From the cable network that invented weird election-night holograms and hourly “breaking news” overhype comes a new low in broadcast journalism: CNN turned the drawing for the second round of Democratic presidential debates into a game show-style cliffhanger drama. The network devoted a full hour of overdramatized coverage to its lottery-style drawing of names for the lineup of the second round of televised Democratic debates on July 30 and 31.
CNN’s “special presentation” was a big nothing burger, worth perhaps 30 seconds of actual news coverage. But the network wasn’t interested in news and actual journalism. It sought to milk every moment for drama, ratings and advertising revenue, similar to the way it covers hurricanes by having its reporters stand in powerful wind and driving rain while wincing bravely just to show viewers that, in fact, hurricanes always bring powerful wind and driving rain.
The network’s coverage earned near-universal derision from other networks and news publications. “I feel like they have an identity crisis. Are they a serious news network? Are they the network on New Year’s that everybody gets drunk and then they have these little things like they look like Vegas? Who are they?” asked Jesse Watters, co-host of Fox News’ “The Five” show.
Even the staid New York Times took a swipe, devoting A-section coverage to the spectacle, which critic James Poniewozik labeled “political journalism as Penn & Teller act.”