I don’t watch television news, save for the over-the-air broadcasts of one of my local stations weekday mornings for the weather forecast, and to see where the latest mass shootings have taken place.
But that’s it. Except for clips online, I consume no regular video-based news source. Not CNN, nor Fox, nor MSNBC, nor Cheddar, nor Newsy, nor any of the other awful youngster-focused news channels that have popped up to prove, inadvertently, that video news can contain even less depth than it has previously.
Why would I?
I read two daily newspapers (WaPo and NY Times) and a handful of current events magazines, plus whatever news articles I run across every day from publications not behind paywalls.
What could I possibly learn from CNN or MSNBC, which serve up news in two-minute segments, that I cannot learn more broadly by reading entire articles about the same subjects?
Even a bad article in the New York Times has more useful information than the best non-long-form story from a television news source. That is, if my goal is to be informed and not entertained.
I use to have either CNN or MSNBC droning on in the background on my TVs the entire time I was home. Until I realized that I wasn’t learning anything new from even the most competent news anchors and reporters. Watching people argue or pontificate in 30-second sound bites is not learning. It feeds something in our brains, otherwise it wouldn’t be able to hold our attention the way it does. But it’s not learning.
Which brings me back to CNN. #BoycottCNN is trending, and for good reasons.
The network is in the midst of a rightward lurch because CNN is part of a larger Wall Street corporation (I can’t keep track of who owns whom) and the heads of that larger corporation have looked at the consistently higher audiences of Fox News and thought, “I gotta git me some of that.”
So they are getting rid of more progressive stalwarts such as Brian Stelter (fired Aug. 18) and promoting the likes of the irritatingly named Poppy Harlow. Poppy’s name sounds exactly as shallow as she is. It fits. Like if you had a macho friend named Rex Rexson. You know what you’re getting with Rex Rexson and you know what you’re getting with Poppy Harlow.
You can tell by watching Poppy that Poppy is not about journalistic ethics and finding truth wherever it takes her. Poppy is about Poppy’s career, and if being a right-wing shill for her corporate overlords is what Poppy needs to do to get ahead, Poppy is all in.
After President Biden gave a truth-telling speech in which he called out the existential threat facing America from “semi-fascist” forces who tried to overthrow the government, Republicans everywhere were in high dudgeon because Biden had the balls to call them what they are.
Poppy saw her chance to ingratiate herself with her new, conservative-audience-wooing bosses. During a Sept. 2 CNN interview with White House press spokesperson Karin Jean-Pierre, Poppy pounced:
HARLOW: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, as you know, just spoke a few minutes ago in the President’s hometown. No coincidence there, off-screens (ph) of pre-battle, if you will, arguing the President’s trying to distract Americans from the problems many folks at home face, kitchen table issues, the economy, education. He also called on the president to apologize tonight for saying as you know, a few days ago that the MAGA movement is quote like, semi-fascism. He said that at that private donor event. Take a listen to what McCarthy’s asking for.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: (VIDEO CLIP) When the President speaks tonight, at Independence Hall, the first lines out of his mouth should be to apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans as fascists.
HARLOW: Will the President apologize?
PIERRE: You know, I’ll say this, Poppy. I will let the actions of Kevin McCarthy for over the past two years just speak for itself. There was a moment on January 6, or around January 6, where Kevin McCarthy, Martha McCarthy spoke very forcefully about what happened on that day, about what that attack meant for our nation. But you may have missed it if you blinked an eye, because sadly right after that, soon after that he aligned with the most extreme part of his party. And that is a sad thing to say, that is not a great thing to say. That is a sad thing to say as we talk about that mob, that insurrection that I just spoke about that landed on Capitol to attack on democracy, to attack law enforcement officers. Again, he spoke to it and then you blink an eye again, you may have missed that.
HARLOW: So can I — we — I understand our viewers I think fully understand the shift that Kevin McCarthy made from what he said then to what he said later on, but I asked you about the President, and what the President will say tonight. So I’m going to take it as a no, the President will not apologize.
Poppy is dishonest and her morals are easily purchased, but I’m not upset at her. Because she’s an entertainer, not a journalist. Just as with most of the people who appear on Fox News, she’s a performance artist working for bosses who want her to play her part in a performance piece masquerading as news. It’s the journalistic equivalent of click-bait meant to attract viewers they can then sell to advertisers.
And this has always been true at CNN, to lesser or larger extents, depending on who’s been in charge at CNN and its parent companies. CNN has always been awful in more, or less, tolerable ways. CNN is part of Wall Street and Wall Street only cares about money. To the extent that CNN has ever been about public interest journalism, even those times were really just experiments to see if public interest journalism can increase shareholder value and executive compensation. Now that they’ve figured out it doesn’t, it’s time to try something else.
If any of this were at all about putting out a quality news product, the PBS Newshour would be crushing CNN and Fox in the ratings.
I suppose there is a someone-needs-to-keep-an-eye-on-them aspect to torturing yourself by watching these news channels. Sort of like what the masochists at Media Matters do by watching Fox New 24 hours a day.
But I have better things to do, and better ways to keep informed.