Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Walter Cronkite, He Ain't

The New York Times recently reported that CNN’s four-hour documentary, “Latino in America,” rather than merely serving as an inducement for Hispanic viewers, turned into a political rallying cry for activist groups to demand the cable news channel fire Lou Dobbs, a veteran anchor with well-known views on immigration. It would be a heartening sight to see CNN, which has so long billed itself as the “best news team” in television rid itself of its current primetime chair. The word anchor is used loosely in his case.

Dobbs personifies the current argument flaring around the Fox v White House dispute about whether “newscasters” are unfair. In truth, the argument has been mislabeled, as there are newscasters and then there are others on the air. Unfortunately these “others” are people who may sit behind a desk, and are often mistaken for news anchors because they may actually bring up some news story, or a rather questionable news account. They should not be mistaken for newscasters. The first clue is that these people not give out news so much as opinion. And no one is more opinionated at CNN than Lou Dobbs. It would not be overstating the point to say that he not only states his opinions, but does so over and over again. The same opinions. It’s a bore. It’s obnoxious. And it ain’t news.

A Walter Cronkite, he is not. He is not even Wolf Blitzer who has rarely, though admittedly at times, crossed the line from newscaster to commentator. But the avuncular Dobbs is in a category by himself at CNN because he totally blurs that line and invites the viewer to believe that he is handing out facts. He presents himself as a news anchor and he is quite soundly not.

And if you accept his broadcasts as “fact,” then you would have to accept that the most egregious problem facing the nation in the past several years, up to this moment, is immigration. The rest of the news, for the most part, gets short shrift in his pronouncements, except as sidebars. This can hardly pass for news, and yet it pretends to. Dobbs has even contrived to keep a straight face as he discussed the "birthers" as if this were a hot "news" issue surrounding Obama's birth certificate, perhaps leading some viewers to wonder whether we have a legitimate president! Come on, people, when is enough enough?!

In light of how many truly serious issues we are facing today as a nation and as part of the global community, it would behoove CNN to find itself a real news anchor for the coveted 7:00 pm slot and actually put together a real news team to do the serious work of researching and presenting world news. That would of course take more than having people sit and rehash their opinions in lieu of facts. Right now, the viewer does not even get a balanced view of national news.

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