Time to Rebrand Wolf Blitzer’s “The Situation Room”

Relative to other recent examples of CNN’s implosion as a news organization, this is a bit of a nit. But “The Situation Room” is a downright silly name for CNN’s daily collection of speculation and misinformation about vanished planes hosted by a semi-literate, botox-smoothed Wolf Blitzer.

He's still pressing the answer buzzer on Celebrity Jeapordy

“The situation has moved to my pants.”

I know they borrowed it from the White House crisis command and control center in hopes of imparting an urgency of breaking news and perspectives of top thinkers and decision makers. But it’s laughably solemn given the embarrassing proceedings at hand. It’s also an oddly pedestrian characterization of a room that’s supposed to be the nerve center of decisive action. “Ooh, The Situation Room, sounds like the room where, you know, situations are discussed.” We provide CNN chief Jeff Zucker these alternatives for a rebrand of Blitzer’s afternoon newser snoozer:

  • The Predicament Shed
  • The Imbroglio Closet
  • The Incident Parlor
  • The Circumstance Foyer
  • The Episode Boudoir
  • The Scenario Cupboard
  • The Phenomenon Lobby
  • The Event Cubicle
  • The Consideration Dojo
  • The Development Loo
  • The Complication Tent
  • The Transaction Gazebo
  • The Occurrence Patio

Final thought. With Blitzer’s show having evolved into a daily installment of breathless chatter devoid of news or insight, I suggest my favorite alternative: The Hyperbolic Chamber.

 

 

CNN Headline: “Could Flight 370 Wash Ashore in South American Tsunami?”

OK, former news network CNN hasn’t linked the Mystery of Flight 370 with the tsunami off the coasts of Chile and Peru. Yet. But let’s not put anything past the editorial judgement of the folks who keep us informed with expert analysis no other news outlet can offer:

20140401-221436.jpg(Photo originally posted at Shit Pilots Say on Facebook.)

 

New Development: CNN Forced to Call Actual Breaking News About Flight 370 Something Else

After three weeks of calling every false report, baseless speculation and black hole theory “Breaking News,” CNN encountered a dilemma today: actual breaking news. Search crews have spotted some debris that appears more promising than previous finds, and more boats and planes are en route to a narrowing search area. Hence, “New Developments.” I love these clowns.

20140329-142222.jpg

Someone should explain to CNN that “Breaking News” and “Relentless Speculation” are not the same thing

20140316-015316.jpg

CNN has not broken one single morsel of news about the mystery Malaysian Airlines plane. It has breathlessly chased every red herring this dramatic saga has introduced. CNN parades a continuous stream of experts and observers with varying degrees of knowledge to speculate on where in the world the wayward aircraft might be.

It’s a ferociously fascinating story. I’ll watch a panel yap about what they think might have happened. But let’s call that what it is: People guessing. “Breaking News” implies that news has broken, that something new has been revealed. CNN will run the “Breaking News” title graphic while relentlessly repeating the same updates being reported by every network. Often the “latest” news is hours old.

His quest for credibility is failing

His quest for credibility is failing

And CNN’s resident aviation expert and meth-addled genitalia wrangler Richard Quest is an imbecile and a twit. He has been spectacularly wrong on almost every observation and speculation. He was almost unequivocal that the Chinese satellite photos from a few days ago were indeed showing the wreckage of the plane. Other more knowledgeable experts urged caution based on the size and placement of the satellite photo mystery debris. But Quest continued to insist with bluster that the photos showed the remnants of the downed plane. He’s a buffoon.

And Wolf Blitzer embarrasses himself in live reporting and interviews during unfolding stories such as this. Here is a typical exchange:

Thoughtful, Cautious Aviation Expert: “We just don’t have enough information to speculate on what might have happened to that aircraft.”

Blizter: “So do you think it’s possible that terrorists overtook the flight crew and diverted the plane to Yemen?”

Thoughtful, Cautious Airline Expert: “What you are asking is absolutely impossible to know.”

Blitzer: “So it is possible then. Also, did Malaysian Airlines ignore FAA guidance regarding possible vulnerabilities related to corrosion in the fuselage of the Boeing 777 aircraft? Did that create a breach in the external structure of the plane that compromised the air compression in the cabin?”

Thoughtful, Cautious Aviation Expert: “We won’t know for several days or even weeks what the maintenance record of the plane will show. And in any case, the scenario you describe is highly unlikely. There is no value in such random conjecture.”

Blitzer: “So you’re saying that the wanton negligence of Malaysian Airlines cost the lives of more than 200 passengers on that airplane?”

Thoughtful, Cautious Aviation Expert: “You’re an idiot.”

