Jay Rosen: Is the ‘Leave It There’ Era Ending at CNN?

By Alex Weprin Comment

Back in October, 2009 “The Daily Show'”s Jon Stewart had an 11-minute segment criticizing CNN for “leaving it there.”

NYU’s Jay Rosen uses that segment as a launching pad for a post on his PressThink blog. Rosen first explains what he means when he talks about CNN leaving it there:

Leave the partisan fights to the guests: sounds great. Until you think about it for a minute. And really, that’s all it takes: about a minute. In a hyper-polarized environment like the one we increasingly have in the U.S. these fights have long since broken the borders of opinion. They now routinely break out over matters of fact. (Example: does cutting Federal tax rates increase revenues to the government?)

In other words, you could have a situation where in order to do your duty journalistically, you have to take sides and say, “I’m sorry, Senator, but that simply doesn’t square with what we know.” Soon as you do that, your mantra, “We cover both sides but don’t favor either side” starts working against you.

He then moves on to the meat of his post: the NPR interview with CNN executive VP Mark Whitaker. Rosen notes that Whitaker essentially says the “leave it there” segments need to end at the channel. In the post and a subsequent comment, Rosen explains what he believes the important takeaway is:

The new boss at CNN acknowledges the pattern and says: we’re not going to do that any more. Will this change anything? I have no idea. We could find in a year’s time that CNN is leaving it there just as much as it ever did. Or we might discover that the small beachhead Anderson Cooper established has widened and started to become part of the CNN style.

From a comment at the bottom of the post:

Part of the reason I wrote this piece is so that the media beat reporters–Brian Stelter, Jeremy Peters and David Carr of the New York Times, Howard Kurtz of Newsbeast, Michael Calderone of Huff Post, Keach Hagey of Politico, David Folkenflik of NPR, the people at TV Newser–now know they have a pledge, a promise from the boss, to hold CNN to.

Jay Ackroyd: One possible way CNN could react to Whitaker’s pledge was provided by Al Jazeera during the Egyptian revolution. A number of American viewers, tuning into the AJ for the first time or flipping back and forth between it and CNN, noticed something: Hey, no talking heads! More reporting! And when they have an official on the air and he bullshits, they go in for the kill… Wow.

You can read Rosen’s post here, and his comment here.

What do you think? Is Rosen’s critique on-target? What would you do if you were CNN? Let us know in the comments.