I have always thought that breaking news was best covered by CNN, since it supposedly had the largest group of reporters all around the globe. But that view was radically altered this week by CNN's inept coverage of the Boston marathon bombing.
What happened was that Friday morning I got up and turned on CNN, and watched it for the better part of an hour. CNN showed the grainy pictures of the two bombing suspects, but had little info beyond that, and I finally turned it to MSNBC.
The difference was like night and day! MSNBC had all kinds of info CNN never presented: they said the two were brothers, that they lived in Cambridge, and that they were from Chechnya. They even had the name of the younger brother.
But beyond this difference in basic info, MSNBC provided important context which CNN neglected to share. For example, CNN kept mentioning the town of Watertown, without saying anything more about it. For all the viewer knew, Watertown could have been a town on the other side of the state from Boston. But MSNBC, by contrast, provided great context, saying that Watertown was a bedroom community of about 32,000, located just west of Boston.
Part of CNN's problem, I think, is its silly insistence on having its anchors standing in a Boston street, instead of in a studio. News networks like to have reporters on the scene, because I guess they suppose it gives an air of immediacy to the reporting. But to have continuous, hour after hour, coverage being anchored by anchors on the scene makes no sense, and MSNBC's coverage was vastly superior as a result. Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist were superb, anchoring non-stop on Friday morning without a hitch. And let's not forget Pete Williams, the NBC reporter whose coverage was so insightful and clear as to outshine the whole CNN network all by himself.
CNN made specific factual errors, the most outrageous being John King's erroneous report that an arrest had been made, but in this post I wanted to highlight the coverage on the particular morning in which CNN's ineptitude was so clearly brought home to me.
The Imperious Criterion of Meaning
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