Apr 052010
CNN controversies
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Is this a “real” war between opinion and facts going on here or something else . . . ?

Listening to Jon Stewart helped destroy CNN. Now imitating him might be the network’s only hope of salvation.

It was October of 2004, the heat of the presidential campaign, when Stewart showed up on “Crossfire,” long CNN’s flagship political program, and delivered a now-legendary tirade.

“Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America,” he told the hosts, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. He called them “political hacks.” He accused them of “helping the politicians and the corporations.” He compared their show to a professional wrestling match. “You’re doing theater,” he said, “when you should be doing debate.”

At it turned out, CNN was paying attention. Within two months, “Crossfire” was canceled, and the network’s president, Jon Klein, cited Stewart’s tirade as a tipping point. “I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart’s overall premise,” Klein said. Henceforward, he announced, CNN would move away from “head-butting debate shows.” Let FOX and MSNBC have their “live guests” and “spirited debate.” CNN was going to report, not editorialize.

Big mistake.

Six years later, CNN is still the network Americans turn to when an earthquake strikes Haiti or a crucial health care vote takes place. But most days are slow news days, opinionated journalism is more interesting than the elusive quest for perfect objectivity and CNN is getting absolutely murdered in the ratings.

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