“This is CNN.” Nothing sounds so authoritative as the voice of Darth Vader. When James Earl Jones lent (well, leased) his smooth baritone to the network, CNN was in its heyday. From Washington to Warsaw, there was a time when movers and shakers around the world always kept a TV tuned to CNN, even if only on mute. Once labeled, “The most trusted name in news,” CNN was the gold standard for real-time broadcast journalism. Those days now appear to be over.
Much like Anakin Skywalker, CNN once pursued a noble calling, but over time lost its way and ended up on the dark side, and by dark side, I’m not talking about the Democratic Party. I mean politicization itself. While CNN, by no means, has a monopoly on leaning politically (see “The Day the Muses Died”), it has failed in one of the Fourth Estate’s most sacred duties – the ability to be a trusted watchdog. As such, they have lost much of their credibility in the eyes of many around the world.
Facing a possible $100 million libel suit for a story based on an anonymous source linking Trump transition team member, Anthony Scaramucci, to Russia, the network quickly reversed itself. CNN retracted the story, issued an apology and sacked the responsible journalists. It remains to be seen if those who did the sacking will also be sacked.
I would advise the leadership at CNN to use this incident as an opportunity to rededicate the network’s efforts to engage in ethical journalism. At the end of the day, people want to hear only three things from you when your organization makes a mistake: We did it and we’re sorry. We’ll fix it. We’ll figure out why it happened and make sure it never happens again (see “Flying the Not so Friendly Skies”).
We can only hope that CNN, like Anakin Skywalker, can redeem its soul and once again use its powers for good. Only then will balance be restored to the universe of news.