Friday, February 09, 2007

The Disgrace That Is CNN

By now, those of us in the atheist blogosphere are up in a fury over Paula Zahn's program on CNN the other night about atheists. While I did not watch the first segment about the atheist family, I read the transcript of the second half of the segment (I'm sorry, I tried to watch it, but had to turn it off as soon as I heard Karen Hunter say "What do atheists believe in? Nothing!") in which Paula Zahn had on three guests for a panel discussion. Inexcusably on CNN's part, not one of the three panelists was an atheist. Just imagine if Paula Zahn had a segment on discrimination against gays that comprised Pat Buchanan, Jerry Falwell and William Donohue.

Regarding the guests that Paula Zahn had on, I was familiar with Karen Hunter. She once was on the editorial board for The New York Daily News and I used to e-mail her on occasion about her columns for the paper. Most of my e-mails were positive, because I saw her as independent thinker who was willing to promote ideas that were more conservative than most African-American columnists. So I was especially disappointed in her opening remarks and engaged her in an exchange of e-mails on what she said. I will not repeat the contents of our exchange here, but interested readers can refer to the comments section of a post on God Is For Suckers where I copied the exchange. Given my past positive contact with Ms. Hunter, I was reluctant to make our exchange public, but in her first reply she complained that television programs often do not allow for more than soundbite opinions, so I decided that I should allow other atheists the opportunity to see her expand upon what she said.

Then there was the ever annoying Debbie Schlussel. Why she gets to be on television at all is beyond me. Media Matters recently highlighted some stupid remarks she made about senator and African-American presidential candidate Barack Obama. The third panelist, an African-American man, was someone I had not heard of before.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, I was pleased to read that Paula Zahn, evidently in response to the torrent of criticism that had been received, was going to have Richard Dawkins on to respond to the remarks by the panelists. So, last night at 8 p.m. I turned on CNN with eager anticipation. But as soon as the channel changed, I knew I was in for a major disappointment. You see, Anna Nicole Smith was found dead in a hotel room in Florida, so naturally Paula Zahn decided to devote the entire hour of her program to the recently departed Anna. Admittedly, my anger stemmed primarily from the fact that they would not air Dawkins' response to the program from the other night while it was still fresh in the minds of most viewers. But it also crystallized for me what exactly is wrong with network news in the United States.

You see, I have this naive notion that the purpose of the news is to inform we the public about things of importance in this world, you know like the war in Iraq, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the federal budget, and yes, giving atheists a voice to speak for themselves rather than giving theists a forum to tell CNN's viewers what they think atheists believe. Instead, we get an entire hour devoted to the death of a bleached blonde druggie with a DD bra size who most people would have never heard of if she had not married a geriatric billionaire. Sure, maybe it would have been worth Zahn mentioning for 5 minutes before telling her viewers to tune into Larry King's show later on. And that is what really kills me. Larry King devoted his entire program, which immediately followed Paula Zahn's, to the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Like Bacon Eating Atheist Jew, I am contemplating boycotting CNN, or at least Paula Zahn's program, as I do think Anderson Cooper's show at 10 p.m. is pretty good. It's too bad, because I generally liked her. Of course, I will have to tune in to Zahn's program when she finally gets around to airing Richard Dawkins, though the cynic in me suspects they will try to find some way to dilute his remarks.


Stardust said...

I have long ago started boycotting CNN along with Faux News. Actually, there are few news programs anymore that are worthy being called news. What it actually is is "newsertainment" and the focus is sensationalism in order to gain ratings, and the sensationalism gets worse with each passing year. I had a scholarship for a full ride for Journalism in college and gave it back because there is no way I could possibly work in the news media and stay sane.

Back to the post...
Karen Hunter is just a bitch who is the one who needs to shut up. And how hypocritical to say that we need to stop telling people what to believe and then says we need to bring back prayer in schools...and that we can just "not pray" if we don't want to. No one brought up the point that anyone is free to pray in school any time they want to and "no one is going to throw them in jail for it." (as she said about atheists in the panel discussion.)But prayer should not be led by a teacher who is employed by the state. An atheist would have made that point very clear, along with many other points.

Debbie Schlussel is an idiot and a kiss butt, Paula Zahn is a media puppet, and like you said, I don't know who that black guy was...never heard of him before and why was he speaking for me? Actually, all three of the panelists were merely there because CNN paid them to be there and just wanted to broadcast something the xian majority would love in order to boost network ratings...they are really hard up for those ratings and will resort to the lowest, slimiest tactics possible to gain those ratings.

Baconeater said...

i have to keep watching until at least Monday, Darwin Day, when Dawkins is supposed to be on. I have heard his 20 minute interview got cut to 5 minutes and he isn't going to be on the panel afterwards. There will be one Atheist and a couple of probably very understanding theists...I'd like to see Dawkins versus Debbie and Karen, and throw in Ann Coulter too.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately we are spared from CNN-USA here in Australia, but we still have to suffer that athiest-apologetic Larry King on CNN International. I encourage you to maintain the rage, but you might be suprised/pleased to hear that Paula Zahn is in fact an athiest herself. I guess ratings and money win out though! DAWKINS-4-EVER!

Stardust said...

but you might be suprised/pleased to hear that Paula Zahn is in fact an athiest herself.

anon - Where did you find that information? I haven't found anything yet about her religious/non-religious beliefs or background.

Trissa + Joel said...

The unfortunate thing I find is that CNN is the least offensive of the mainstream media. MSNBC has Olberman, who's great, but the rest are horrible. I grew up being taught that the media was full of left wing nuts. The roommates of my early twenties all believed that media leaned to the right. I really just think they are about their bottom line.

Sirkowski said...

I don't have cable anymore (I steal TV on the Intertube instead), but when I did, I got rid of CNN on my channel subscription package deal.

I only got benefits from not having CNN. Really, if you can read news online, you miss nothing. You miss nothing except ignorant pundits.

Tommykey said...

I agree Sirk. The problem is, millions of people still watch CNN. So even if we do not regularly watch it ourselves, we still have to hold them accountable for when they air misinformation.

An anonymous commenter wrote above that Paula Zahn is an atheist. Like Stardust, I have not heard this. But even if she is an atheist, to devote an entire hour of her program to the death of Anna Nicole Smith was an outrage, especially knowing that Larry King was also going to do a full hour on her. So that's two consecutive hours devoted to a C List, no, make that a DD List celebrity.

Even though I cannot stand Michael Jackson, I shiver to think what will happen when he dies. Wall to wall coverage 24/7.