In case of emergency: watch ESPN

Brandon Lesko
Assoc. Opinion Editor

A year ago, CNN saw its worst month of television ratings in a decade. The only silver lining; the ratings showed that in cases of emergency, CNN lead its cable news competitors. Over this past year there is one thing we can all agree upon; we have seen our fair share of emergencies, tragedies, and disasters. If it’s still true that we turn to CNN in times of trouble, I have to ask why?
On Monday afternoon, when I first heard of the bombings in Boston, I did what most people near a television probably did; I turned on CNN. To my horror, I saw the same clip of the explosion near the finish line run over and over again. When I had become desensitized to the scene by repetition, I started to focus on the commentary in the background.
cnnI listened intently for the facts I had tuned in for, but instead of facts I heard CNN anchor Erin Burnett questioning witnesses about what they felt when the bombs went off. What did they feel? Scared, attacked, or a variation of the two would be my guess. The point is, why bother asking those kinds of questions?
The coverage only got worse from there as every “expert” and government official near a camera dropped in to shed a tear and boost their public approval rating. Not one person offered a shred of information that was relevant to what had just happened. Instead of hearing about what we knew, I got to hear what everyone thought about it and how it may impact the future of American security.
Why, after an event that happened only hours before, resulting in death and injury, would you be asking what impact it will have on our future? You don’t even know what happened that day! The focus should be on gathering the news itself, not predicting what will happen as a result of it.
Hungry for some real information, I flipped through the channels hoping to stumble upon a network that took its job seriously. After several minutes, I came to ESPN, where instead of NBA and hockey highlights, they were dedicating their time slot to covering the bombings.
In 30 seconds I had received more information about what went on at the Boston Marathon than I had in 45 minutes of watching CNN. The ESPN anchor walked through the events as they unfolded, showing maps of downtown Boston and the points where the explosions went off. They included reaction by local Boston officials and on-location interviews with marathon runners who were in the blast zones. Now that’s good reporting.
I began to shake my head, realizing that a sports network was doing a better job at reporting than the self-proclaimed “most trusted name in news”. CNN, the place where people go in times of disaster, had the most abysmal “reporting” I’ve ever seen. Why would anyone tune in to this kind of coverage when it is vitally important to have accurate information?
Unfortunately, CNN’s reporting is indicative of cable news as a whole. We are rarely given the information we need from channels like CNN, MSNBC, or FOX News, but are instead fed commentary by half-witted morons who don’t know the first thing about the topics they are covering. They give us speculation and opinion on topics that need facts and deliberation.
But we can’t be too hard on them; they have to fill 24 hours a day with the same thoughts regurgitated over and over that they ripped off from the New York Times that morning. If we were to reduce cable news to what it really offers us, it would be a five minute recap of the headlines from two or three newspapers followed by 23 hours and 55 minutes of a blank screen.
It’s sad when ESPN, a sports network, has better news coverage of the Boston bombings than CNN. In a disaster, it’s not pertinent to ask if there were any Arabs in the area, ask bystanders how they felt, or bring on every public official you can find for the sake of looking important. Let’s wait for the facts, or at least do what ESPN did, and report what we know, not speculate just to feed the 24-hour “news” cycle.