Tag Archive: CNN

CNN’s harvest of shame

CNN‘s desperate attempts to raise its flagging ratings have led to actions that can be viewed as either sad or comical. CNN spent months devoting the majority of its coverage to the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, MH 370, beyond all reasonable proportion given that there were no new developments for days on end. The result was hours of cringworthy speculation, including the infamous moment where Don Lemon asked:

[W]hat if it was something, fully, that we don’t really understand? A lot of people have been asking me about that, about black holes and on and on and on, and all these conspiracy theories. Let’s look at this, ah, Noah says, ‘what else can you think? Black hole? Bermuda triangle?’ And then Deji says, ‘Huh? Just like in the movie LOST?’ It’s also referencing the Twilight Zone, which is a very similar plot. That’s what people are saying…  is it preposterous…?

Now that even CNN has had to curtail its MH 370 coverage due to lack of any news, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker recently gave some hints as to his plans for CNN’s direction. What emerged is an audience-driven format that seems to bear little resemblance to actual news coverage.

David Vitter gets double tapped on Affordable Care Act by Van Jones and Bernie Sanders

Last Thursday on CNN‘s “Crossfire,” Louisiana Senator David Vitter took a double shot from Van Jones and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders regarding the Affordable Care Act. It was a clash of Republican messaging versus Democratic messaging, and, for once, the Democrats won the battle.

Don’t take on political comedians like Bill Maher

 

Bill Maher, who says he is the most frequent guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” over the past 20 years, sat with Leno Tuesday night and proved once again why political comedians are killers. Maher recapped his feud with Donald Trump, calling Trump an “insufferable racist,” an “egomaniac,” and perhaps most insulting of all, “a pop reference from the 80s. In return, Trump merely posted a couple of pathetic tweets attacking Leno and Maher:

“I’ve always defended @jayleno but he never defends me. He’s not a loyal person & I now understand why everybody dumped him. Jay sucks!”

“I hear this moron @billmaher said nasty things about me (hair etc—boring) on the terminated @jayleno show. Stupid guy/bad ratings!”

Bill Maher is part of a slate of political comedians, including Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, some of their cohorts such as John Oliver, and John Fugelsang, with whom, if you’re a politician, you just don’t want to tangle. These guys write the best material, in some cases along with their writers, and deliver it in deft ways. Recall Stewart’s appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire” in 2006, slamming hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala for “hurting America.”

It’s also worth noting that all of this effective and funny political comedy is coming from the Democratic or progressive side. When Republicans and conservatives try political comedy, it falls painfully flat.

Bill Maher and this crop of political comedians are looked to not just as a top source of comedy, but as a top information source as well. They deserve both honors.

 

 

 

 

 

CNN leads news with Miley Cyrus, gets nailed by the Onion

 

CNN has done it again. On a day filled with important news about Syria, Martin Luther King, Fort Hood and more, CNN.com led its headlines yesterday with … Miley Cyrus at the Video Music Awards. Deservedly, the Onion had a field day with this, writing a satirical piece so biting and truthful that CNN.com’s managing editor, Meredith Artley, had to take to Twitter to say that she didn’t in fact write the Onion piece.

CNN, you may recall, made its bones with fabulous in-person coverage of the first Gulf-War in 1991. How sad that CNN has now twerked its way down to its current level of “journalism.”

CNN’s “Crossfire” is back

Messaging Matters2

CNN announced yesterday that it is resurrecting its “Crossfire” television program this fall. According to CNN, the new “Crossfire” will feature Newt Gingrich and S.E. Cupp on the right, and Stephanie Cutter (ex-Obama White House) and Van Jones (ex-Obama White House until President Obama cut him loose due to right wing pressure) on the left.

CNN President Jeff Zucker stated that “‘Crossfire’ will be the forum where America holds its great debates.” Yet “Crossfire,” which first aired on CNN in 1982, helped usher in what is referred to today as “argue tv,” that coarse staple of television news networks such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox “News,” as well as other networks, in which hosts and guests bash each other, often with ad hominem attacks and prepared talking points.

