Does CNN think we're stupid?

A CNN story triggered this post, but my target is broader than that. It seems to me that, more and more, the media seems to assume that their viewers/readers are idiots.

I’m not talking about the subject matter, or the lowest-common-denominator level of communication. Rather, what annoys me most is the obvious flaws in so many stories or claims.

I watch very little TV. I gave up on local TV news 25 years ago. 60-minutes type shows have struck me as one-sided sensationalist crap for nearly as long. Network news used to be better, but it isn’t what it used to be.

So for years, I relied on CNN and two Chicago sources – the Tribune and a radio news station (WBBM AM). WBBM diminished in quality some years back. So lately, it’s mostly been CNN and the Tribune online. In the last year, though, CNN has been annoying me more and more. It’s becoming more like the other crap out there. Stories leave out key information, or bury it.

Is it stupidity, bias, laziness, or a design to make a more sensationalist story? I can’t always tell for sure. But whatever the motive, it betrays an offensive contempt for the viewer/reader. W’re not supposed to notice the gap or omission.

Here’s a CNN video story from today’s main page. (I can’t figure out how to link to the video clip itself - it’s the one about community guns. If anyone knows how to do a direct link, I’d be grateful for instruction.)

I’m not going to reveal the question (until a later reply) that I shouted to the screen 4 times as I watched. By the third time, I knew what the answer was, and I knew it was being deliberately avoided. The reporter finally gives the key information towards the end of the story, but downplays it. It undercuts the whole story.

This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s the same obvious crap advertisers pull:

“Our bleach kills lots of germs! Studies show that Chlorox kills 99% of germs on contract. No bleach is better at killing germs than new Chorox Plus! And Clorox Plus has the Chlorox EZ-pour spout. None of those discount brands can say the same. That’s why Chlorox Plus is the best bleach you can buy!”

To me, the above ad screams: “Our bleach is exactly the same as all the other bleaches (except for the spout). All bleaches kill germs equally.”

It’s perfectly obvious from the word choice. But most people don’t seem to get this. Even fairly bright people.

Advertisements like this don’t really offend me any more. Ads aren’t supposed to be fair and unbiased, after all.

News stories, though, are.

I can’t view the story from here, but what you’re complaining about in general seems to be sensationalism, or perhaps a slanted advocacy-type story. News has basically gotten more sensationalist and violent (and also more celebrity-driven) over the years because it seems that’s what people want to watch. Or at least, that’s the formula many networks have adopted because it showed results for some networks in the early 90s.

The question I asked? How many did you find?

(For those who haven’t watched the clip, the story claims that there is terrible new & widespread gang gun problem. Community guns! Gangs are hiding guns in public places, so different gang members can easily share them when they commit crimes. They’re in parks and playgrounds! Think of the children! A crime victim’s sister says or implies that he brother might have been killed with a community gun, but the basis for this belief is never revealed. There’s a picture of the dead guy. A bunch of short press-conference clips where law-enforcement types solemnly intone about the problem, and tell us of a new police initiative to combat the problem. Trained sniffer dogs. We see a couple of these. One’s really cute! Then clips of careful searches of playgrounds and vacant lots by the dogs and handlers. Sniff, sniff. It’s a bold new initiative that’s already being implemented. CNN-guy’s tone is very approving – the program is being expanded!)
The answer, of course, is zero. No community guns found, which isn’t acknowledged until near the end of the story. There’s not one hard fact in the entire piece showing that even one such gun ever existed, let alone that this is a major problem sweeping the nation.

But the dogs were cute! And the idea of such a threat is scary! Kids might find the evil Community Guns! But we can all feel good about this bold new initiative to solve the problem.


(Clearly, both gangs and guns are real problems. I have no doubt that at least one gang member somewhere, at some point in time, has stashed a gun in a playground. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone pointed me to a story where a community gun was actually found by a child, who hurt himself with it. You won’t find it in the CNN story, though. The one victim in that story isn’t clearly tied to a community gun, and it certainly isn’t explained how he would have been fine but for this scary new gang technique.)


