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May 19, 2014

The plain plane truth ruins CNN

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The Daily Star

---- — Bye-bye CNN. It’s been nice to know you.

I was kind of a news nerd as a kid. All my other friends watched or played sports while I was the one who raced home to watch the “Huntley-Brinkley Report.”  My bedroom walls were lined with the front pages of the New York Daily News (“Man Lands on Moon,” “Israel Defeats Arabs in Desert War,” “Mantle Quits,” “John Lindsay Elected Big Apple Mayor,” “Khe Sanh Overrun by Viet Cong,” etc.).

My life’s timeline can be tracked by my devotion to the famous talking heads of our time. I was too late for Edward R. Murrow but right on time for Walter Cronkite, “The Most Trusted Man in America.” Frank Reynolds, Douglas Edwards, John Chancellor, Dan Rather, Roger Mudd, Howard K. Smith and many others all were my teachers. The pithy and prosaic Eric Severeid was my tutor. Charles Kuralt was my tour guide.

The early days of CNN were heady times for those of us addicted to broadcast journalism. Who can ever forget Bernie Shaw and Peter Arnett hunkering down on a balcony ledge in downtown Baghdad the night “Shock and Awe” came thundering down as America unleashed its war machines against Saddam Hussein?

Or poor Aaron Brown, on his very first day at CNN, being in the anchor seat in midtown Manhattan describing the horror of the World Trade Center towers falling into a heap of rubble. On Jan. 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up killing all seven of its astronauts the whole world turned to CNN, the only network that was covering the launch live.

CNN chased the clock around the globe for us welcoming in the new century in 2000. When Baby Jessica was yanked from the center of the Earth in 1987 millions were glued to CNN. When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, CNN was virtually sitting on top of it bringing the coverage to a waiting and relieved world. The infamous hanging chads of Florida? CNN helped us count each one.

When the heart-stopping blue and white BREAKING NEWS banner flashed across the screen on CNN we knew it was bad. Very bad. A president was shot. A dam had burst. A war had started.

From the reading of O.J. Simpson’s verdict to John King and his “Magic Political Map,” millions of us relied on CNN to give us the news the minute it broke.

So what happened, CNN?

In a world where something earth-shattering is happening at any given moment, CNN has become the station of filler. In recent months I’ve watched numbingly as the CNN talking heads have blathered on and on ad nauseam about, well, nothing. Obviously it all came to a head with the relentless reporting of the missing Malaysian passenger jet.

Day after day, CNN has been carpeting its coverage of the tragedy with hours of non-news. There has been little, if anything, to report on this missing plane and yet CNN has refused to take it off its lead story list. I try to watch the anchors seriously dissecting this story with absolutely no new information. For days. They trot out experts who hold up little plane models to describe what might have happened. They bring in analysts who talk about ocean currents, and underwater “pings,” and they explore the background profiles of the doomed pilots.

In essence, this “permanent” BREAKING NEWS story is anything but breaking news.

Let’s face it. The real breaking news will be when the plane is found. Until then, CNN has refused to move on to other major stories. I just can’t take it anymore. I used to love BREAKING NEWS on CNN. Now, well, it is just plain boring.

And so, after diligently being a CNN fan for almost 35 years, I too must move on. I cannot watch the filler anymore. Maybe when the plane is found I will return home to CNN. But not now.

I still watch my fair share of broadcast news. I love Ed Schultz’s bombast, I think Chris Wallace is the best of the Sunday news interviewers, and Brian Williams and “NBC Nightly News” is about as close to the old 6:30 prime time news paradigm as it gets.

But CNN, you have disappointed me.

So, goodbye CNN. It’s been real, but until you remember what the term BREAKING NEWS really means, I am gone.

I must admit, though. I am sure going to miss John King and his “Magic Map.”

I’ll catch you in two ...

“Big Chuck” D’Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find him on Facebook by searching “Big Chuck.” He invites you to contact him at wdosbigchuck@aol.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.