Tag Archives: CNN

CNN commits journalistic malpractice. Again.

Remember Richard Jewell? He was accused of placing a bomb in Atlanta’s Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympics. He endured a horrific trial (and conviction) by media and had his life destroyed. Turned out he was innocent. The guilty party was anti-abortion terrorist Eric Rudolph. Jewell sued several media outlets (including CNN), reaching settlements in all cases save one (which was dismissed after his death).

Now, let’s say that you’re surfing CNN this morning and you come across an item where they report that Richard Jewell was the Olympic Park bomber. What would you make of that? What conclusions would you draw about the credibility of an organization that reported as fact something that has long been disproven?

Well, something painfully similar is happening on CNN.com right now. The story, entitled “Ramseys’ attorney: Grand jury ‘likely confused’ about JonBenet,” centers on the revelation that the grand jury in the infamous Ramsey case wanted to indict her parents, John and Patsy.

The malpractice occurs in paragraph 24:

Investigators didn’t find footprints in the snow outside the home, there was no sign of forced entry.

CATEGORY: RamseyCaseThe problem? Well, there are a couple. First, the “footprints in the snow” meme was fiction from the start and was addressed years ago. You could have galloped an elephant through that yard without leaving footprints in the snow because there simply wasn’t much snow.

Another, key story emerged in March 1997 when it was reported that police found it curious that there were “no footprints in the snow,” around the house. The implication was obvious, and intended: no footprints, no intruder. The slight problem with this, as law enforcement knew and the crime scene photos from December 26 make clear, was that there was little or no snow around the house.

These facts have been long established. In addition, the “no sign of forced entry” meme has been dismissed. There was, in fact, an unlocked basement window and Lou Smit, who had established himself as Colorado’s premier murder investigator, demonstrates how easily an intruder could have gotten in. Watch the video, and there’s more here.

And yet, here are CNN reporters Carma Hassan and Greg Botelho parroting long-dead fictions as though they were fact.

FOX takes a beating for its “news” coverage, and rightly so. Not only have they helped pioneer a new age of post-truth “journalism,” they’ve actually gone to court and argued that it’s okay for them to lie.

The attorneys for Fox, owned by media baron Rupert Murdoch, successfully argued the First Amendment gives broadcasters the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on the public airwaves.

Better yet, the court agreed with them. Yay for America.

But FOX hardly invented cynical news entertainment. CNN has been in the business of “shaping” stories into ratings-generating narratives for a long time. For instance, remember Elian Gonzales? Before April 22, 2000, CNN.com had been my home page. After that I killed it and probably haven’t been back ten times since.

Why? When the federal authorities broke in to take the kid, AP photographer Alan Diaz took a famous picture. CNN posted it along with their story. Here’s that picture.

elian gonzales original

I checked back a few minutes later, though, and something had changed. See if you can spot what happened.

elian gonzales crop

What do you see? What do you think was the point?

For the vision-impaired, picture one depicts the agent pointing a nasty looking automatic weapon at the man holding Elian Gonzales. Which is a pretty good photo. But it isn’t as thrilling as a picture of a federal agent pointing a nasty looking automatic weapon at six year-old Elian Gonzales, is it?

This was a deliberate editorial decision that served no legitimate journalistic purpose. However, it served the purposes of entertainment and marketing quite enthusiastically.

If it hadn’t been clear before, that was the day the facade came down and CNN revealed that they were not a news organization, they were a news-like entertainment product organization. Newz-Whiz®, if you will. It was the day that anyone who cared about being told the truth walked away and never came back.

So today’s little one-sentence transgression against journalistic competence and ethics is hardly anything new or surprising, although it is a reminder of how shoddy the standards are at the place that invented the 24/7 news entertainment cycle.

I would say America deserves better, but how can I until we start demanding better?

Are liberals smarter than conservatives? Our nitwit media strike again…

CNN reported last week on a new study showing that liberalism, atheism and sexual exclusivity in males are linked to higher IQ scores. The findings are intriguing, for all the obvious reasons.

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women. The findings will be published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

Reactions have been all over the place, but there’s been strong suspicion of the findings from both “liberal” and “conservative” corners (especially conservative, as you’d expect). Which is good. Read more

Today at 11 EST: the most important story in the entire world, live

Finally, after all these months, Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods is going to apologize. To you, to me, and to all the other people around the world that he cheated on. I know, I know, it’s not really his fault. He has an addiction. To cocktail waitresses (I think this is on page 486 of the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual V, due out in 2013).

