Tuesday, December 28, 2004

the most trusted name in news is ...

tucker carlson
(don't be too rough on yourself if you didn't guess it the first time)

I turned on CNN's NewsNight last night, like the serial masochist that I am, and who do I see in the anchor's chair but Tucker Carlson. The anchor's chair: a seat of power once considered a position of both authority and trust. Walter Cronkite's chair. And there's Tucker Carlson, who once dismissively called the horror story of a tiny girl's insides sucked out in a community pool "a Jacuzzi case." Why would he do that? To score a cheap political point against John Edwards. Good old CNN, "the most trusted name in news," strikes again. Unbelievably and comically, Carlson referred to Malibu twice and the Hamptons once while covering the tragedy in Asia. When do the boycotts begin?

Carlson's "Jacuzzi" gambit wasn't just wrong, it was evil. This is Valerie Lakey and her parents.

Valerie was five years old when her accident occurred. As Tim Grieve reported in Salon, and as later reported by Hunter in Daily Kos, her father held her in his arms as the ambulance came, repeating "Daddy loves you" over and over as blood and tissue filled the community pool. Look at Valerie's picture, then look again at Tucker's. The next time you see him on TV, try -- just try -- to be seduced by the bow tie and the Animatronic boyish grin. Betcha it doesn't work for you. But it works for CNN.

Moral objections aside, Tucker's not very good at the job. He tried to report on the Asian tsunami disaster, but he just couldn't get it. He listened as a correspondent explained that many people were fascinated by the water being drawn "out into the ocean where the beach suddenly appeared to be bigger, deeper, longer.. " Some apparently ran into the extended beach area and were killed. "When the beach disappears, bad sign," replied Carlson. No, actually, if there's more beach than ever, that's a bad sign.

Later, a bemused-looking Denver geologist named Stuart Sipkin tried to take him through the science. Carlson misunderstood his answer to the question, "when was the last time the continental U.S. was hit by a tsunami that took human life." After that was cleared up, the scientist referred in passing to the fact that some people went to the beach to see the tsunami and lost their lives. Carlson's wrap-up was, "All right, Stuart Sipkin and a cautious warning against tsunami watching." Which was hardly the point of Sipkin's ... ah, forget it. I can't untangle the mess he made of the anchor's job, which is to find the key points in a report and summarize them in the tag.

There were real laughs as well as groaners in Carlson's reporting, however, despite the gravity of the story. (Be warned: what follows in NOT parody, but verbatim language from CNN transcripts. Emphases mine.)

CARLSON (introducing story): Now, could it happen here? It seems like that's the first question you hear whenever something terrible happens to other people in other places. Is it groundless hysteria manufactured by a ratings hungry news media? In part of course it is. Yet, tomorrow morning people will still be buying beachfront property in Malibu and they probably should.

CARLSON (interviewing Sipkin): So, I mean does this mean it's time to, you know, dump the beachfront property in Malibu? I mean, what does it mean?

CARLSON (interviewing Sipkin): Now what about, we've been hearing all day about this volcano in the Canary Islands that may collapse at some point and send a tsunami toward the East Coast of the United States drowning the Hamptons.

Leave it to Tucker Carlson and CNN to make one of the greatest tragedies in human history, a Third World disaster, into a story about Malibu and the Hamptons. And apparently he'll be back again in the anchor's chair tonight.

Let me hazard a guess here: I would venture to say that a significant portion of CNN's viewership are not right-wing fanatics. I would further venture that if CNN had chosen, say, Al Sharpton to chair NewsNight there would be an enormous uproar, if not organized boycotts. And don't even get me started on the Dan Rather controversy. So here's my proposal. Liberals will never stop watching cable news. It's a benign addiction. So let's start some "rolling boycotts." Let's say to CNN, every time you perform such a blatantly biased stunt, we will stop watching you for one week. Just one week - surely you can handle that, can't you, liberals? We'll set up one website as a location, and whenever we give the signal then CNN (or MSNBC, or ABC, or whomever) will be hit with a one-week drop in viewership.

What do you say?