IN CASE you missed it, though I’m pretty sure you didn’t, a cruise ship from Carnival Triumph claimed non-stop coverage on CNN this past week. It was center stage at Fox News Channel as well. But no one covered it like CNN, for which they have become the bookend punch line to Marco Rubio’s Poland Spring moment.
Buzzfeed has screen captures of the morning to night poop cruise coverage, which was the first “big” story decision from Jeff Zucker since taking the helm at CNN.
However, Jon Stewart is about as disingenuous as it gets when he uses the OIC, Organization of Islamic States, meeting to chastise CNN [see the video above]. As if any other network was going to cover this meeting with any great emphasis considering all of the networks are chained to the attention span of your average American. Foreign policy coverage in this country has been relatively non-existent for years. On cable, one of the most serious people on the subject who has been covering foreign policy for decades is Andrea Mitchell, who actually also attempts to be unbiased, and she barely rates an audience at 1 p.m.
After Obama’s State of the Union speech CNN was lambasted for cutting away to cover news on Christopher Dorner. Twitter exploded, especially on the left, at the nerve of moving from politics to a cop killer on a rampage in California. That’s how trained we’ve become to seeing the dissection of politics 24/7, with nothing else mattering, even if the SOTU is a political event that mainly attracts people of whatever party the president happens to represent.
Jeff Zucker has walked in and shaken CNN from top to bottom. The Carnival Triumph coverage was a statement about where CNN is going, back to 24/7 “news,” which in the U.S. was perfectly represented by wall to wall poop cruise news. That it’s a metaphor for our current political malady seems obvious, especially if you watched the Hagel filibuster by Republicans. However, when it came to the Carnival poop cruise, Zucker’s move paid off big time in ratings, CNN beating MSNBC and coming as close to Fox News Channel as they’ve come in years.
The ratings could be seen as a justification both for CNN’s coverage ““ which was engrossing but also easy to criticize ““ and for the channel’s investment in a helicopter rental, a boat rental and a legion of reporters on the ground in Mobile, Ala., where the cruise ship was eventually towed into port late Thursday. [...] The same was true in prime time, when the ship neared the port of Mobile. CNN had an average of 1.03 million viewers at any given time from 8 to 11 p.m., up 62 percent versus typical Thursdays this year. MSNBC had fewer ““ 867,000 ““ and Fox had more, 2.14 million. Those two channels mostly stuck with their regular lineups until the ship was within sight of the port of Mobile. [Media Decoder]
What it means is that someone besides Fox News will be covering breaking “news” in detail or ad nauseam, depending on your point of view. Whether you agree something is a story or not will eventually drive the channel to change, as Fox News is attempting to do, though how firing Sarah Palin and Dick Morris, but hiring Herman Cain, changes anything but color is arguable. But we are talking GOP TV, so it’s not a bad thing to work on making FNC less white, with the next hire needing to be Hispanic. Though it didn’t work for Ailes to hire a bevy of women flapping false eyelashes, because Republicans still lost out on the women’s vote.
The good news in this development at CNN is that political navel gazing may take an intermission every once in a while. CNN’s poop cruise coverage is exactly what the big three cable networks’ political coverage has become. Commentary on every single detail that develops, regardless of whether it’s news or not, boring down to the most ridiculous detail.
Covering politics has become dependent on anonymous quotes that some on air reporter gets to fill time in a never ending parade of stories, which are really non-stories that actually hijack any possibility of substance breaking through because every minute is a tick tock on who’s taking what political breath. Everyone in Washington responds, with the never ending circus of reactive behavior turning into a circus that ties Capitol Hill into knots, with 24/7 cable TV part of the problem in our politics.
CNN’s poop cruise may even be less harmful to our political culture than the vulture coverage of Fox News versus MSNBC, with very few political shows today offering any objective coverage whatsoever. Journalism has left the airwaves, but the Carnival cruise story was at least happening in the moment, which sent a signal to viewers that this is CNN’s beat now. It’s a break from political coverage geared for people to see and hear their own opinions validated daily, often free of objective facts, with hosts who have no greater purpose in their job than to feed the political beast that dumbs politics down to the lowest common denominator, best represented by Sean Hannity.
If nothing else, CNN is back in the “news” business and stepping away from the political noise machine that hasn’t brought our politics to a better place, but instead has polarized it further. If the non-stop poop cruise coverage incenses you it’s likely because you don’t like seeing America’s TV tastes boiled down to a nub.