Defining Moments

CNN did a fine job on "Defining Moments: Stories that Touched Our Lives".

I'm using "fine" in this sense (ALL RIGHT that's fine with me), not this one: (superior in kind, quality, or appearance : EXCELLENT a fine job). From what I understand, that's the type of praise you can expect in a serious newsroom when you do your job.

Several observations:

- History can be very difficult to watch. Take, for example, the images of Christa McAuliffe's parents watching the space shuttle Challenger launch. I don't want to live through that moment with them again.

- The first step CNN can take towards self-healing is to bust Anderson Cooper back down to the minors. Though no heavyweights themselves, Paula Zahn, Aaron Brown, and Larry King should rank among his mentors, not his colleagues.

- They successfully found the high road through much of the material. For example, instead of playing the clip of President Reagan saying, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall" with music and flag (see my previous post), the narrator simply quoted the President, then got down to the business of detailing the sequence of events, what it felt like to be there, and how CNN was able to cover it (the fall of the Berlin wall, that is.)

- I appreciated the behind the scenes information, like how CNN's San Francisco bureau tapped into the generator powering the Exit signs in order to transmit during the 1989 earthquake. (Though Aaron Brown first said it was the trucks that did the transmitting, through their own gasoline-powered generators. A point of clarification was needed.)

If you didn't catch the show, you can read a synopsis here.

CNN has some nice video up on their site today. Follow the link to Wolf Blitzer's interview with Ted Turner on this page and you'll find it all: Larry King with Bill Clinton, Daryn Kagan with Bono, Aaron Brown with newspaper coverage of Deep Throat today and 30 years ago, and a visit back to Tiananmen Square 1989.

Wolf Blitzer pulled a doozy of an assignment. Here's an excerpt:

Wolf Blitzer: "We finally learn this historic footnote, who is Deep Throat. What does that mean to you?"

Ted Turner: "Not a whole lot, to be honest with you. It happened so long ago, I'm kinda concentrating on things like nuclear weapons, and global climate change, things that affect us now, that's where my emphasis... world peace, a more equitable world. Footnotes to history are interesting, but I don't concentrate on them."

Wolf: "You were always curious about the identity of Deep Throat."

Ted: "I was. That was a long time ago."

Wolf: "Not all news can be, you know, global, and...'

Turner: "I know, I know. News of the Roman Empire would still be good."

Turner says that in the first six months of CNN, the bank called in the loans. At that time their losses were twice as big and their income half as big as projected. He was able to refinance with another lender at twice the rate, and CNN survived.

There are true CNN junkies; superfans. If you go on the Studio Tour in Atlanta, you'll probably have a few in your group. They can hold forth for hours about one on-air personality vs. another, and do a Rainman recall of significant dates. Don't mention the name "O.J." unless you have nowhere else to be that day.

I'm no superfan, but CNN has been my main source for information during some troubling events in the recent past. It's important to me that they remain operational for this mission-critical function. I don't need another loud, antagonistic discussion of current events - I have access to those in spades.

It's like we all live next door to a dysfunctional family. There's yelling, abuse, and the absence of logic day and night -- what we're looking for is a safehouse of respect and introspection among fellow seekers of the truth. Well, that's what I'm looking for, anyway.

We shouldn't be so afraid of looking back. It can remind us of the history we have in common and how much time we waste simply yelling at each other.

A fine job, CNN.

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