Saturday, November 10, 2007

CNN's Anderson Cooper Covers Junk, Not News

It was a week in which the stock market dived, the dollar lost value, the sub-prime mortgage crisis impacted new corporate institutions, and Pakistan's dictator, Pervez Musharraf, declared an emergency and locked up hundreds of lawyers.

In other words, a week of big news, all of which had consequences for the American people.

And yet, you wouldn't know it watching CNN's main nightly news, with Anderson Cooper, which the CNN network thinks so much of, it plays it twice every night.

What was Cooper's lead Friday night? The OJ Simpson case in Las Vegas, which has absolutely no consequences and is simply prurient junk.

This used to be a significant newscast, especially when the serious Aaron Brown was the anchor. His removal and replacement by Cooper marked the deterioration of this news program and of CNN as a whole, which struggles to keep up with the Fox News Network by descending more and more into covering pap.

Cooper has done some good things, traveling to wars abroad, and to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. But more and more he's becoming just another Nancy Grace, a truly horrible newscaster who descended to covering the depths of human depravity long ago.

Cooper comes on at 7 p.m. here on the Pacific Coast, which means right after the NBC Nightly News, with Brian Williams. It's quite a contrast. Every night, Williams covers the news, and Cooper follows him most nights by focusing on the prurient, the scurrilous and the mundane. No wonder, CNN is losing in the ratings. NBC, too, competing with the new Fox financial network, puts correspondents from its financial affiliate, CNBC, on the program, but it's always tied to the news, (and Maria Bartiromo graces any newscast. If she, not Katie Couric, had gone over to do CBS News, it would be faring far better than it is).

(Comments on this blog took me to task for not recognizing that Cooper had gone on to more substantial matters than OJ Simpson, such as a long discussion on Al-Qaeda. To these, I would answer, (1) if a TV broadcast starts with pap, I turn to some other channel, and (2) on this particular week, Al-Qaeda was not the subject, the economy and the ramifications of the Sub-Prime crisis were. If you're claiming that you're doing a newscast, then you've got to discuss the day's news).

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Burma does have a few advantages over Pakistan, despite having had a perfectly awful military junta in charge for decades. One is that Burma has a great leader in the wings, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and she is beginning to emerge from the shadows of years of house arrest. Under the prodding of the United Nations emissary, Ibraham Gambari, the junta has begun talks with San Suu Kyi, and is referring to her more respectfully than it did before. This week, she was able, for the first time in three years, to meet with leaders of her political party, which, in 1990 in an election the junta nullified, received 80% of the popular vote.

Should San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, eventually become prime minister of a free Burma, Burma would no longer be one of the most poverty-stricken states in the world. Not only would the public there begin participating in the life of the state, and thousands of Buddhist monks resume their moral leadership of society, but Burma has natural resources, especially natural gas, which can be sold to China and other powers to the benefit of the Burmese people. And San Suu Kyi would benefit from Western support and the admiration she commands throughout the world.

Pakistan is not so lucky. It has few apparent natural resources, its former leaders in the wings have only a record of corruption and ineptitude, such as Benazir Bhutto, and it has a people all too willing to accede to military rule. In fact, military rule may be, under the circumstances, its best option.

Burma has one other advantage over Pakistan -- many fewer Muslim fundamentalists working to subvert the state and install religious fanatics in power. There is no Al-Qaeda or Taliban in Burma.

So I'm more optimistic about Burma in the long run. The newspapers yesterday ran a picture of San Suu Kyi alongside a smiling Gambari. These great figures, not the squalid junta, hopefully represent the future of Burma.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you had bothered to stick around on Friday after the short OJ coverage on 360, you would have seen a very interesting discussion with Anderson Cooper, Lawrence Wright and Peter Bergen on Al Qaeda. AC360 also covered the turmoil in Pakistan for several nights, so you are incorrect in your assertion that the ONLY thing this program covers is junk. Anderson regularly has reports on Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and the political scene in the U.S.A. It's unfortunate that news programs sometimes have to use lurid tactics (OJ) to bring in viewers, but at least give a program like AC360 credit for TRYING to make an effort to report on significant issues as well. Regular viewers of this program realize this fact.

11/11/2007 2:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing, Aaron Brown is seen as some sort of sainted news god, but keep in mind that he refused to end a GAME OF GOLF and return to the anchor desk when the Columbia Space Shuttle exploded and crashed, so much for his commitment to news. Anderson Cooper would have been on the scene instantly to cover that story if his program had been airing at that time.

11/11/2007 2:27 AM  
Anonymous anon also said...

You chose a bad day to pick on Cooper, Ken. Because after the brief OJ update, a segment on politics and a discussion about Pakistan, he chaired a roundtable on the history of Al Qaeda and its present prospects for a solid forty-five minutes. It was one of the most intelligent and informative discussions I've seen on the subject.

You could certainly fault CNN for tossing that out on the Friday before a long weekend, practically insuring that no one sees it; it seemed to me to be a peculiar decision. But you can't call it 'junk'.

11/11/2007 12:46 PM  

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