As of today, I have retired from criticism of CNN for falling short of some sort of journalistic standard that news providers should maintain. That activity no longer makes sense. Let someone else receive the “ratings, you idiot” replies on Twitter. I’m done. I’m pretty sure you don’t care about this announcement, either. Which nicely illustrates why I’m done.
Rosen’s “surrender” moment is worth a read because it does nicely illustrate a view which could almost be considered conventional wisdom. But let me take the opposite viewpoint for the sake of argument (even though I would probably come to this conclusion anyways)
Someone has to do it. Someone has to hold CNN’s feet to the fire just as someone has to hold MSNBC’s feet to the fire and FNC’s feet to the fire. If we just throw in the towel and say that nothing we say matters because Jeff Zucker is still going to do what he’s going to do if it increases profits and ratings regardless of whether it fulfills his network’s mission to deliver news then we deserve the coverage we get.
It is here I’m going to argue a bit against my own self-interest and say that CNN going off the deep end on the Zimmerman trial is a case study in overindulgence but one with extenuating circumstances. Those extenuating circumstances occurred a year ago when Trayvon Martin died and the case blew up and became not just racial but political as well. It’s not like the time CNN got all wrapped up in Casey Anthony as it did when HLN’s ratings started taking off during that freak show trial. CNN had no business covering Anthony the way it did. One can make the argument that CNN needs to cover Zimmerman in more detail precisely because the facts of the case are hotly disputed and if the case does wind up in an acquittal or a significantly lesser verdict, the public is going to want to know why things turned out that way.
That however does not excuse CNN for doing a blow by blow of the entire courtroom proceedings but it’s at least understandable. Everyone else is doing it. And it is because everyone else is doing it, that it makes it almost impossible for CNN to not follow suit.
In any case I don’t think the Zimmerman trial is necessarily a good barometer for measuring the direction CNN is going. It’s an outlier. When was the last time we had all the cable channels cover a court case in this detail from start to finish? Have we ever? OJ was before MSNBC and FNC’s time.
Zimmerman will pass. There will be a verdict and the cable channels will move on. It is where CNN moves on to that we need to watch. And that’s why I think that thowing in the towel as Rosen has apparently done is a tad premature. Maybe CNN is indeed hopeless and innoculated against meaningful criticism. Even if it was, I would hope that people would criticize it nonetheless. Because if there is no criticism from a source that counts (which automatically excludes Jon Stewart and his “I’m just a comedian” crutch he trots out all too often) then how can the network’s coverage be measured if there is no counter argument to contrast it to?