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Keep Questioning Authority

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This article is my response to Scott Butki’s article here chiding the media for congratulating itself on its Katrina coverage. I don’t begrudge them their pride over recent accomplishments, but like Scott, I hope they keep their feisty attitude.

The media did very well with Katrina, especially Anderson Cooper. Just recently CNN ran a stunning story on police looting in New Orleans. It’s not so much that they need to stop thinking about Katrina, which was monumental, as they need to keep questioning authority.

I agree that their non-Katrina self-congratulations are unwarranted. When an aging WASP male network anchor retires or dies, you’d think that Christ had ascended. When I last watched network news, many years ago, it always looked like these guys were flown in somewhere where other reporters must have done the legwork while they stood there with their hair-sprayed hair and portentous voices telling us what they were fed and not much more. I don’t think they need to be highly lionized. I don’t see the real questioning of authority that needs to happen, just a delicate surface dance that never goes very far. It was them regurgitating stuff about “smart bombs” and “collateral damage” that made me destroy my TV set in ’91. They and their sycophantic colleagues tell us what a trusted part of our lives they are. They never give us an accounting of scoops, investigative stories, and substantive accomplishments to back this up. Viewers would be hard-pressed to come up with this either.

I like CNN, but recently they were trumpeting themselves because it’s their twenty-fifth year on the air. I don’t begrudge them some tasteful announcements, but this was a campaign. We’re already watching CNN, what more do you want? No, I do not want to see collages of upsetting world events from the past 25 years every time I turn on the TV. Today’s upsetting events are enough.

News shows need to do real investigative journalism all the time, and stop dancing around in deference to corporate and government interests. A little less deference and a little more journalism.


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About Cerulean

  • What wonderful writing! One thing I love about bloggers is our ability to write ABOVE eighth graders, unlike may of our journalistique and better paid “counterparts”. One might think the newsgathering process might demand true disinterestedness, and recusals from anyone up and down the news chain, should a profit motive be found to color the information.

    Granted, I would not want to be standing in a Petrie dish. Or sitting even. And I do suspect that as they stand or sit there, they grow in their ability and desire to be their best at conveying the truth of the matter, and advertisers be damned.

    I can imagine a tipping point, where a critical mass of journalists decide to think and act at the top of their intelligence, which would allow them to see higher things than dollar signs. And maybe say: “Hey, we gave the same premature warning last year, so take this with a grain of salt.”

    Opps…I just experienced blogcreep.

    Great post, and thanks for the very kind comments!


  • Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOO much, Dave/anonyMoses. I worked and worked on this piece, then not one person commented on it, until you. Please feel free to comment all you want on my articles.

    I love the word, “journalistique.” LOL. Can I use it?

    If you’re going through my stuff, “Dog Park Papparazzi” and “What’s Eating You” have never been commented on. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a vacuum around here. Thanks again for taking the time share some words of praise with a fellow writer.

    When I pubished in magazines and the odd newspaper, I got the feeling that style and clarity above a certain level were liabilities (unless you got a really good editor.) You could never rule out old-fashioned envy in editors killing or ruining well-written pieces. I’ve seen it a lot. Also, I’ve dealt with three drug addicted magazine editors and another impaired by physical problems. I think that editorial staffs in publishing tend to reject really talented writers as a threat to their own positions. Really clear thinking is a threat too. Someone who can think clearly will start to question things and where will that end?

    The only real color you see in newspaper writing anymore is when they find one of those animal horders. Then they go into squalid detail like the colorful old newspapermen used to do, BEFORE they were college educated. I think something about journalists having to be told how to do it weeded out the best ones. (I think Anderson Cooper is self-trained.)

    Now and then I see a very well-written piece in a newspaper or magazine. I’ll often send an email or letter to the editor to praise it.

  • I recognized you immediately as a fellow lover of the word, and felt a kinship. Your anecdotes about editors is spot on. Fragile egos seem to dominate the journalistique bidness, and I couldn’t give two hoots about ego or arrogance. Been there, done that. Moved on, up and out.

    I hope to see more of you on here. Cerulean, btw, is one of my favorite color names, along with psitticine, so I had a predilection toward enjoying you, which I do.

    Long live the free mind!


  • Thank you.

  • Jewels

    Anderson Cooper, an exceptional writer as well as reporter, no doubt why you mention him and his coverage. Great minds and all that…

  • And hot! Want to wait until world events calm down to do a thread about who is hotter, Anderson Cooper or Dr. Sanjay Gupta. (I want to time it so Anderson might see it). I will let other people say their opinions but then I will swoop down to tell the real answer–Anderson Cooper!

  • I didn’t see this post before but thanks for it, C. Good writing.

    I’m not as enthused about Anderson Cooper but we can disagree on him.