Fluff Piece


Many things are sources of intense frustration today. Just seeing George W. Bush's face anywhere, for example. I spend a healthy amount of time doing "therapeutic ranting" each and every day, and the targets of my rants are many.

Though it might seem silly, I may spend more actual minutes ranting about television news than about any other irritation. That's partly because my Significant Other likes to watch the news as she prepares for the day. I, being a Wise Husband, do not object, and she, being a Wise Wife, allows me a wide latitude for popping off, as long as I don't actually drown out something she wants to hear.

We vary between local and national news. She holds the remote, and flicks among channels as rapidly as the average guy. I sit at my computer not far away, allegedly catching up online, but usually distracted by the blast emanating from the TV. The local news is predictable: Deadly Accidents And Murders You Can Count On. Since she commutes, while I have the luxury of working from home, I can hardly complain about keeping track of the latest crippling Atlanta traffic bottlenecks.

Every now and then, we switch to CNN Headline News. There, starting at 6 AM Eastern, Robin Mead comes on.

Now, Ms. Mead seems like a very nice person, and I do not doubt that she's earning an honest living by delivering exactly what CNN has hired her to do. But what CNN has her doing is horrifying. It hardly warrants the word "news." It is fluff, pure and simple. Ms. Mead giggles her way through all but the most serious stories, flirts with every guy on the set, and in general looks and acts like a none-too-bright, but cute, high school senior.

This, on top of CNN's avoidance of much that is newsworthy, and the atrocious spin it puts on many of the stories it DOES include, regularly brings me to near apoplexy.

Contrast CNN's Mead with Mishal Hussein, who anchors the 6 PM World News on the BBC America channel. Ms. Hussein looks like another fluff piece: young, pretty, and empty-headed. But she's not! After a few minutes reading canned stories, she interviews someone. An ambassador from one of the nations involved in war, for example. She is good, I mean GOOD! Poised, polite, yet in complete control, she asks probing questions, walking a judicious line between respect and incredulity. She does not seek to agitate her subject, but neither does she show excessive deference to position or power. Though of course it's likely she has a list of prepared queries, she responds effortlessly to the dynamics of the moment, and, with just a few well-chosen words, often cuts right through the lies and obfuscations coming from the government representative in the other chair.

(Said government representative, also being prepared and polished, usually weasels in response, but the weaseling is obvious to any astute listener. Every now and then, someone slips up and gives an honest answer by accident. Either way, I applaud Ms. Hussein.)

I wish I could say that I don't also swear at the BBC news, but of course I do. Often they take a position that's transparently statist without acknowledging it. I remember being particularly irritated at their coverage of the Masters golf tournament, besieged by the odious Martha Burke, queen of hypocrites, in which the reporter sneered at the idea that any private club could or should remain exclusively male, while I did what I do best at such moments, with only the cats as audience.

So the BBC isn't perfect. If I ever wake up and tune into a TV news that is, I'll know for sure I've died and gone to heaven. In the meantime, the contrast between CNN and the BBC is astonishing even to a hard-boiled viewer like me. CNN aims about as low as they can go, with great success; the BBC aims much higher and has managed to find someone who can answer the call AND be attractive at the same time (as a certified guy of the male gender, I will not deny that I enjoy watching a lovely young woman, especially when she's talented as well).

CNN, shall I start holding my breath in the hopes that you might try to achieve something similar? The news of the world is not fluff; it deserves sober, complete, and skeptical reporting. C'mon, give me an answer; I'm turning blue!

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John deLaubenfels's picture
Columns on STR: 17

John deLaubenfels is a 61-year old native born citizen of the United States, a programmer by profession and music lover by avocation, who is passionate about preserving (and restoring) the basic freedoms of this country, and, if possible, the world.