The target of this criticism is an easy and frequent target but I wanted to write it down anyways. Today CNN spent a large proportion of its airtime on the manhunt for the surviving member of a pair of escaped convicted killers in New York. Actually, there was “breaking news” for a large chunk of the day (diminishing the impact of the words “breaking news” for me but an excellent exercise in scary large fonts covering the bottom of the screen); the surviving escapee had been wounded and caught by police, and the remainder of the coverage seemed to be talking to members of the small surrounding community, police, political leaders, and even the escapee’s mother (she detailed his bad deeds as a young child). It’s unclear how this event really affected anyone’s life, aside from some scattered communities in New York state and the police mobilized in the manhunt who were surely well informed about what was going on.
Meanwhile, Greece may be on the verge of financial collapse. I mean, more on the verge than usual. Banks have been closed, and it seems that Greece is more likely than not to leave the Euro and default on many billions of euros of debt owed to institutions across the globe. This will have far-ranging repercussions in Europe and the rest of the world. I have not seen very much coverage of this on CNN today. Actually, it’s unclear what value CNN has added in its persistent coverage of the escaped prisoners. Much value could be added in explaining and investigating the potential impact of financial collapse, as it may ultimately impact economic life in the United States. These issues are not well understood by the general public (nor by me, truth be told). It’s also worth remembering that this event could give further rise to extremist groups in Europe. Europe sometimes has had a problem with this in the past.
What’s the point of being a news organization primarily driven by ratings if at the end you are effectively no longer a news organization? I would like to believe that covering current events that matter would solve CNN’s woes. I’m not so naive. So I’ll refrain from diagnosing the root of CNN’s viewership issues and prescribing a cure. Instead I will limit my criticism to their deviation from any sound principles of proportionality in covering current events. Note that I am picking on CNN because that’s what I have seen on the TV; almost surely the other news organizations have performed similarly or worse, but I have fortunately not had an opportunity to view them. Feel free to replace “CNN” with “TV News”.
Breaking News: Puerto Rico unable to pay $72bn in debts.