There are days that leave me feeling rather like Howard Beale, days when the news leaves me feeling like the film Network, which has always seemed relevant, was really a documentary sent backward in time. I think most people who are a little culturally aware and versed in critical reasoning and watch the news have complained, at least from time to time, about the quality of journalism today. And a lot of television fans have complained about different themed channels suffering “network drift”, where they abandon the concept that made them household names to begin with, such as MTV dropping music videos, or the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) adding wrestling to their lineup. And I’ve been a vocal opponent to both. But I somehow had never really thought I’d ever have to complain about both at the same time. But that’s where we are. In a move that could have been taken from Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film, CNN is adding “entertainment” to their line-up in order to boost their ratings. The plan is to add a late-night talk show, on the order of The View, a hunt for on-air “personalities” to make the news more “entertaining”, and as many as five “reality” shows.
Hey. CNN. You already have a reality program. You have, in fact, the reality program, the only one that truly reflects reality, at least if you play it honest. It’s called “the news”. That other stuff, that’s the illusion, like Howard Beale said. And if you go watering down your news programming by adding the bullshit, all that’s going to do is make anybody who isn’t already doubting you wonder if the news you’re peddling is bullshit, too. So your ratings are low. You think undermining your credibility is going to help? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure it won’t, and the reality TV market is so over-saturated right now that it’s pretty doubtful your new programs will bring in much traffic anyway. So why not just take your lumps with some integrity, hm? You’re part of Turner, part of Time Warner, you can be a loss-leader for a bit. Because all the journalistic infotainment-like art product (to steal a phrase from Buck Godot) is probably what led you to this point to begin with. There is probably more than a mere 10 minutes worth of news during a day, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a news program that felt like it was giving me more than that once all the fluff was cut out. You want viewers, try something novel, something new. Or rather, something old. Like the news.