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.