The media are dead; long live the media

Messaging Matters2

The Boston Marathon bombings showed America and the world once and for all that the 24-hour cable news network model is dead. Here are some of the cable coverage lowlights of the week:

CNN’s big gun mistake

Many people are still talking about the recent Piers Morgan interview of Alex Jones on CNN. We’re not linking it here in order not to give Jones more publicity, but the interview is easy to find. In fact, “interview” is the wrong term. It was a one-way crazy rant by Jones on a national platform. CNN was ill-advised to invite Jones in the first place.

First of all, Jones is well-known for his ranting, raving and conspiracy theories, including the 9/11 “truther” conspiracy. There’s plenty of footage of Jones from his radio show, yelling, wailing, sobbing, anything but talking about issues in a civil way. Again, we’re not going to link to such footage here, but it can easily be found. Suffice it to say that Piers Morgan and his CNN producers knew or should have known that they weren’t in for an interview, but rather, a food throwing episode.

Secondly, the purported immediate reason for inviting Jones was that he was behind a petition to deport Piers Morgan after Morgan took on the NRA and gun rights advocates, and called for sensible gun laws in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings. It’s Journalism 101 that a tv news host should never make himself the story, yet that’s precisely what Morgan did by inviting Jones on his show. That’s in addition to the other seemingly obvious guideline that, just because a loony with an Internet connection starts a petition, it doesn’t mean he deserves a national television spotlight.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that CNN invited Jones on “Piers Morgan Tonight” as a publicity stunt, knowing that Jones would be his usual uncivilized, explosive self and that the interview would make for “good tv,” good ratings, and thus good money for CNN. Such a decision fails to move the serious debate over gun violence forward, or do justice to the Sandy Hook Elementary School children and teachers mowed down in Newtown.

Will Michele Bachmann’s Robotic Answers Backfire?

In this recent clip from NBC’s Meet the Press, note how Michele Bachmann answers every one of host David Gregory‘s questions with a talking point. In fact, even where Gregory does a good job of asking a follow-up question because Bachmann avoided his original question, Bachmann comes back a second time with the same talking point. That reflects a lot of discipline on Bachmann’s part. The question is whether Bachmann’s robotic answers will backfire on her.

Even Bill Clinton Can’t Handle Wolf Blitzer’s Right Wing Talking Points

Former President Bill Clinton is considered by many to be one of the best politicians of the 20th Century. His intelligence and command of facts and figures are something to behold. But check out this recent interview regarding the debt ceiling debate, where Clinton’s skills fall short in the face of a barrage of right wing talking points in the form of questions to Clinton by CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer:

  • “President Obama at that news conference this week, he really went after Republicans on, it was almost class warfare as they like to say. Does that help or hurt this effort to resolve this crisis right now when you get into that bitter kind of rhetoric?”
  • “‘Cause the President’s accused of being anti-business.”
  • “But the argument is, you know, the top 2% of income earners in America pay, what, 30 or 40% of the federal income tax, and half of the people in America pay no income tax.”

Clinton answers that the media need to be careful about calling President Obama’s call for shared sacrifice “class warfare”, which is a good response as far as it goes. But then Clinton embarks on long, fact-based answers that are likely to cause most viewers (and, apparently, Blitzer himself) to tune out. Such lengthy recitations, while no doubt accurate, are no match for the visceral buzz words like “class warfare” and “bitter” contained in Blitzer’s questions. That’s exactly why those words are a key part of Republican talking points.

Messaging Maxim #1: Go On Offense

“Ability to defeat the enemy means taking the offensive. Standing on the defensive indicates insufficient strength.” –Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

As we indicated in “A Messaging Manifesto For Democrats”, during the run-up to the 2010 Congressional elections, while Republicans went on offense with charges against the “Ground Zero Mosque” and that “Obama is a Muslim,” “the Democrats weakly offered up rational rebuttals, and then wondered why most Americans weren’t swayed.”  Republicans know that, to win political battles, you must go on offense to frame the political debate in your terms, using language favorable to you.