Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Who cares what you THINK?

Via Romenesko, a new PressThink post by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen offers suggestions for CNN's primetime programming in light of news that the network is in a sustained ratings funk. I'm not super crazy about Rosen's suggestions, because despite his likely aim of generating more interesting discussion, he's still advocating for more of the same "talking heads" formula that has ruined television news. I prefer the first couple of comments on his post, which call for less opinion and more news from the 24-hour cable network, which I stopped watching a couple of years ago because it regularly set me off into a life-shortening, sputtering rage.

The problem with so much CNN programming is not just the contrived "balance" that leads to ridiculous hyping of false and trivial assertions that distract from meaningful issues, it's the relentless quest for opinion to the near exclusion of the quest for facts. Worse still, CNN doesn't seek opinion from independent-thinking experts on the issues of the day; it returns again and again to partisan hacks who are clearly pushing specific political agendas and dispensing talking points issued from central authorities. The "debates" among these people are about as authentic as professional wrestling, and I suspect people have stopped watching because they know that none of these pundits has the public interest at heart during these all-but-scripted bloviating sessions.

As one Rosen commenter said, in so many words, it's time we stop listening to what people THINK and concentrate on finding out what they KNOW. Maybe then we can actually learn something from watching the news, instead of leaving CNN and other cable news networks dumber than when we came to them.

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