Blitzer: “Are you suggesting then that aliens cast down a beam from a hovering space pod and pulled the aircraft in with a gravitational force that earthly science cannot even comprehend?”

What SeaWorld Should Have Said Was Nothing

It seems to me that SeaWorld could’ve saved itself some future problems if it had reconsidered this conversation from 40 or so years ago:

“OK team, we want to bring whales to the park. We’re going to put the giant whales in tanks with humans and have them perform tricks together, largely for huge crowds of families with children. Any suggestions on what type of whales we should get?”

“Uh, how about killer whales, Larry?”

Controversy has smothered the summer fish circus SeaWorld since CNN first aired the combustible documentary Blackfish a few months ago. (I first typed “searing documentary” but couldn’t abide the unintentional fish pun.) The film makes a passionate and riveting case against SeaWorld’s captivity of orcas, the massive killer whales that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people to its parks for decades.

As part of the swift, fervid backlash against SeaWorld, many musicians backed out of a summer SeaWorld concert series. Several celebrities have spoken out on record, including this scathing indictment by whale-cocked drumstick-twirling marine biologist Tommy Lee:

*shortly after making statement, gets online to search for cow vaginas*

Shortly after making this statement, Tommy Lee got online to search for cow vaginas

It’s almost impossible to watch Blackfish without at least questioning the wisdom of keeping the big fish captive for our entertainment. You don’t soon forget harrowing scenes of orcas turning on trainers and dragging them to the depths of the tanks. As damning the movie is, I always maintain some skepticism when people with a specific and personal agenda attack something. There is always some truth in the middle that they distort or ignore. I’m sure there are many good people at SeaWorld who really do care about the well-being of the animals in the parks. In fact, I am certain that SeaWorld cares. Here’s how I know:

SeaWorld Cares

Which brings this meandering post to its elusive topic: SeaWorld’s insulting, annoying and staggeringly inept response to Blackfish. SeaWorld seems determined douse a brush fire with kerosene until the entire forest burns to ash.

SeaWorld defends itself with an aggressive, name-calling assault, partly in the form of incessant pay-promoted tweets such as this one:

The SeaWorld Charm Offensive begins

I want to invite SeaWorld, vegans and self-assured atheists to my next dinner party!

Wow! Way to do everything wrong SeaWorld! I have no idea what communications agency SeaWorld works with, but either the agency is giving poor advice or SeaWorld executives are so blindly angry that they are forcing the issue. This fails in every way possible.

1) It’s defensive. SeaWorld sounds like a guilty politician caught fucking the housekeeper, reacting with indignant and angry denial.

2) It’s dismissive. Blackfish worked. It fueled real emotional responses for a wide audience of people. Now SeaWorld opts to insult those people for being naive to “propaganda.” If you make someone mad, then call them stupid for being mad, you just make them that much less eager to forgive you or even listen to you.

3) It’s self-defeating. SeaWorld has done more to promote Blackfish than anyone besides CNN. SeaWorld has introduced the controversy to countless people who had probably never heard of it to begin with.

4) It’s pedantic. Here is SeaWorld’s lengthy response to Blackfish. The movie grabbed attention with vivid, emotional and sometimes tragic human and animal stories. SeaWorld responded with a manifesto that reads like a labyrinth court deposition. SeaWorld splits semantic hairs and haggles over chronology and minutiae that won’t sway opponents and will likely inflame neutral observers. Case in point:

The film depicts a killer whale collection in Washington State that occurred 40 years ago. It leaves viewers with three false impressions: (1) that SeaWorld continues to collect whales from the wild to this day; (2) that Tilikum himself was collected by SeaWorld; and (3) that the collections done four decades ago were illegal. None of this is true. SeaWorld does not collect killer whales in the wild, and has not done so in over 35 years. Tilikum was not collected by us. And the collections four decades ago were conducted in compliance with federal laws, pursuant to federally-issued permits at that time.

Thanks, SeaWorld! Now I completely understand why those whales have sad floppy fins and drag your trainers to their terrifying deaths in your torture pools! No one who watched Blackfish will be moved or fooled by this turgid barrel of words.

5) It’s annoying. This will probably end up being the longest post I’ve ever written here. Not because I’m an activist for the cause. It’s because SeaWorld annoyed the shit out of me. It’s relentless, aggressive tweets irritated me so fiercely that I first started responding to them on Twitter, and then took to writing this rant that at least 17 other people will see. Aim at foot, pull trigger, SeaWorld!

I found Blackfish compelling, and at times sad and terrifying. But I’m not a someone who thinks about SeaWorld much to begin with. I’m middle-aged with no kids. I hyperventilate and explode in hives just passing through the Orlando airport, filled with loud, overpacked huddles of sugar-and-Mickey-bloated families navigating the airport as if it’s a corn maze.

