CNN becoming a tabloid

USA Today has an opinion piece on CNN’s coverage of the Malaysian airplane mystery. They report that BuzzFeed found that “during one stretch on March 12, CNN spent 256 out of 271 broadcast minutes on the plane.” Overcoverage? Yes. There were plenty of other things going on in the world. Plenty. But, as the piece notes, with partisan coverage of issues by Fox News and the opposite audience appeal from MSNBC, CNN needs to find new ways to increase ratings. So, what do they do? They have to fill the time somehow.

Rieder: Too much coverage of plane mystery?

When you are doing that day after day, and when many of those days bring with them no real developments, that’s a problem. How do you fill all of that time?

Here’s how: Anchor Don Lemon wondered whether “supernatural” forces had shown their hand. There was talk of black holes and zombie planes. Little sister network HLN brought in a psychic to help out. No theory was too crackpot to be ignored. No non- or minor development could be denied the breaking news label.

A better way to cheapen the brand is hard to imagine. Yet, tragically, ratings rose. You think maybe CNN will try this again?

Sadly, yes. The same thing happens with us here at DN. The extreme views on either side get far more hits and attention than we do. The best answer is often the most complicated and probably least dramatic, involving no supernatural forces or alien invaders. Are people so bored with their day-to-day lives that they have to manufacture drama or live vicariously through TV? I think that’s a part of it. CNN has caught on that people can’t not watch a train wreck or an outrage festival. Drama gets hits. What ever happened to just getting the news? If that was still the case, DN certainly wouldn’t need to be here. As I note to people often, I could do this full time with a full staff and still never NOT be busy. It gets overwhelming.

  13 comments for “CNN becoming a tabloid

  1. Chris Howard
    March 25, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    Most people, who are not baby boomers or older, get their news from the internet.

    The worst informed (with regard to objective reality) are FOX News consumers, followed by CNN, then NBC, and the other TV news outlet viewers.

    The audience with the most accurate views, regarding objective reality, seem to be PBS/NPR/C-SPAN consumers.

    CNN, like it’s other commercial brethren, aren’t in the information/news business to inform. They are in the business of making money, first and foremost.

  2. Sean
    March 25, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Don’t forget NPR! Though I listen to CNN, it is ironic this piece was written because I have been thinking the same thing about the outlet. Plus, readership here may be small, but it seems informed. And loyal.

  3. March 25, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    I tend to use BBC and UK sources to avoid the USAnian bias.

  4. spookyparadigm
    March 25, 2014 at 11:16 AM

    I get my news from Google News that I check a couple of times a day, and from a couple of blogs in my twitter feed or that I visit from time to time. TV is a waste of time. Even if it wasn’t being purposely filled with garbage, the pace of information is far too slow. I don’t mean updates, though that’s also true (if there is a breaking news story, I follow it on twitter via hashtag). I simply have far more control and ability to absorb information quickly online.

    Of course, TV is being purposely filled with garbage, with CNN easily the worst of the major lot. And lest we forget, major is a relative word. The audiences all the cable news networks have are miniscule. They can still influence coverage, but only in a lowest-common-denominator sort of way.

  5. Stephanie
    March 25, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    All of TV is filled with garbage, to the point where I only watch a very short list of shows that I DVR. I did find myself occasionally turning to CNN in the past week, usually after work when I was doing chores around the house and hadn’t been online for a few hours, to hear the latest on the hunt for the missing plane. What I found was newscasters filling time with wild speculations and what I would describe as conspiracy theories. When I heard those I would assume there was no new news to report, else they would be reporting actual updates, flip it off and go on about my evening.

    I usually get my news off Google (carefully checking the source of any link I check, because Google has been known to link to some pretty shakey websites as ‘news’), but I prefer BBC news whenever possible. It’s far superior to any of our US sources. As an old timer, I remember the days when Headline news actually played news around the clock, and you could tune in any time for an hour and pretty much catch up on what was going on, with a hit of humor from Jeanne Moos at the bottom of the hour. Those were the good old days of TV news – before we had the option of getting it ourselves off the net. What CNN has turned into – hours and hours of idiotic talking heads struggling to fill airtime – is complete crap.

  6. Lagaya1
    March 25, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    ABC news online has gone from being a legitimate news outlet to now featuring sometimes 50% celebrity “news”. I fear the internet has made us dumber, rather than smarter. Or maybe has just shown us how dumb we’ve always been…

  7. WMcCreery
    March 25, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    What about the “Daily Show”?

  8. BobM
    March 25, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    I stopped watching TV news sometime in the 1980s when one of our national TV stations spent something like 5 minutes on someone on a fishing boat who had broken his leg and had to be transferred to shore by helicopter. It was obvious that it was there because of the pretty pictures of helicopters flying around rather than any importance – even local. I use our version of NPR, and the Internet – in spite of being a baby boomer :-). But even that turns out to be northern hemisphere centric. By the Guardian does have an Asia-Pacific section pathetic though it is. If I want Eurocentric news I’ll go to DWTV or the Guardian, if I want American centric news I’ll go to Huffington post, cesspit of woo though it is, at least it has a section on atheism. 🙂

  9. Adam
    March 26, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    CNN does this every time a sensational story comes along – they milk it for all its worth regardless of what else is going on and they will report unverified reports as fact, speculate on the reports, speculate on their speculation of reports, begin to treat it like established fact and speculate some more. Then contrary information appears and they repeat the cycle all over again.

    The same thing happened with the Boston bombing and will doubtless happen again. That’s what news channels get for putting ratings about facts and treating everything coming out of Twitter as if it was the gospel truth that has to be reported instantly.

  10. Chemical
    March 26, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Agree that CNN is very rapidly becoming an unreliable news source. However, I find that their medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, gives some pretty reliable and surprisingly level-headed medical information. It’s like he fact checks and researches his sources before talking about them. I’m almost convinced that he doesn’t actually work for CNN.

    Good news sources listed by some of the other posters here. I also find Aljazeera America to be pretty reliable and they report actual news.

  11. AlEck
    March 26, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    Mind you, I’ve noted that the BBC tends to be a bit iffy on the facts from time to time. For the most part I think they do alright but considering how large a news organisation it is, I suppose you get a few that slip through the cracks

  12. AlEck
    March 26, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    I’ve seen quite a few Aljazeera reports running around the interwebs recently. They seem to be quite a decent source of news. A new contender for the Iron Throne perhaps?
    The more I think about it the more that analogy seems appropriate.

  13. Bert
    March 28, 2014 at 12:11 AM

    Try taking a sip of wine every time Wolf Blitzer uses the word “outrage”. It makes CNN’s downward spiral into the realm of tabloid tv easier to take. How the formerly respectable have fallen. Very sad.

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