06 January 2007

Me and CNN, Again.

I see no way to justify my morbid fascination with cnn.com and its continually declining 'standards' for both reporting and the use of the English language. I can explain it as my one remaining effort to keep in touch with what's being presented as 'news' by the MSM in the US (these days I only read BBC, The Guardian, and FFB, of course).

This morning I noticed cnn.com's new 'feature'. It's called 'Story Highlights' and consists of 3 or 4 bullet points in a box at the top of each story. The idea seems to be that CNN's lengthy, in-depth, and highly sophisticated articles are just too much for the average reader to be able to handle, so we need the bullet points to help us out - or, more likely, to substitute for actually reading the article.

But here's the thing: the articles are ridiculously short to begin with! Check this one out, for example: the story of two planes almost colliding in Denver. The entire article is 182 words long. Even reading very verly slowly, it still takes well under a minute to read the whole article.

By the way, as a side note that's probably much more substantive than my above rant: both the Guardian and CNN's international edition have 'Bush reshuffles Generals in Iraq' as a headline this morning. But if you switch to the CNN US edition, you can't find such a headline; nor was there anything like that on the NY Times website. Weird? Definitely. Significant and meaningful? You tell me.


tenaciousmcd said...

Blame Power point, I say! Has any other recent invention contributed more to the dumbing down of the college classroom? As if all knowledge can be reduced to bullet points and badly-drawn cartoon icons. And now the bastards have gotten to CNN too.

fronesis said...

Oh yes, we are on exactly the same page here, Tmcd! I'm perfectly happy to blame powerpoint. Students (and faculty alike) are losing all sense of the difference between a point (the thing one puts next to the bullet) and a line of logical argument that would connect those points in a convincing way.

As you know, I'm a definite early adopter of technology, but in the classroom I refuse to advance beyond the white board (but I do take it as a serious improvement over the chalkboard).

sageblue said...

RE: Powerpoint, please google Edward Tufte and read his explanation of how PP caused the last space shuttle disaster. I have his booklet and it's fantastic.

I think we can also blame text messaging and IMing as well my friends for the encapsulation of complex thought and emotion into short phrases: I can't tell you how hard it was texting people about the Seahawks game tonight.

toastie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I abandoned cnn.com a few months ago, the final straw being those "story highlights". First, I was annoyed by the proliferation of tabloid garbage headlines. Then, I was annoyed that nearly half of all stories had video links only (assuming web visitors don't like to read anymore). And then the story highlights, which amount to a Powerpoint slide summarizing the story. I wrote them several complaints, but obviously they're not going for the literate demographic.

Today, I visited cnn.com for some reason, and I was pissed off again, so I went googling to see if anyone felt the same way that I do. I found your blog post. :)