Zimmerman Trial Stirs More Pundit Pontification About CNN

By Alex Weprin Comment

Is there any cable channel that gets analyzed as much as CNN? The original cable news network finds itself once again in the spotlight, as critics attack it for its coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. Of course, it isn’t all bad news for Ted Turner’s brainchild.

At Gawker, former CNN executive turned journalism professor Sid Bedingfield is critical of the trial coverage (focusing on CNN, though it could apply to any of the channels), arguing that it plays into racial issues.

The goal of the criminal-trial-as-entertainment genre is simple: Hook the viewer into the narrative. Get them emotionally invested in the characters. And, most importantly, persuade them to choose sides. Team Zimmerman vs. Team Trayvon.

AdWeek‘s Sam Thielman meanwhile writes that CNN has seen something of a renaissance the last few months when it comes to driving tune-in.

The website, too, has changed. CNN.com now features many more “throws” to the linear channel, and for its part, the network is picking a lot more nonpolitical stories (like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma) and sticking with them for longer. “They’ve always had the muscle,” the source said. “They just haven’t always used it in the right way.”

The New Republic‘s Laura Bennett says that tabloid journalism can be great, but that CNN’s version isn’t great tabloid journalism.

So it is not the fanatical coverage of the Zimmerman trial or the relegation of Tahrir Square to a tiny box in the corner of the screen that feels most symptomatic of the network’s general decline. It’s the moments when even CNN’s nightly news programs, the one opportunity for some analytical distance, participate in the trial’s vacuity instead of stepping back to interrogate it.