Internet/Telecom/Social Media

CNN's Roberts spins again

Oops, he did it again.

CNN’s John Roberts, co-host of the cable news network’s American Morning program, continues to decide what the appropriate spin is for a story in his intros to interviews. He did it earlier this week with correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who stuck to facts instead.

This morning, Mr. Roberts did it again while introducing Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times. Said Mr. Roberts:

Joining us now is New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. His article, “Tear Down This Cyber Wall” focuses on Iran and the technology war of information.

So many people are saying that this could be the very first Internet revolution. How much of a part do you think the Internet is playing in what’s going on inside Iran versus what we’re learning about what’s going on? [emphasis added]

Mr. Roberts has a penchant for advancing a premise based on the apparent testimony of a teeming slew of unidentified sources. He told Mr. Kristof: “So many people are saying that this …” Earlier this week, he used similar language while introducing Ms. Amanpour: “some people might say …” Well, says who? Who are these people to whom Mr. Roberts refers?

Mr. Kristof politely rejected Mr. Roberts’ conjecture with a tad more insight:

I wouldn’t call it an Internet revolution. I mean, fundamentally, people are protesting because they’re upset about the government, and that’s been happening for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Mr. Kristof explained, from his point of view, the role of the Internet during Iranian unrest without labeling that role as a “revolution.”

Television news, as we know, places a premium on brevity. (How ironic for a 24-hour cable news operation, eh?) Anchors and reporters need to summarize (in what print journalists might call a “nut” or background graf) salient information prior to a video report or interview.

Mr. Roberts could have done that in the same amount of time. Rather than offering an opinion masked as a leading question for his witness, he could have not said “So many people are saying that this” and just asked:

Mr. Kristof, would you tell our viewers your perceptions of the use of the Internet during the unrest in Iran?

Instead, he used a meme — Internet revolution — that places more emphasis and focus on the Internet itself rather than the actual unrest and violence it has transmitted.

Broadcast anchors used to know the difference between a fair summation of necessary background and a hurriedly contrived spin from the anchor’s point of view. (Or, perhaps, the producer’s. I do not know if Mr. Roberts’ intros are scripted by someone else.)

Then again, the ratings have not been kind to CNN in the first quarter of 2009. Perhaps that explains the increased use of conjecture by one of CNN’s principal on-air anchors.

1 reply »

  1. It could be that Roberts is a big part of the reason ratings are down. I stopped watching after he was bragging about being friends with Karl Rove and several interviews where he just repeated Republican talking points as if they were known facts. Since he was hired, I figured CNN was trying to outdo FOX with the right wing spin. I simply find him unwatchable.