As the Cable News Network turns 33 years old this Sunday, major news media in America are having less than a stellar year.
Gaffs and gaps abounded in coverage of such blockbuster events as the Boston marathon bombings, the house of horrors for three young women and a child in Cleveland, the revolting abortion doctor in Philadelphia and the outrage that is Benghazi.
CNN had had its share of these mistakes and missteps and its detractors are legion, way too many to list here. Two examples, from columnist, comedian and super-clever guy, Andy Borowitz. He wrote this satirical, fake news flash:
“In a sweeping format change that marks the end of an era for the nation’s first cable news outlet, CNN announced today it would no longer air breaking news and would instead re-run news stories of the past ‘that we know we got right.’ The rebranded network, to debut nationwide on Monday, will be called ‘CNN Classic.’
“ ‘Breaking news is hard,’ ” said the newly installed CNN chief, Jeff Zucker. ‘You have to talk to sources, make sure their stories check out O.K., and then get on the air and not say anything stupid. I, for one, am thrilled to be getting out of that horrible business.’ ”
Borowitz also wrote this spoof, referring to CNN’s miserable ratings:
“Zucker acknowledged that the network had experienced ‘a rough patch’ since he took over earlier this year, but added, ‘At least no one was watching.’ ”
This is funny, yet sad for the many excellent news professionals who have worked at CNN over the years, including many of those still there, struggling to rebuild the network’s blemished credibility.
Some of the former CNN staffers with whom we worked in the early years are frustrated. It shows in their comments on several online, social media pages. If they share a consensus on how to fix CNN, it might be that the network should not ape the three major TV News operations, ABC, CBS and NBC.
Maybe CNN should just get real. Stop the dying-to-be-liked cuddling and coddling of celebrities, be they Hollywood hotties or Washington, D.C., politicos. Also, eschew trying to be as slick as Fox News Channel or as snarly as MSNBC.
Maybe CNN should re-run Ted Turner’s brief remarks the day he launched CNN from its world headquarters, unimposing studios on Techwood Drive.
It was at 5 p.m., Sunday, June 1, 1980, a breezy day, the temperature about 80 degrees. Ted spoke to a modest crowd gathered on the lawn. To some, the highlights of CNN’s launch were Ted’s remarks, “We won’t be signing off until the world ends. We’ll be on, we’ll be covering it live, and that will be our last, last event. When the end of the world comes, we’ll play Nearer, My God, to Thee before we sign off.”
He said that several times leading up to going on the air. He also is alleged to have created an “end of the world” video with that music and an American flag waving. It’s said he had the video locked away to be played only as the world is about to end.
The Christian hymn allegedly was the last song played by the band on the Titanic before the ship sank. We don’t see that in CNN’s future. It may merge or otherwise morph, but it won’t die, will it? We hope not.
In any event, we assume someone will transfer Ted’s locked-away video to a state-of-the-art digital format. Tape deteriorates eventually.
One day soon, we’ll share some memorable moments from CNN’s early days and tell about the best and worst celebrity guests on our CNN “Take Two” program.
Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. Email: email@example.com.