Monday, December 29, 2008

The Most Trusted Name In News?


CNN's transcript page now shows they covered the story once on Dec. 28. The incident took place on Dec. 22.

Thanks to a commenter for alerting me. And thanks CNN. I think America's Liver® deserves better than that.

When I say CNN’s coverage of the Tennessee ash sludge spill has been dismal, here’s what I’m talking about. I perused their transcripts and noted how many times they covered the story:

Sunday, Dec. 28: zero
Saturday, Dec. 27: zero
Friday, Dec. 26: twice
Thursday, Dec. 25: zero
Wednesday, Dec. 24.: zero
Tuesday, Dec. 23: zero
Monday, Dec. 22: zero

Meanwhile, on Saturday the Santa shooting rampage in Covina, CA was covered five times, and then seven times on Friday. Yes I know, if it bleeds, it leads. Still, this is a bigger environmental disaster than the ExxonValdez--1 billion gallons of toxic sludge vs 11 million gallons from an oil tanker. You’d think that would register as more than a blip on CNN’s radar.

I know it sucks that this happened right before Christmas but I don’t recall CNN skimping on its coverage of the Indonesian tsunami, which occurred Dec. 26, 2004. Or Hurricane Katrina, which happened right before Labor Day.

Oh, I know, I know. If it bleeds it leads! Silly me.

I think I’ve figured out what the problem is. Here’s an excerpt from one of Friday’s two stories. The reporter is weekend anchor T.J. Holmes:
HOLMES: Yes. Just whatever you want to call it, it's nasty stuff. The TVA says clearing the railroad tracks is the priority because that's how they get the coal into the plant.

Ummm ... the priority is to get more coal into the plant? Really? Holmes didn’t think that was a little ... odd? Ooooo-kay ....

Here’s the interview with Holly Schean, whose home was destroyed in the sludge spill:

HOLLY SCHEAN, SLUDGE VICTIM: I don't have a home anymore. It was moved 40 feet into the road. Everything in my home was destroyed. It's gone -- all of my clothing, but son's stuff. Three and a half years of renovations that my father has done on this house is completely gone. There's nothing left. 

HOLMES: Ms. Schean, that is horrible to hear, certainly right now around the holiday time. 

How did you get warning? I guess this is not really some rushing stuff, not so much fast moving that you can't get a warning and get out of there. But I guess, how did it go that you knew something was up and that you needed to get out of there?
Now, how did he know this was “not really some rushing stuff”? I think Mr. Holmes was operating on some assumptions. Maybe he was confused by the word “sludge.”

But back to our transcript:
SCHEAN: Well, I actually wasn't in the home. My father was the only one home at the time. 

I received a call a few minutes after the dike broke from my son's football team mom asking me if we were OK. I had no idea what was going on. It's been -- she informed me that there was one man trapped in a house. She didn't know the address. I then called dispatch, and that's when they informed me that it was my father that was trapped.

So Schean’s father was trapped inside their house by the sludge spill, which T.J. Holmes assumed was such slow moving gook that people could receive ample warning in order to escape.

I don't think Mr. Holmes has ever been in a mudslide.

I think I know what the problem is here. I think T.J. Holmes, and by extension CNN, simply doesn't get it. I don’t think they understand the magnitude of what happened, the longterm environmental effects, or the fact that dozens of sites around the country are equally at risk.

Maybe they just don’t know any better.

Then again, maybe I’m being naive. There could be another reason. There could be a reason that all three of CNN’s presidential debates were sponsored by the coal lobby yet not one question about global warming was asked at any of them.

Maybe there’s another reason John Roberts touted "making gas from coal” and Ali Velshi pushed "very, very clean coal.”

Maybe it has something to do with those "great ads” on CNN and

I dunno. What do you think?