CNN HITS BOTTOM
by Alex Bennet
from HUSTLER Magazine October 2010
AS THE SAYING GOES, “THE BIGGER THEY ARE, THE HARDER THEY FALL.”
There was a time not so long ago when CNN was the only game in town. But that was then, and this is now.
Ted Turner, an Atlanta media mogul and visionary, didn’t mind being called nuts. So on June 1, 1980, he launched a crazy notion: the 24/7 Cable News Network. I remember watching CNN when it first lit up. The newscaster opened by announcing: “This is CNN signing on for the very last time.” He was right; it hasn’t signed off since.
Even so, CNN limped along for years. There was some extensive live coverage of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, but CNN didn’t get on everyone’s radar until the Baby Jessicatrapped- in-the-well story. Then, with its 24/7 coverage of the first Gulf War, CNN suddenly morphed into the most important television news organization of them all. It was where the world turned to get the news. Saddam Hussein watched the daily bombing of his country on CNN.
The network became the gold standard for quality news reporting and fairness. It was hard to define where CNN stood politically, and that’s the way a news organization should be. That’s precisely why it was so good.
Alas, today CNN is the lowest-rated cable news network, and its reputation for quality and fairness has vanished along with the numbers. What the fuck happened?!
Turner Broadcasting was gobbled up by media giant Time Warner. Soon Ted Turner, who had been the soul of the network, was gone. What was left was a corporate bureaucracy ruled by unimaginative bean counters. Sure, other operations like Fox News entered the scene as competitors, thus peeling off viewers. But it was CNN’s lack of focus and purpose that led to its downfall.
CNN has the worst anchors in the business. Let’s start with Ali Velshi at 1 p.m. (Eastern Time). This bald-headed creep started out as a financial reporter. CNN decided to compound the error by handing him an anchor slot as well. Given Velshi’s apparent discomfort in front of the camera, not to mention all the really good newspeople who are out of work, I can’t figure why he is even there. At 3 p.m. (ET) the brainless Rick Sanchez goes on the air. This is the guy who, while covering the Chilean earthquake, asked a scientist, “By the way, nine meters in English is what? Meters is an English word, you dope! On the same newscast, Sanchez pointed to an island chain off the coast of South America and said, “This is Hawaii, where the tsunami is headed.” In fact, he was indicating the Galapagos Islands, more than 4,500 miles southeast of Honolulu.
During coverage of Iceland’s ash-spewing volcano, he erupted with this bit of Sanchezian wisdom: “When you think of a volcano, you think of Hawaii and long words like that. You don’t think of Iceland. You think it’s too cold to have a volcano there.”This guy is anchoring a newscast for an outfit that calls itself “The Worldwide Leader in News”?
From 5 to 7 p.m. (ET) Wolf Blitzer, who has zero going for him, helms CNN’s most-watched show, The Situation Room. (This, by the way, is an amazingly stupid name for a news program.) Every other word out of Blitzer’s mouth is “um.” His personality is that of a dead carp. If it weren’t for the oddity of his name, absolutely no one would have ever paid attention to Wolf Blitzer. As a journalist, he is simply horrible. With Velshi and Sanchez, he rounds out a trio that accounts for six inept hours of “news” a day.
Meanwhile, anchors John King and Campbell Brown appear to have had a charisma bypass. Dull and uninspired, these anchors have hardly presented a challenge to the guys over at Fox, who at least know they’re in show business as well as news. That, no doubt, explains why Brown recently parted ways with CNN.
Then there’s Larry King. Do I have to say any more? The only thing interesting about King is his soon-to-be (or not-to-be) ex-wife. Let’s move on. Anderson Cooper’s only real accomplishment was being shot out of socialite Gloria Vanderbilt’s twat. He constantly acts as if he’s looking in a mirror. His newscasts are showy, and the globetrotter loves to fawn over orphans and stand in the rubble of some ravaged country. However, what looks like empathy is really just an ego freak getting in the way during trying circumstances. Rumor has it Cooper is the number-one choice to replace Katie Couric as host of the CBS Evening News. With thinking like that, CBS could be the next CNN.
My advice to CNN is simple: Fire everybody from the anchors to the newsroom staff to whatever idiot is at the helm of this unholy mess. Otherwise just close down and air cartoons. After all, the Cartoon Network has higher ratings than CNN.
Alex Bennett is a longtime HUSTLER contributor. The two-time Emmy winner, who broke into broadcasting as a teenager, can be heard on Sirius Left. 146 (9 a.m. to noon ET) and XM America Left 167 (midnight to 3 a.m. ET).