By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Unlike the domestic version, CNNI really is a global network (although it's also based in Atlanta), and during the war it often displayed a skepticism toward all things American that was just as pronounced as Fox's pro-war stance, if far more subtly delivered. Tailoring its news to a foreign audience, CNNI carried the Iraqi information minister's press conferences live, dwelled at length on civilian casualties and broadcast far more of Al-Jazeera's footage of American POWs than was permitted on U.S. TV. But the most telling discrepancy between CNNI and its domestic counterparts occurred during the live shot of Iraqis toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's Al-Firdos Square. Whereas every American channel gave it the full-screen treatment — "There's a see-ya-later-buddy quality to this," crowed Fox's Brit Hume as the statue came down — CNNI reserved a quarter of the screen for footage of yet more Iraqi war-wounded it had just received from the Arabic network Al-Arabiya. The decision to do so was made in Atlanta, but the view of the war being promulgated was, broadly speaking, European-bordering-on-French.
Does articulate, in-depth reporting necessarily equal accurate, intelligent reporting? Sometimes, flicking between CNNI and Fox as the war was going on, it seemed doubtful. On occasion, CNNI's journalists combine impeccable cultural awareness with a complete lack of common-sense understanding. A good example was when Zain Verjee, having been told by a reporter that local Iraqis had persuaded American Marines to search a mosque because they thought some fedayeen were hiding there, asked if the Marines were aware of the sensitivity of entering an Islamic holy place. This after neighborhood Muslims had requested that they go there! That kind of thing is what you don't get on Fox.
But politics aside, CNNI is easily the most informative cable news channel in America. Serious without being deadly, it doesn't take its eye off the ball for hours on end to cover ratings bonanzas like Jessica Lynch or Laci Peterson, it doesn't launch jihads against Hollywood liberals, and its viewpoints are genuinely global. (Only 50 percent of the news originates in Atlanta; the rest comes from CNN's production centers in London, Hong Kong and elsewhere.) A further point about CNNI could be made: Although its target audience is overseas, its view of the world is probably closer to that of the average American journalist than can be seen on any of our domestic news services. Which does suggest that the much-vaunted divide between the "media elites" and the heartland isn't entirely mythical.
And that, of course, brings us back to Fox. Fair and balanced? Er, no. But entertaining, provocative, and on occasion smart? Absolutely.
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