Sunday, December 27, 2009

Whatever CNN Paid Jasper Schuringa, It Wasn't Enough

CNN is one of those 24 hour "news" channels (fourth or fifth place in the ratings), perhaps most famous for its coverage of the "balloon boy" saga, in which they dropped everything to tell the world that a little boy was stuck in a balloon that was soaring over the Colorado sky.

One of their top newsreaders (or, "newsactors," as shampoo calls them), Wolf Blitzer, flexed his journalistic brain to take down the Balloon Boy on national television. That was important stuff.

Also important: When Mr. Blitzer "fact-checked" a "Saturday Night Live" skit.

Wolf Blitzer doesn't have any direct connection to this story, except that he's still employed by CNN. I just think this image is really, really funny.

Those things were apparently more important than interviewing Jasper Schuringa, one of the men who laid out Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the jerk who (allegedly) attempted to either explode or incinerate or start a fire on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. Because CNN let Mr. Blitzer stay in bed, and put someone called Fredricka Whitfield on Mr. Schuringa's case, in an interview that is gloriously awkward, and deserves a spot in my top-10 films of the year list:

It starts out rather unpromisingly for Ms. Whitfield, who seems to not know exactly who Mr. Schuringa is, or is his part in the story. For his part, Mr. Schuringa exhibits a charm and easiness on camera that is only magnified by his good looks and his urbane accent. The bandaged hand, and the fact that his actions potentially saved at least 200 lives, don't hurt.

But then, about 5:30 into the interview, it's clear that Mr. Schuringa becomes completely bored with Ms. Whitfield. I don't blame him one bit. Seriously, what business is it of hers-- or the rest of the world-- that he lives in This European City? Or that he's vacationing in That American City?

He's the guy who foiled a terrorist attack, and she's asking him where he lives? Should the Department of Homeland Security be investigating CNN?

CNN has a hunger to feed. It needs content. They managed to score an exclusive interview with this man who is a genuine hero. But how did they do it? Did they harass him, calling him on the phone, knocking on the door of the home where he's vacationing? What was the process by which CNN got this "exclusive"?

For all we know, this man just wants to get on with his life, or at the very least his vacation. Did he really want to do an interview with a television news network? If he hadn't, would the reporters have let him alone, or would they have camped out at his vacation home, the way they camped out outside the Balloon Boy's house?

Mr. Schuringa probably didn't want an incident like this happening outside his vacation spot, and so acceded to CNN's interview request. That's just speculation on my part, but seriously, if you were on vacation, would you want a bunch of reporters hanging around your house?

And the writer at mediate (source of the above video) is tsk-tsking the fact that Mr. Schuringa got paid for his time?

Here is a lesson in how journalism (and really, life) works in 2009: the passenger on Northwest Flight 253 being billed as a hero for helping subdue Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab will tell you his story – but only if you pay him money.

But Jasper Schuringa was already on CNN, you say? Well CNN paid up.

How much does CNN make from this interview? Presumably, even CNN's dismal ratings would go up when they've scored an "exclusive" interview with the hero Jasper Schuringa. More eyes mean higher ad rates. So why should CNN, a bunch of inept jerks who kept telling us a six year old boy was trapped in a balloon, make money when a real hero is expected to just give away his time for free?

While network shows like ABC’s 20/20 or NBC’s Dateline often license photos and video for interviews, it’s rare to see CNN get into the mix. Obviously they wanted to land the “get” – but at what cost, literal and figurative?

Groan. The state of journalism in America is at stake! Because Jasper Schuringa got a little scratch. Yeah, that's what's killing journalism.

Wolf Blitzer on Jeopardy! pic source.

1 comment:

shampoo said...

I don't have cnn any more, just hln. which means I get to see uber newsactorette jane velez-mitchell and her daily rant.

thanks for linking to my blog... I should post something interesting. (thinking...)

i'm glad you like my term. :)