Most importantly, his apology will be carried live by CBS. By NBC. By ABC. By CNN, CNBC, HLN, Fox News, Fox Business and MSNBC. That makes it a bigger story than health care. It’s bigger than the guy who crashed a plane into the IRS building in Austin. It’s bigger than Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It’s even bigger than the Winter Olympics, which are offered on tape-delay.

And it’s sure as hell bigger than this assortment of crybaby hippie socialist bullshit. Read more

Columbine and the power of symbols

columbine-hillPart three of a series.

In the days following the murders at Columbine High School I visited the school and the grounds of Clement Park. Those walks produced this piece, which was originally published ten years ago today.

We have learned a great deal about the  events that took place at Columbine since  this essay was written (for instance, we now know that the  “Cassie Said Yes” story never actually happened,  and we also know that the whole “Trenchcoat Mafia”  thing was also a media-propagated fiction). But it seemed to me that going back  and revising to account for new information would damage the  fabric of what I wrote in late April and early May of 1999.  I have therefore elected to leave the factual inaccuracies  in place. I do, however, note the spots containing errors with an asterisk (*).

Salon.com and Westword.com provide as thorough and accurate  a picture as we are ever likely to have of the shootings and  the aftermath, and I recommend them highly.


Sunday, May 2, 1999

It won’t stop raining, and nobody seems to care. Read more

Republicans are “rebranding”: round up the usual suspects

You have to love the headline: GOP set to launch rebranding effort

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Coming soon to a battleground state near you: a new effort to revive the image of the Republican Party and to counter President Obama’s characterization of Republicans as “the party of ‘no.'”

CNN has learned that the new initiative, called the National Council for a New America, will be announced Thursday.

It will involve an outreach by an interesting mix of GOP officials, ranging from 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and the younger brother of the man many Republicans blame for the party’s battered brand: former President George W. Bush. Read more

Obama tackles America’s real number one issue

Almost 50 days into his administration President Obama made his way around to what strikes me as America’s #1 long-term issue, education. The soundbite is pretty catchy: he wants to overhaul the system “from the cradle up through a career.”

A compelling sentiment, that is. Our educational system couldn’t be much more broken, and a righteous keelhauling overhauling is certainly in order. But the rhetoric doesn’t tell us a lot. Read more

Our latest tragic shooting: who’s to blame?

Another church shooting, this time in Knoxville. By now you’ve probably read the accounts and know that the shooter, Jim Adkisson, was motivated by, among other things, an apparent hatred of “liberals.”

Before diving too much deeper, there are a couple things we can probably safely say about Adkisson. First, these weren’t the actions of a rational man. Rational people don’t wade into crowds of people attempting to kill as many as possible.

So whatever else may have been at play, and no doubt the causes were many and complex, let’s be clear that we’re dealing with a disturbed individual. Read more

S&R Poll: the press and trust

The results of the latest S&R poll are in. Readers were asked “Which major press entity do you regard as the most credible source of news?”

1. Other/None of the above (70)
2. BBC (64)
3. PBS (39)
4. CNN (15)
5. New York Times (11)
6. Washington Post (6)
Wall Street Journal (6)
9. FOX News (4)
10. ABC (2)
USA Today/Gannett (2)
12. CBS (1)

Our new poll, which asks you about important issues that have not been adequately addressed, is now posted in the column to the right.

Sen. Clinton and our War Against Women

In a NY Times op-ed today, prominent social analyst Gloria Steinem weighs in on America’s persistent gender and politics problem:

Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.

Steinem is right about a great deal in this analysis, and while I don’t agree with her that Sen. Clinton is the best candidate for the job of president, I share her frustration at the cynical, regressive gender politics framing the public “debate.”

Women really are screwed when it comes to their pursuit of leadership. Read more

Your thought for the weekend: Why can’t CNN.com tell the difference between a candidate and non-candidate?

You know, if you’re CNN, you could at least try to get it right.

Go to CNN.com’s Politics page and scroll down a little. In the right column there’s a box that says WHO’S IN THE RACE?

Who's in the Race?

Click on the gallery right under it. There you have “a look at who’s running for president, who might get in the race and who won’t.” Select the Democrats tab, where you’ll find them riffing through a list of candidates who are in (Obama, Hillary, Edwards, Dodd, Richardson, etc.), some who might get in (Gore), some who say they aren’t getting in but apparently are just too damned sexy not to mention, anyway (Clark, and over on the GOP tab, Condi and Jeb), and some who either were in but bailed or who have announced they’re not in (Vilsack, Bayh, Kerry). Read more