CNN’s Coverage of Ukraine

For media watchers it’s become almost de rigueur to hate CNN. For someone like me who follows (at a distance) media stories, CNN is by default my major news source. Here in Mexico there are very few other choices for news in English—at least on my cable network: Fox News and Aljazeera are the major alternatives.

CNN’s coverage of the invasion brings to the fore all the good and the irritating things about this news source. For all its faults, CNN still has the reach and the money to provide far and away the best round-the-clock reporting on the Ukraine crisis. Their field reporters are not always sharp and experienced, but most are. The studio analysts are generally worth hearing, with reports from token Republicans and retired generals.

But, my God, the formats they use are deadly, with constant repetitive promos for their people. And they never change. We have been watching the same irksome walk-ons for years of people like Christiane Amanpour, Max Foster, and Becky Anderson. Finally, instead of pricking your interest, they arouse your repugnance. How many times do you want to hear “They can shoot my body but not my dreams.”

Then there are the promos masquerading as soft news. You get corporate CEOs speaking about good causes—meanwhile furthering their company’s PR message. Africa must be filling CNN’s coffers with its constant promotions. It’s become a wholly owned subsidiary of CNN. This stuff is what we used to call infomercials and CNN is chock full of them.

I commented in an earlier post about the network’s so-called talent. They have some fine people, among them Jim Acosta and Jake Tapper (either of whom should take Wolf Blitzer’s place) and Pamela Brown. But Wolfie, like Mike Wallace before him, has stayed on too long. Abby Philips is terrific on empty comments. Anderson Cooper with his awkward delivery is the most overrated anchor in TV. He should stop having babies and take some speech therapy.

After all the Cuomo controversy and then-president Jeff Zucker’s recent demise, the network suffered major losses in viewership. With the Ukraine invasion, however, ratings have greatly improved. Why? Because there is no other place to go for full coverage of the major event of our times. I mock some of their talent but watch CNN at least two hours a day, mostly in the evening.

As I write this, Dana Bash (CNN’s most skillful analyst) is interviewing Sen. Mitt Romney on “State of the Union.” It’s good journalism, and for major news, CNN is still on top. TVNewser points out that

last January was CNN’s most-watched month on record, carried by live coverage of the Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol (CNN’s most-watched day in history), as well as the presidential inauguration. The network also finished No. 1 on all of cable television that month, beating MSNBC and even Fox News.

With a corporate shakeup coming, perhaps the network can now turn a new face to the public.

Moving forward, what’s next for CNN when the company falls under the Discovery Channel umbrella later this year? Let’s hear from its soon-to-be largest shareholder, John Malone of Liberty Media.

“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” Malone said in an interview that recently aired on CNBC.

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