Clorox is now making guns to kill germs?

Oh. That makes more sense. I still can’t find the video, but about a year and a half ago, I was on a jury for a murder trial. One of the witnesses admitted on the stand to carjacking two people while using a shotgun that was passed around the hoodlams at one particular crack den in this fine city. This witness stated that crooks would come in, borrow this shotgun, rob people, and return it. This apparently went on for some time before the defendants decided to kill a rival crack dealer in his home with that same gun.

So, it’s not exactly what this horrible news story described, but somewhat similar. I don’t know where that leaves us.

Yeah. Didn’t you see what I said in the OP? It kills them “on contract”. Tiny little mob assassins in every bottle.
(Typo. It was a typo!)

No, silly. “Studies show that Chlorox kills 99% of germs on contract.” Clorox is hiring hit men. :stuck_out_tongue:

In general I agree with the OP. TV news these days is 99% content-free.

Damn simulpost. I think police should launch an investigation.*

*Into something completely different, but why mention that?

Don Henley pitted this same topic back in 1982 with his song “Dirty Laundry”

Yes. And, they’re right. “We”, meaning the general public, are a bunch of idiots.

It’s on the CNN main page, entitled “Guns stored in parks, woods for thugs to share.”

It can also be found in its “Watch Free Video” window, under “time share guns”.

CNN looks at the success of Fox News, and local news stations that pull this kind of crap all the time, and they know we’re stupid.

Hell, is a search for community WMDs that turns up nothing any reason not to be alarmed and run around and shout?

Right. The first station to do this crap was a Fox affiliate in Miami in the early 90s, and it worked. People are right to complain about this kind of news, but the people who watch it deserve a lot of the blame.

A search for WMDs that turned up nothing? Well, it’s no reason to be surprised, that’s for sure.

Sad to offer my agreement with many above. We’re stupid. Really stupid. Get over it. By that, I mean, get over castigating big media outlets like CNN. They peddle edutainment at best, exploitation normally, and outrageous distortion on a slightly sub-par day. For a profit. They do this because they can, and because their job is to make money. Best thing you can do is turn off the tube and encourage your circle of friends and acquaintances to do likewise. CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc. follow the money. The money path, shock and surprise, has led them today to a place that makes the excesses of circa 1988 Geraldo seem quaint and full of idealistic integrity.

Don’t like it? Stop giving them your eyes. Maybe if people would just tune out for a change, the money would flow somewhere worthwhile. Not that I’m counting on that, mind you.

I think I see a Saturday Night Live parody ad here.

You know that TV commercial technique that used to be popular - showing a simplified and anthromorphic cartoon of how the product works? The “scrubbing bubbles” one comes to mind. Combine that with the old ethnic cartoon ad: Frito Bandito, Lucky Charms leprachaun.

What do you get?

Little olive-skinned guys in dark suits with guns killing germs.

You think someone might get upset?

Yeah, sad to say I agree.

Let me expand on this a bit.

I’m not trying to imply that this type of news story is something I’ve just noticed. Rather the opposite. It goes back just about as long as I can remember.

I’m long past being shocked by such things on the 10:00 local news, or on 60 Minutes. I’ve dealt with it by moving to more reputable sources of news.

What bothers me is that these are getting difficult to find, at least from non-print
sources. CNN used to be reasonably reliable, at least in the text parts of the online site.

The point is that CNN was one of the few remaining decent sources. It’s less so today. I started to notice this kind of problem with CNN stories about 2-3 years ago. It used to be rare, but its quality seem to decline every year lately.

If the Tribune site goes the same route, I’m don’t know where I’ll go for current news.

THat’s what bothers me.

Here’s a direct link to the video.

Here’s a direct link to the Windows Media file of the Community Guns piece. You might need to copy and paste it into your player.


If I may go slightly off-topic, are there any sources that you Dopers consider to be particularly good news sources?