CNN should focus on reporting, not dramaPosted on October 3, 2013 | by WSN Editorial Board
Ever since its revival, the CNN television program “Crossfire” has been met with much controversy. The show is supposedly designed to present a debate between politically liberal and politically conservative pundits and offer unique, challenging perspectives to the public. However this description is deceptive. As suggested by its name, the show is about exchanging fiery partisan jabs and preemptively halting any nuanced discussion or compromise.
There has been controversy over CNN’s lack of disclosure regarding the hosts’ political involvement with possible guests on the show. Senator Rand Paul received donations from one of the multiple conservative groups of which Newt Gingrich was a member. Senator Paul has already been featured as a guest on the show within its first month on air. The integrity of journalism depends upon eliminating conflicts of interest in the news, and “Crossfire” fails to do this at the most basic level. CNN claims objectivity by arguing that both sides are well represented. But this makes the term objectivity wretched, as the presentation of two contrasting viewpoints does not eliminate bias — it merely places places them side by side.
Jon Stewart, in a brief appearance on “Crossfire” in 2004, argued the show does not present the various nuances of a political issue, but rather tries to create drama and tension between left and right. Interestingly enough, there doesn’t seem to be much of a distinction between “Crossfire” and Stewart’s own program, “The Daily Show.” In effect, “Crossfire” is as much about drama as “The Daily Show” is about humor. Both shows entertain, feature a cast of memorable characters and sometimes provide valuable opinions or news. The struggle between objectivity and entertainment is deeply entrenched in the corporate media world.
The fundamental question that arises is whether a for-profit news company, such as CNN, has any choice but to adopt an entertaining approach to their product because they need to make news profitable. But CNN does have a choice. The corporate news outlets feed on people’s desire to watch shows that reinforce — rather than challenge — their beliefs. But the excuse that people like these shows does not remove the ethical and moral responsibilities that journalism entails.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 3 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at edit email@example.com.