CNN Drops Her Like A Hot Potato. Or Like A Real Journalist.

The news that CNN, the “most trusted name” therein, has dropped Soledad O’Brien from any regular, consistent programming on the network is dismaying.  One of the few broadcast journalists anywhere to actually behave like one — challenging half-truths, attacking spin and vapidity, demonstrating profound knowledge of the issues before her, and confronting policy-makers if their policies were unrealistic — has now, with NBC’s Ann Curry, found herself in the no-woman’s land of “special projects” and “ways to contribute.” 

It’s too bad, and it’s too bad that it comes from CNN, which, unlike MSNBC and FOX, has carved out a centrist, fairly balanced role for itself in a market full of polarizing forces.  Sadly, it now appears that it will attempt to continue in that role while doing very little hard-hitting journalism, not a whole lot of actual reporting with in-depth analysis.  That analysis is the only thing keeping the public from spoon-fed, spin-selected sound bites.  “Hard-hitting” is the only way journalism should be practiced; I say this as a third-generation print journalist (University of Arizona, BA, 1982). 

I write this also as a woman who held Soledad O’Brien up as a role model of sorts.  Like her, but in an entirely different category, I’ve been accused of being too aggressive and not terribly nice, too forceful and not ladylike enough.  This past campaign season saw O’Brien emerge from the pack as a journalist who, in going for the heart of the matter, never went for the jugular — but didn’t go for hand-holding and strokes, either.  That, I suspect, was her downfall.  She just wasn’t very, you know, LADYLIKE.  And in 2013, corporations are a little put off by that, and not a little put off by their sponsors’ discomfort.

Ted Turner’s billionaire status and eccentricity should make CNN less dependent on market forces than other networks, but money talks.  And it doesn’t like its voice drowned out by an intelligent, aggressive, articulate woman who holds those it represents to a standard higher than that to which they hold themselves. 

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