So I’m not someone who would have ever even considered a trip there. Blackfish would’ve likely drifted to the back of my consciousness. Except SeaWorld just wouldn’t let it.

So, SeaWorld, here is the lesson of the title you should heed. Given your noisy, belligerent and self-destructive response, what you should have said was nothing. (Impatient viewers skip to the 3:40 mark.)

Dear CNN: Rodman Doesn’t Count as an Exclusive if No One Else Wants Him On

CNN delivers again with this hard-hitting exclusive top story. The Peabody folks are actually starting to take back previous awards from CNN. The worst thing is that this has become standard for the editorial culture there. No one even recognizes how embarrassing it is.

20140131-091302.jpg

Hey, CNN, When Are You Going to Resume News Coverage? Please Answer in the Form of a Numbered List

It’s a tough week to be CNN. A year into Jeff Zucker’s stewardship, CNN founders, suffering 20-year ratings lows this week. It has less identity as a network than ever. Zucker promises to maintain a focus on hard news while expanding scripted, documentary and reality programming. You know, keep throwing stuff at the wall until something sticks.

Some of that programming works and gets ratings, most notably Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” which collected two Emmys last fall. And I say they were well deserved; the episode that explored Libya provided a more fascinating and truly human understanding of the post-Gadhafi life and culture than any news network could capture these days.

CNN also created buzz and big ratings with Blackfish, a compelling look at the deadly history of captive whales and their trainers at Sea World and other water parks.

But A&E, Discovery Channel, The History Channel and the Food Network have covered this territory for years. Can CNN really reestablish a distinctive brand as another network among the herd of documentary and reality programming?

Because the news part of CNN is bleak. We have already lamented CNN.com’s embarrassing, breathless click baiting when young celebrities misbehave. (And I’ll link again to The Onion’s hilarious evisceration of CNN.com for it here. As well as the pathetic defense by Variety‘s Andrew Wallenstein here.)

This week, CNN doubled down. I’m sure news editors are clearing Peabody shelf space for tonight’s hastily produced 30-minute shit chunk “Justin Bieber’s Wild Ride.”  Proud times, CNN.

In other news, news

This is CNN

While CNN pursues its desperate ratings heartthrob crush, it also announces the plank walk for 40 long-time actual journalism types across its networks. A CNN spokesperson reassures us that it is “expanding the definition of news” and will ultimately add 100 people this year.

I take this all personally because I’m an Atlanta native. I’m proud of crazy Ted Turner’s vision and tenacity in making CNN a reality and elevating Atlanta’s international status. I’m sure Ted is spinning in his practice grave, fashioned out of bison skins and old programs from Braves games.(Also, in a pointlessly snotty aside, Wolf Blitzer’s botox injections are starting to resemble breast implants.)
Wolf

I had a lot more complaints about CNN, but as I wrote they all just seemed like ideological attacks, which they’re not. I just miss the news. And to make sure this doesn’t seem like a pathological personal hatred for CNN, here’s the proudest moment in Bieber journalism, when Andrea Mitchell (!) interrupts a congresswoman mid-sentence in a serious discussion about the scope and boundaries of NSA surveillance.

Toyota a Surprising Winner in Justin Bieber DUI. Also, CNN Still Sucks.

Fortuitous ad timing and placement for Toyota on CNN.com.

Canada's Worst Import

2016′s Top Commentator on World’s Dumbest

Bieber actually makes me nostalgic for the days when Canada sent us Anne Murray.

Also, isn’t one of the N’s in CNN supposed to stand for “News”?

Getting Roger Ailes’ Good Side Probably is a Tough Photo Assignment

CNN continues to annoy with its growing adoption of BuzzFeed-style numbered list click baiting, here with the “Top 5 Things” learned from a new unauthorized biography of polarizing Fox News chief Roger Ailes. CNN chose this amusingly unflattering closeup of Ailes, in which he looks like Glenn Beck inflated into a parade float.

roger ailesI hope for author Gabriel Sherman’s sake that the rest of the book delivers more than CNN culls here. This top 5 list informs us that Ailes is an extremely influential Republican who runs a transparently biased news channel. Start the presses!

Here’s a much more interesting perspective on Ailes from The Hollywood Reporter. Love or hate him, he’s an interesting interview. Here’s Ailes on Rachel Maddow:

“I think Rachel Maddow has been a surprise to a lot of people. She wouldn’t really work at this network because she wouldn’t even come in the door, but on a personal level, I like her. I don’t want to hurt her career, so I won’t say we get along, but I’ve had dialogue with her, and she’s very smart. She has adapted well to the television medium.”