I sometimes envy blogs that have very specific purposes, like chronicling the attempts of a large news corporation to inform the citizenry. I came across the blog CNN is like the worst “news” source. Ever. in a quick search for why CNN was focusing so much of its time this morning discussing a YouTube video where a woman is shown spinning around an escalator railing. A friend of mine told me she was watching CNN talk this morning for fifteen consecutive minutes about the new trend of “escalator spinning”.
The network appears to be taking its cues from popular vlogging styles like Zadia from Epic Fu. Though Epic Fu itself is becoming more corporate with time, its in-the-street atmosphere and tech/arts-centrism keeps it focused. It is laughable when corporate and mainstream informants attempt to mimic this style.
Coverage on the Iraq War has drastically been cut back this year as well, as a New York Times piece reports. Almost halfway into 2008, CBS, ABC and NBC have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage. Compare this with the 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. CNN and Fox News have only two full-time correspondents in Iraq, and no American television network has a full-time correspondent in Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera, on the hand, covers Iraq and other nations in the region very well. The network has won several prestigious journalism awards, for example, the IFEX’s anti-censorship award, for coverage on issues that American networks do not have the resources or the interest to pay attention to. The American networks also have the justifiable disadvantage of being distrusted by many people and heads of state in the region.
CNN and Fox News have done their best to discredit Al Jazeera too. After the alleged broadcasting of the American soldiers’ beheading, Al Jazeera was labeled a propaganda machine for Al Qaeda. Also in 2005, during the height of the Falluja attack, the Nation Magazine posted an exchange between Donald Rumsfeld and an American reporter about Al Jazeera’s coverage.
REPORTER: Can you definitively say that hundreds of women and children and innocent civilians have not been killed?
RUMSFELD: I can definitively say that what Al Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.
REPORTER: Do you have a civilian casualty count?
RUMSFELD: Of course not, we’re not in the city. But you know what our forces do; they don’t go around killing hundreds of civilians. That’s just outrageous nonsense. It’s disgraceful what that station is doing.
Al Jazeera consistently reports on events that Washington does not want the world or its own population to see. This is why it has so many enemies within the state and media apparatus. It is not surprising, then, that many Americans look to Al Jazeera with smarmy and disgusted eyes. Many had never heard of Al Jazeera before 2003. Last July I had a long, drawn-out argument with an American student in Germany over the reliability of the Al Jazeera network. What he and several others knew about the network, it turned out, was only what the American networks were saying. I had them go to the Al Jazeera homepage and analyze it before feeling justified in their remarks.
Niel Postman, author of Amusing Ourselves to Death was right about American media. Entertainment and information are increasingly fused, and the public is hardly aware of the importance of global issues; they are only aware of them as entertainment. As the Fox News anchor says in a recent interview with Mark Dice, an anti-war activist, “This is not a joke: it is actually happening”.