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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

CNN: Creating the News as We See Fit

CNN reportedly wrote and distributed questions for the Rock the Vote debate and required audience members to ask them, according to an LA Times report:

CNN, which has marketed itself as an outlet for serious news, planted a question about computer preferences at last week's debate of the Democratic presidential candidates, according to the student who posed the query and on Monday wrote about it in an online forum of Brown University's Daily Herald. During the debate, cosponsored by the nonprofit Rock the Vote organization, Alexandra Trustman asked the candidates whether they preferred the PC or Mac format for their computers.

Despite uncertainty about the relevance of the question, Trustman was told that she could not ask her own question:

But when she arrived in Boston for the debate, she wrote, she was "handed a note card" with the question and told she couldn't ask her alternative "because it wasn't lighthearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions."

CNN, who is the first to complain about Fox News' bias in news reporting, covered the Rock the Vote debate as if questions were spontaneous and unrehearsed, as if they were the issues really on voters' minds. Now CNN's debates seem to bear as much relation to reality as pro wrestling. Remember all the softball questions, such as the one above, or another about who each candidate would like to "party" with? Do you suppose there's a reason that CNN would not only create the questions ahead of time and use strawmen to stage them, but deliberately craft such softballs?

First we find out that CNN deliberately withheld information about Saddam's reign of terror to maintain access in Iraq, without ever asking itself if reporting lies was worth access at all. Now we find out that CNN deliberately misleads its viewers in order to "modulate" political debate. Quite simply and literally, CNN is unbelievable.

UPDATE: CNN admitted that it staged the question, according to AP:

The news network on Tuesday acknowledged that a producer went "too far" in telling Brown University student Alexandra Trustman what to ask. ... "In an attempt to encourage a lighthearted moment in this debate, a CNN producer working with Ms. Trustman clearly went too far," she said. All of the other questions from the audience originated from the person asking them, she said.

I suppose that CNN wishes this to be the last word on the subject, but of course this depends on CNN's credibility. Will anyone believe that CNN only made up the one question? I certainly don't. If that was the case, then why did the producer insist that Trustman ask this question instead of her own? After all, if only one question was planted, then it could have been easily planted with another audience member and Trustman then could have asked her own question.

Either way, this incident just reinforces what I wrote earlier regarding the uselessness of these debates. Whether you accept CNN's explanation or not, they're more interested in making these into entertaining talk shows than in true political debate, and even at that more Jerry Springer than Nightline. It's the political equivalent of roller derby or the WWF, and CNN has made itself the news media equivalent of Vince McMahon.

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07:26 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink

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» Rock the Vote from marcusblog
I finally sat down and watched CNN's Rock the Vote debate coverage from last week. I'd read about most of the interesting moments, but I sat through it anyway. First, Anderson Cooper was much more interesting hosting ABC's "The Mole"... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 11, 2003 11:14:18 AM

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