CNN and the rest of the cable news networks have dropped the war in Iraq like a hot potato and are running overflow coverage of Laci Peterson murder stories, which seems as likely to have a long term impact on America as the Gary Condit story did before 9-11.
Watching the weekend news on ABC I realized that one of the things that makes cable news so unbearable is the comlpete lack of storytelling structure and narrative. With their focus on whatever is “breaking news” the cable stations don’t have the will, resources, or inclination to do some of the in-depth storytelling that puts the news into context. The embedded correspondents in Iraq perpetuated this myth by throwing up hundreds on tiny slices of life and failing to give the larger picture or context. Examples abound, from the staged toppling of Saddam’s statue to the bizarre reticience of the media to show any of the real blood and gore that attends any war. We’ve just lived through four weeks in which thousands of people were killed and we haven’t seen a single dead body. No pictures of the bleeding wounded being rushed to the choppers a la Vietnam.
None of these critiques are new and I usually battle them myself by seeking out other resources on the internet:
Some news shows on television still impress me with their ability to bring some real issues into focus. The newsmagazines such as Dateline and 20⁄20 have a format that can be used to great effect, as ABC did a while ago with their special on prescription drugs, Bitter Medicine. Public television does a lot of this work through Frontline and NOW with Bill Moyers. Finally this story from Alternet points to some more places to look for information that might be interesting.