For me, the problem with CNN goes back at least a decade and a half, and it can be summed up by saying that they have always relied too much on real insiders. They like to hire people who have served in the White House or as head of one of the two main political parties, or as high-ranking campaign advisers. I suppose that the other cable networks are guilty of this, too, just to a lesser degree. I think one of the more interesting things you can do is to take someone who has never served in any capacity in politics or in Washington, and ask them what they think of the bullshit they are being served. I think this is what makes Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz and Chris Hayes and Ezra Klein more interesting than Lawrence O’Donnell or Karl Rove or James Carville or Donna Brazille or Paul Begala.
I suppose even Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity bring a fresher perspective than David Gergen and Alex Castellanos. CNN‘s real sin was to rely on party hacks from both parties, thereby expressing agnosticism about the truth while putting partisan gibberish on a pedestal. Obviously, the Crossfire show set the standard for this kind of assault on reasoned discourse.
I agree that CNN needed to be to the go-to network for breaking news and then find a formula to compete in slow news cycles. Their model should have been a rolling 60 Minutes type of investigative journalism of the kind that isn’t totally time-sensitive. That way, they could roll out their product on an as-needed basis. They didn’t need to be Frontline, but they needed to be about hard-hitting news. They let Larry King hang around forever, pretending to be anything more than a suck-up. And then they replaced him with the even more loathsome Piers Morgan. I could pick a professor at random from the faculty list of Northern Iowa University and come up with someone more insightful and stimulating to the national debate than Piers Morgan.
My problem with CNN isn’t really that they chase ratings over substance. My problem is that they employ uninteresting, unprovocative, brown-nosers. And, when they go provocative, they go for nativists like Lou Dobbs, Dana Loesch, and Glenn Beck. Erick Erickson is their idea of anti-establishment.
I can’t remember the last time CNN had a real scoop. The best I can remember is that actual news took place on their network, like during a debate they happened to be hosting, or during an interview they conducted. But reporters digging something up on the beat? I have nothing in my memory banks.
The idea that someone would go to Wolf Blitzer with sensitive information is laughable. The network has no edge. As horrendously awful as the Washington Post is and has been for quite some time, they’ve broken real news through the reporting of Barton Gellman, Dana Priest, and Walter Pincus. CNN has done nothing.
But, hey, bring back Crossfire. That’s bound to work.