I remember watching the Democratic Party national convention in 2004. While Canadian and focused on the politics of my own country, I am always interested in the politics of our great neighbour to the south. Politically, I could best be described as a pragmatist, believing it unlikely that one party has the complete, correct answer.
It was to be a long day, with meetings in the morning and a company event in the evening. As I often do, I turned on CNN for background information while I brush my teeth and shower.
I learned a few things. Barack Obama was in London for the G20 meetings. He met with Prime Minister Brown. He was planning to meet with the Soviet Prime Minister. He and Brown had done a press conference. Michelle Obama was there. Carla Bruni Sarkozy decided not to come to London because she knew she would compare badly to Mrs. Obama. And, of course, there were protesters near the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The protester story was made more interesting by the tone of voice of the CNN anchors. The unspoken desire for a bloody riot was audible. They wanted blood. The lack of it made the story less interesting.
I knew all of this because it was repeated at least 4 times. Likely it was repeated more, but I turned to the Canadian stations (CBC and City-TV) and the BBC station to check what was occurring locally, globally and in the US. Not surprisingly, there were many stories occurring around the world. For the non-US stations, Obama in London was a short story, especially as the G20 summit has not yet started. During these repetitions, multiple talking heads found their way to the screen to spout meaningless opinion on the same topic.
I came back home at about 1:30 the next night. That made it almost 18 hours since I had turned off CNN. I could not resist. I turned on the tube to hear Anderson Cooper retelling the exact information that had been news 18 hours ago. I would not have written anything about this, as all Obama all the time seems to have become the CNN format. But then I heard what brought me to write this. Cooper had the temerity to use the word historic in relation to this news day.
Historic? An American president in London? What could possibly be historic?
So as I write this, I listen to Cooper and other journalists(?) and talking heads spouting opinion about the economy, the dinner by Jamie Oliver and the meeting with the queen.
I know that this is what CNN does. The have made the rational decision that this is what will drive the most viewers and revenue. It is not dissimilar to other US cable news stations in content or structure. It is more of an issue when I am in the United States for business. When I am in any other country, I can access non-US news to learn what is happening in the world, including the US.
Is this what American citizens deserve, shallow prattling and opinion being shown as news? Or is it a joke, with the watchers patiently awaiting a punchline?