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The End of News in the Orient

A couple of hours ago I landed back at Manchester from Istanbul. I have an idea to write up a multi-part travelogue of my adventures in Turkey. Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in reading it – it’ll mainly be pictures anyway! I’ll probably do it anyway for my own edification and to cement the memories of a fine holiday in my butterfly mind.

But… Before I do any of that. I have a more general observation to make inspired by my holiday.

The hotel room had sat TV so I saw bits of CNN pretty much everyday. Judging by the time checks it gave this appeared to be CNN’s Central/Eastern Europe and Near East service so what I’m about to say might not be true of the network globally but I’m going to say it anyway because I suspect it is. I haven’t seen CNN for years and I have to say it appears to be, as my brother would put it, on it’s arse. It cycled 1.5 stories until we started bombing Libya in desultory fashion at which point it switched to cycling 2.5 stories. Story #1 was of course the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and the resultant nuclear tribulations. Now obviously this is a big story but it is by no means the only story. CNN didn’t seem to either comprehend this fact or have the ability to report on any others and cycled the same footage of grieving and homeless Japanese and wrecked houses and cars and such ad nauseum until I switched to Al Jazeera which for all it’s many flaws at least didn’t think rolling news was sticking the same old on “shuffle” ’till Hell freezes over.

But what of the 0.5 of a story? Ah, yes… This was wild speculation by the likes of Wolf Blitzer (crazy name, crazy guy utter moron) and chums as to what this would mean for US nuclear power stations and plans to build more. The nadir was reached when some anchor (a dense object dropped to the bottom of the sea – alas not the redoubtable Mr Blitzer* – some other twonk) opened a question to someone (I forget who) with, “Now I don’t know anything about nuclear engineering but it seems to me that…”** CNN is based in Atlanta of course and I know some rather nice bars around that city. If they had walked into say the The Treehouse in Peachtree Hills at 2am on any given Friday night with a mic and a camcorder they would have got more cogent commentary than CNN actually managed. Suffice to say the general tone of the coverage was ridiculous and at one point a guy who worked at a Californian nuclear plant looked like he was struggling manfully not to clock the CNN wonk who was obsessed with the idea that this Californian plant was not proof against the maximum quake you could get on the San Andreas fault. Several times the engineer attempted to make the point that whilst that may be the case his plant was located quite a way off from that fault and that the force of an earthquake diminishes with distance***. This to little avail. To put it bluntly the CNN wonk would not have been happy if the engineer could demonstrate his facility was proof against not just Godzilla but an entire army of Godzillas (and indeed Godzookies). (Stomach) churnalism worthy of Michael Moore himself though, to be fair, at least not done by someone who looked like a tramp’s mate.

The pièce de résistance though must go to CNN’s attempt to find mutants in Pennsylvania (I thought that was Mulder and Scully’s job?). Instead just next to the plant at Three Mile Island**** they found a middle-aged lady who had lived and raised her children “under the shadow of the plant*****”. She seemed like whatever about the whole thing which rather took the wind out of the CNN distorter’s reporter’s sails. The lady’s profession? Nurse. It was delicious to watch.

I have little to say about CNN’s reportage on the bombing of Libya (now up to 2.5 stories on the carousel) except to say that their presenters spent a lot of time talking to each other all over the world saying the situation was “confused”. More telling as to the plight of CNN perhaps were the ad breaks which by and large consisted of advertising CNN itself and things about its campaign against “modern slavery” or having their United Colours of Benetton (flag?) staff muttering vaguely metaphysical platitudes about “going beyond borders”. But what of real news news-type news? They didn’t even seem to have sports results and seeing as last Friday I blithely wandered into Taksim Square in Istanbul during the build-up to the Istanbul derby between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe I rather wanted to know how that match panned out because the atmosphere was sufficiently electric that all my previous musings here on electricity generation are moot. A copper rod and some cabling and I could have got the Large Hadron Collider up to 11 (that’s one quantumier). Anyway that story is for my up-coming travelogue. As is how I later came to know about the result…

So am I right? Is CNN up a creek without a paddle? It happens to a lot of companies who get there first and then rest on their laurels. It just seems to me as schlerotic, pointless and irrelevant as dear old Wolfie himself.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and… reach for the remote.

*Sort of like David Frost without the wit or charm or incisiveness.
**There is a highly technical term for people who use such phraseology. It’s “twat”.
***OK, purely, geometrically that’s got to be something like 1/r2 (all other things being equal and then you’ve got to take into account dispersion (an exponential decline?)
****A non-event if ever there was one. When I switched to Al Jazeera I heard about an explosion in a Pakistani mine that has maybe killed about over fifty people.
Compare and contrast and tell me honestly which form of energy is objectively more dangerous?
*****For “plant” please feel free to substitute “death”.


