Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dear CNN, Your Frivolousness is Hurting America.

If you read "Beyond Superficial Debate" in Racialious as I recommended, you might remember this line:

Mainstream media as a whole (there are certainly exceptions) no longer serves as public advocate. It is entertainment–candy everybody wants. On its own, it is not the ideal organ to discuss or solve our country’s racial problems, yet it is the place most people get their information on the topic.
Tami's eloquent criticism of the media's frivolous treatment of racial problems was edifying; and I could not help but be disheartened by the realization that if the word "racial" were deleted from the second sentence, the statement would still be true. Mainstream media is failing to discuss our country's problems - racial, political, environmental, and feminist issues are treated with a focus on entertainment that boarders on insolence, insulting not only the subject so the stories used to create a show, but also the intelligence of the electorate.

I was struck again by the severity of the problem as I browsed the New York Times political section this morning. You might remember that there was some resentment expressed after last week's Democratic debate in which Hillary Clinton was asked if she preferred diamond or pearls. Ann at Feministing summed up the general response, "What a stupid, gendered question." Well put. Yet, while some were annoyed with the woman who would waste valuable debate time to ask such an asinine question, it turns out that we have the higher-ups at CNN to blame. As the New York Times explains:

Last week, CNN had contacted Ms. Parra-Sandoval, a political science student at University of Las Vegas-Nevada, through a professor, and asked her to submit a question. She wrote one about health care for children. CNN rejected it, calling it too similar to another question that would be asked. (No such question was.) So she sent another, about Iraq. That was rejected too. On Wednesday, a CNN producer asked her for two final questions, one substantive and one light. Ms. Parra-Sandoval sent one about Yucca Mountain, the Nevada site under consideration as a storage facility for radioactive waste. With the deadline approaching, she stared at her computer screen. Noticing the pearl-pattern background on her MySpace page, she dashed off the jewelry one.

CNN asked her to come to the debate with both questions memorized. Two hours in, a producer whispered that she should ask the second one.

“Because I was on national TV, I felt hesitant, but then I felt like, ‘Oh my God, I’m on national TV, I’ll just ask it,’” Ms. Parra-Sandoval said.

So, when presented with three substantive questions, CNN insisted that Ms. Parra-Sandoval ask a fluffy question. The public was denied the opportunity to learn more about Clinton's views on education or Iraq, but the debate instead ended by portraying Clinton's femininity in stereotypical terms.

I end my post with the same question that is presented at the end of Tami's: how can we encourage the news corporation to discuss the serious issues that face us in a serious manner? We are all affected by their negligence.


Agincourt said...

Thanks for posting that. That is just... Wow. That is just incredibly...distressing, and infuriating to know.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Glad I could help enrage you? Seriously, though, this is one of the things that most angers me about what I've watched happen to my county in recent years. Rendition, torture, denial of detainees to a right to fair trials - these are things that I feel are glossed over, things that would not be tolerated if they were well understood. So, how do we prompt the media to change what is essentially a highly successful business model - talking heads are cheaper than sending reporters to investigate, and the public eats up daily celebrity reports. What can we possibly do to prompt the return of insightful coverage of the issues?

Casmall said...

I used to think it was just incompetence but after the last 7 years I think its criminal negligence.