Reporting vs. Speculation

Posted on | July 22, 2011 | 2 Comments

Breaking news is often broken.

Just watching the opening minutes of the cable news coverage of the attacks in Norway…it is easy to see how easily reporting slips into speculation. It is so common that it just seems normal.

On CNN, their comely, bare-armed news reader immediately threw the “coverage” to a satellite link-up with London, where they had their terrorism “expert,” some guy named Paul Cruikshank, poised to weigh in on the attacks.

The problem?

He had no information. None. Why? Because there was no information. No one had taken responsibility. The Norwegians had not released any information on the assailants. CNN has no one on the ground in Norway.

So, the glittery gal spent five minutes getting their paid expert to speculate. It took no time flat for it to be framed as an Al Qaeda plot. Then came all the possible motives, all the “hallmarks,” all the blah-blah-blah. Maybe it will turn out to be exactly that…but, until the reporting is done and the facts established, all they did was cram the airwaves with a bunch of opinion.

It isn’t reporting.

And that happens all the time. In fact, it is par for the course. Get a headline off the wires and fill up the segment with speculation from experts. It isn’t news. It’s opinion. But they pawn it off as news and, in their laziness and contempt for basic rules of journalism, they offer little more than sexed-up fear and malformed misinformation.

Hey, CNN. Go get some facts. Report. And stop taking the easy route of relying on a paid expert sitting in an air-conditioned studio in another country. That ain’t news. Although, based on what I see on your celebrity scandal-obsessed network, that may be news to you.


2 Responses to “Reporting vs. Speculation”

  1. Ned Judge
    July 22nd, 2011 @ 2:08 pm


    If the comely newsreader hadn’t filled time for those five or six minutes, then there would have been nothing to separate the pitches for denture glue and hard-on tabs. Its also about creating the semblance of news…kind of an atmosphere thing.

  2. Tom O'Neill
    July 23rd, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

    The emptiness of “the news” drives me increasingly to books–just now to “Mutual Contempt” by Jeff Shesol. In recounting the long-standing quarrel between RFK and LBJ, Shesol tries with commendable energy to get a fix on what led LBJ to sacrifice “the Great Society” to the War in Vietnam. Following his line of inquiry is SO much harder than watching the evening news. But then the quest is so much more serious. For if one can learn something along the way, one might get insight as to why Obama deserted the plight of the jobless and homeless in order to spend our blood and treasure in Afghanistan. While this pursuit is worthwhile, it’s not “fun” by any common definition. It’s much easier to watch “news experts” blab in a vacuum.

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