August 5, 2010

What CNN (and Journalism) Should Do

Robert Thompson, the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, commented on the changes at CNN in a column by Nancy Franklin in The New Yorker:

He says he would like to see an 8 P.M. show that followed the lead of Jon Stewart and, to some extent, Keith Olbermann and CNN’s own Anderson Cooper: watching the competition and, on a daily basis, examining, in a reportorial mode, “‘O.K., what did Glenn Beck claim about colonial history, and is that really true?’ That’s something that CNN could really sink their teeth into, and it’s in the spirit of the identity they’ve tried to keep in spite of the fact that they think they can’t keep it.”

I’ve been saying this for a long time now: News organizations, as an integral part of fulfilling the primary purpose of journalism, ought to be keeping an eye on the craft and ethics of the competition.

I think Thompson’s reference to Stewart is right on and just a bit off: Right on because Stewart is routinely doing a job journalism ought to be doing and a bit off because, as a medialitical infortainer, Stewart creates a distraction by becoming the topic of discussion. Be that as it may, I heartily agree with Thompson.

The problem here is obvious: News organizations would rather fail at this duty in order to avoid having it pointed out by competing journalists that they are failing a much larger duty.

Jon Stewart’s job is safe.

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