  1. Sam Duncan says:

    Welcome back. Yeah, post the photos. I like photos.

    I’ve been meaning to link to this for a day or two. People “living in the shadow of” coal plants receive on average more than three times the radiation dosage of those near nuke plants. Neither dosage is anything close to the avreage background.

  2. Sam Duncan says:

    “Avreage”? Bloody netbook keyboard.

  3. NickM says:

    I actually learned the coal thing doing A-Level Physics. But does anyone listen to me? Degrees in Physics and Astrophysics and I am “one of them”. Post it Sam. Go for it. I have stood on the reactor plate at Calder Hall and handled many radioactive sources Hell, I spent over three hours i a thin duralumin can cruising 10km up erlier today yet if I go out to my shed now I’ll still need a torch to light my way.

    Oh, and there will be pictures.

  4. Kevin B says:

    On Tom Maguire’s Just One Minute blog there’s a commenter who goes by the name of Daddy who earns his crust flying freight around the globe. He can be quite forthright on the subject of CNN though perhaps not as colourful as he can be on the subject of the BBC world service, (or whatever it calls itself these days). He too prefers Al jazeera for actual news, rather than anti western propaganda.

    But consider this: At least when you were watching there were two and a half stories going on on the world. Imagine watching that crap when the only news was Obama’s basketball picks.

  5. Kevin B says:

    On the subject of radiation exposure, I once had to fix some telemetry kit in the AEA site at Aldermaston. They pinned a dosimeter badge on me when I went in, and took it away when I left. A couple of months later the company got a letter informing us that I had recieved a dose of seven.

    That was it. Seven. Not seven micro whatsits or seven mega whosis. Not “don’t bother having the vasectomy”. Just seven.

    Typical Civil Service. I should probably sue.

  6. bella gerens says:

    I lived “under the shadow of” Three Mile Island for seven years. In all that time, not once did I encounter a single person living in the same shadow who gave so much as a fart, let alone a shit, about the so-called danger.

    Amusingly, however, that area of Pennsylvania is notorious for the old radon-in-the-cellars phenomenon. People seemed much more concerned about gas in their basements than nuclear meltdown from TMI.

  7. Bod says:

    Another thumbs up for a Turkish photo Delight, Nick.

    And to answer the direct question, yeah, CNN is pants. Come to think of it, all the ‘news’ media over here is pants, except that Fox at least has a viewership.

    I myself came to that conclusion about CNN during Gulf War I, but I guess it took a bit longer for the meme to spread, and it came as no surprise to find that CNN were busted for colluding with Saddam’s regime, writing puff pieces (probably with accompanying stills of happy, crippled Iraqi children flying kites and singing about how wonderful The ‘Tash was) in exchange for greater ‘news access’.

    Back then, they also had a little snot named Peter Arnett on their payroll who made Wolf look positively Aristotelian. Arnett was basically a low-rent Walter Duranty, but all the chin-pulling from him and Blitzer as they sat in a hotel in Baghdad, watching cruise missiles haul ass down whatever Baghdad’s version of the Uxbridge Road is called, made me want to spew, so it did.

  8. Phil says:

    Welcome back, Nick. I second Mr. Duncan for the photos. I also second your summation of Blitzer. For the “full twat” effect you should watch him covering election returns.

    On a side note, your CCinZ email addy comes back as undeliverable. When you get a spare moment, could you write me via the above addy. I have some questions about travel to your island.

  9. JuliaM says:

    ” I haven’t seen CNN for years ….”

    It’s been out competed in the marketplace. When it was the only channel you could get abroad, it was king. The first thing I did when arriving in a foreign country was to turn the tv on in my hotel room and find CNN.

    Now, you’ve got so many other channels. Why would you choose them?

  10. NickM says:

    I think that is it in a nutshell. I am glad you concur because that is what essentially I thought.

    Be right with you. Later today OK?

  11. Roue le Jour says:

    Over here we have something call ‘BBC World’ or ‘BBC Third World’, as I call it, as for some reason ‘World’ does not include places like Tokyo, San Fransisco, Berlin etc. A Typical item goes like this:

    Camera pans across sticks and dust village baking in the sun, settling on an ebony coloured little toothless old lady.

    Voice Over – “Ama is blind and crippled, and relies on her ten year old granddaughter, Bo to fetch water, but now Bo has run away and joined the merchant navy…”

    Any Martian watching it would be thinking, but if they’re all living hand to mouth in stone age villages, how come they’ve got TV?

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