Thursday, November 12, 2009

Our Media

It was an unsustainable relationship. On the one hand, CNN presents itself as the "most trusted name in news." It wants to be the neutral, straight-down-the-middle, bias-free cable news network. On the other hand, CNN has been paying considerable sums to a clownish, xenophobic demagogue to host a daily news program. Something had to give.

Yesterday, something did.

Months ago the president of CNN/U.S., Jonathan Klein, offered a choice to Lou Dobbs, the channel's most outspoken anchor. Mr. Dobbs could vent his opinions on radio and anchor an objective newscast on television, or he could leave CNN.

For a time, Mr. Dobbs did tone down his TV rhetoric, but on Wednesday he made a more drastic decision: He chose opinion.

Mr. Dobbs told viewers that he was resigning from his CNN job immediately. Sitting before an image of an American flag on his studio set, he said "some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem solving as well as to contribute positively to the great understanding of the issues of our day."

He remained vague about how he would contribute "to the national conversation," saying that he was considering "a number of options and directions."

That sounds a bit like someone considering a run for public office (Dobbs/Palin '12?), though there are widespread rumors that Dobbs may make the jump to Fox Business, which has been spending freely to recruit higher-profile conservative names lately.

Details are sketchy about whether Dobbs took the leap or was shoved out the door, but the move would seem to help the network -- Dobbs was a near-constant source of embarrassment, and given his third-place finish in his timeslot, this isn't exactly a brutal blow for CNN. The network probably won't have any other on-air talent obsessing over the president's birth certificate, but that's not much of a loss.

Eric Burns, president of Media Matters, a persistent Dobbs critic, said in a statement, "For too long, CNN provided Lou Dobbs with its stamp of approval as he pursued a dangerous, one-sided and all too often false conspiracy tinged crusade against immigrants. This is a happy day for all those who care about this nation of immigrants and believe in the power of media to elevate the political discourse."

CNN may announce a replacement as early as this morning. Unless Pat Buchanan is in the running, the choice is bound to be an improvement.

Marshall: A Bad Moment Today at CNN

The vast majority of us understand that in our legal system everyone deserves a fair trial and the legal representation that makes that possible even if many of us, at a gut level, have a hard time understanding being the individual person who mounts a zealous defense of someone who is factually, if not yet legally, guilty of a horrific crime. But today I was surprised and almost nauseated to see Wolf Blitzer go in for the most stereotypical, craven and showboating knock-about of the retired JAG officer who's representing Nidal Hasan. (Hasan has a regular military defense counsel as well as a civilian attorney retained by his family.) It's not about ideology certainly or even theories of what's right or not about the law. But we know bullying and pompous showboating when we see it.

The retired JAG, Col. John Galligan, stood up to it very well. And actually got back in Blitzer's face in a way that's pretty hard to do and uncommon for a non-TV personality going up against a big shot host. If we want Hannity, we've got Fox for that. Right?

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