Saturday, September 03, 2005

A maelstrom

A maelstrom unintentionally engaged

Really, I didn’t think I was assaulting CNN or defending Fox News and certainly wasn’t trying to defend or attack the Bush administration when I posted "Are CNN and Fox covering the same disaster?" on Thursday afternoon. The battle between “CNN apologists” and “Bush Administration apologists” hadn’t even fired off.

Watching both Fox and CNN simultaneously during a critical moment left me dumbstruck as to how these two networks could be covering the same press conferences and activity in the same city and have such a dramatic difference in content.

I did criticize, and continue to have contempt for the on-air actions of the CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips. I just don’t think she belongs at the anchor desk of a national network.

But as subsequent comments posted on my blog during the torrent of traffic driven by blogs from the right and left attest, Fox News reporters wandered off the path of credibility into a morass of editorializing that is hard to defend.

But, there is a difference between the anchor in the studio and reporters at the scene of any major news event. Reporters always get wrapped up in the story. What sits in front of them is the only reality they know. Those reporters frequently have no idea of what is happening anywhere else in the world. The anchor is different, responsible for balancing the various competing story lines and molding the presentation into something that has substance AND perspective.

Kyra Phillips failed the viewers, and CNN miserably. She offered nothing to viewers, because her rant blindly ignored news and information that had been completely reported on her own network, and had been dutifully explained by CNN’s own experts.. And she failed CNN by confirming what a good portion of the potential audience for her network always suspected, that CNN really wasn’t interested in presenting balanced information at a critical moment in a major story.

In the news business, everyone understands that a disaster is big business. And it is a critical business in which your organization can gain or lose standing as a news source. Some networks will grow in stature and some will fall.

All networks will gain coverage initially. In the end, though some will satisfy the needs and interests of the viewers and some will not. And when the dust settles, those that fail the long-term coverage of this issue will lose more of their base.

I did not start this blog with the idea of critiquing news organizations or commenting on Hurricanes. And I didn’t start it as a Right – or Left – leaning partisan. I know a lot about news and politics, but my biggest interest is the politics of truth. Said another way, I want to use this space to explore how truth interacts with the political realm, and how the political realm interacts with the truth. That interaction does not draw distinctions between conservatives and liberals.

It is a very interesting topic, because many times politicians must act well before the truth is apparent and explain their actions when the truth is clear. This is the case with Katrina. In other circumstances, politicians know the truth, but speaking it or acting on it could end their political careers. That too is a very interesting topic for exploration. Because the choices they face are interesting too.

My very first post explains why I named this blog the rail. Very few people read it at the time; I hope you’ll take a look now that you’ve found the site.