not have been around long enough to understand what’s really going on.   They don’t have the advantage of having lived through the Nixon years and more.  Bill Carter, was there when Nixon and Agnew tried to pin it all on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” in the press.  He remembers Cronkite going to Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers and Dan Ellsberg.  He knows better.   He was on the show and he should have said something.   A media critic himself, perhaps he felt constrained against speaking out against a colleague.   Perhaps it would have impacted his tenure with CNN.   Or maybe they just ran out of time.

Stelter, needs to sort out the mainstream “real” media covering the White House from all the rest of what has become an explosion of media outlets, particularly those interested in taking sides politically or going for entertainment value.  No one is infallible.  Everyone is capable of making a mistake.   But I trust the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CBS News and a few other outlets to give me an objective and fair version of what’s going on.

There remains no substitute for experience.  No amount of book learning, no number of  hours sitting in a classroom listening to someone tell you how something is done, or how it feels when it’s done to you.  Too many younger people with too little experience moving up the tv news food chain way too fast is part of the reason television news has lost so much of its credibility, something the networks are now in a position to recover from, if they fully resume their proper role of national watchdog.

To do that, they need to bring back a few more less beautiful but more experienced folks, like Carl Bernstein.   Some of the younger reporters out there are excellent.  I admire the hell out of the job they’re doing, but there remains no substitute for experience. Right now we need both, the vigor of youth and the power of experience, in an industry that’s obsessed with an advertiser-driven focus on selling products to younger market.

The consequences for a nation which increasingly can’t differentiate between valid and “fake” news are too severe for anyone to think otherwise.

A Return To Chicken Noodle News?

Got up today and turned on CNN,  eager to see what Donald Trump’s latest move might be, whether he is going to build a wall around Miami, or maybe threaten to air-drop the 82nd Airborne into  the strawberry fields of  California while Marines from Pendleton march on Sacramento.

Instead of an informed discussion, I got what sounded like a bunch of children trying to decide what news is,  and why Trump’s paid advocate Steve Bannon might be wrong in stating that “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.” Really?  On CNN?   Are you guys going back to the early days of being the “Chicken Noodle News?”

I know about this, because several  months before CNN went on the air they offered me an anchor job.   I had just signed a contract with WMAR-TV in Baltimore, so I had to say no to CNN, much to the chagrin of the executive who offered me the job and who yelled at me on the phone for a good long while before hanging up.    Some months later I was happy to have refused the position, as CNN came to be known as the “Chicken Noodle News.”   They were a startup after all, and it took them a while to get their act together.  One wonders if they aren’t slipping back in time.   That’s what occurred to me as I watched this morning, as they debated the value of Steve Bannon’s outrageous and nonsensical banter about the press keeping “its mouth shut.”

One panelist,  Brian Stelter, actually said there are so many different kinds of news out there now (paraphrasing) that for some it’s becoming confusing….   No, there are not.   The fact that Stelter doesn’t understand this and that he’s hosting “Reliable Sources,” may be an indicator of just  how  much trouble broadcast journalism is in.

News, is objective, fact-checked for accuracy and delivered by actual journalists who label opinion and speculation for what they are.   News, really is “A first rough draft of history.”*   Everything else, is either a documentary, entertainment programming or BS.   There is also “Gonzo Journalism” and the “New Journalism” literary movement, but all that is beyond basic,  real , hardcore news.

Oh, and since the panel on CNN didn’t seem to get it,  real news people, are supposed to be locked in an adversarial relationship with politicians.   That’s not something you need to get all mushy and apologetic about, it’s the way things are meant to be.  That’s why the founders included free speech in Amendment Number One.   Intro to Journalism, remember?

Stop trying to be so nice to people who are being paid to hijack the truth for an Administration that revels in misdirection and outright lies.   You should be outraged that  they are treating the press like a bunch of fools, not sitting around discussing whether they might be right, sounding like  you’re making excuses for an attack  on press freedoms – or have we  slipped so far over into “Infotainment” that it will be impossible to salvage what’s left of real news?  Maybe that’s the real question and why there are those who even bother paying lip service to a paid advocate like Steve Bannon?

Oh sure, it’s necessary to report on what Bannon says, but don’t act like it requires a lengthy explanation including an analysis of what’s wrong with “the media.”   That just implies that he might be right.   Come to think of it, maybe he is.   Maybe the old fashioned “press” is dead and gone, except for a few bastions of righteous indignation like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.  Maybe it’s wrong to be upset with CNN and their infotainment noodle soup approach to news, making it more acceptable to their audience and more attractive to advertisers.

In the final analysis it’s all about the money, right?   Who cares about history and getting it right and all that other stuff when the bottom line is at stake?   Then again, you have to wonder.  Is a country in which money trumps truth sustainable?

*Quote attributed to various sources.  The argument over who said it first continues.

Driven By Paranoia We Soldier On

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There I was, on a treadmill at the gym, the big screen in front of me tuned to CNN,  informing all who dared watch that the federal government had been hacked, probably by China.   That the nasty Chinese had hacked a database, stealing information on federal workers.    Well, they weren’t exactly sure it was China.   I mean, they couldn’t prove China was responsible,  but the experts CNN rolled out onto their stage for instant analysis thought it could have been the Chinese.    That it probably was the Chinese.  One thought it was “likely” the Chinese were to blame and that was that.  The Chinese, were now the “likely” hackers of the federal government.   From  there it was a short hop to officially fixing blame, facts be damned.

I was just getting over the implications of CNN’s speculation that the United States Government had (likely) been hacked by Communist China (probably) and what we might have to do about it at a time when Congress (coincidentally) is voting to limit spying by the NSA, when they hit me with more alarming news.   ISIS, the all-encompassing evil ISIS, had turned off the water at some dam somewhere in the desert and Iraqis were running for their lives.  Again.   Oh no!   But why do we care?

Because more trouble in Iraq,  is sure to lead to another round of expert advice from former military personnel now consulting for CNN, advising us that the problem will only be solved by more American “boots on the ground.”    Even with the massive sectarian religious overtones driving the fight, even though we have been ineffective in our efforts over more than a dozen years in Iraq (25 years if you take it all the way back to the beginning with “Desert Shield”),  only more “boots on the ground” will fix things in the Middle East and North Africa.    Only more funding for the military-industrial complex will help.  The only way to extricate ourselves is to dig a deeper hole.   What would you expect ex-military personnel to say?   Their training, their very fiber, is tuned to achieving victory not withdrawal, which they surely associate with defeat.

Never is there any mention of what can be done to achieve peace.   Just more war and spending more for war.  It’s what we do.  And the media, gone mad in the rush for ratings,  is all in.   You don’t think so?

From there it only got worse, with a story about a 26 year-old in Boston who was shot dead by police because he had a knife and was suspected of harboring thoughts of killing police.   CNN had a terrible picture of the young man wearing a baseball cap on backwards, down low over his forehead, youth rapper-culture fashion,  making him look like something less than a member of the local high school debate team.

They kept flashing the photo over and over as they talked about the way ISIS is brainwashing American youth to do their bidding on U.S. soil.   The connection was obvious, as the young suspect’s family is “well known among Muslims” in the Boston community.   There it is.  Not too difficult for the tv people to figure it out.   THEY ARE EXPORTING TERROR!

ISIS is here!   ISIS is there!   ISIS is everywhere, cutting off the water and brainwashing our youth while, at the same time, evil Chinese Communists (our business partners to whom we are deeply in debt) hack our sacred national database, stealing information about federal employees!  Although no one is exactly certain why.

If you want any peace of mind at all, avoid CNN.  Especially when you go to the gym.   It’ll blow your workout all to pieces.