The List You Don’t Want To Be On

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Hurty Sanchez
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Rick Sanchez always impressed me as someone better suited as a game show host than a news anchor. Beginning with an attempt to out-Geraldo Geraldo by being tased on live tv, he became a tireless, airbrushed, self-promoter who could never transcend his over-inflated opinion of himself, overshadowing the best efforts of his producers to air important topics that other shows didn’t cover.

His show, Rick’s List, started out filling a mid-day one hour time slot, grew to two, bumping the aging Wolf Blitzer back to mid afternoon obscurity. After Paula Zahn‘s replacement Campbell Brown quit her evening time slot, Rick got another hour, filling the 8:00 slot until the new Elliot Spitzer-Kathleen Parker Crossfire-like show debuted (Which it did last night to thundering indifference from the critics. Their competitors during that time, K-O and Bill-O, can sleep easy.).

While the concept of lists is a tried and true one (think David Letterman‘s Top Ten and Keith Olbermann‘s Worst Person in the World), Rick’s list of lists grew from covering fluff like stupid criminals and celebutards, to his hubristic The List U Don’t Want 2 Be On, seemingly Sanchez’s warning to the world that they better take him seriously or else.

Talk about being hoisted on one’s own petard— Sanchez finally made his own list.

But the Sanchez drama is just the froth, or more accurately, the flotsam and jetsam from CNN’s sinking ship. Now third in the cable ratings behind Fux News and MSNBC, CNN’s problems are covered in painful detail in last weekend’s NY Times Magazine in a feature titled: Chasing Fox:  The loud, cartoonish blood sport that’s engorged MSNBC, exhausted CNN—and is making our body politic delirious.

While the country desperately needs a serious news-only show of the kind that CNN used to be, sad to say, it just doesn’t fit our polarized zeitgeist. Aided and abetted by a ruling class (aka “sponsors”) that thrive on the time tested strategy of divide and conquer, CNN finds itself caught between the hammer of opinionated journalism and the anvil of investigative journalism.

The alternative is the kind of tabloid journalism that its successful sister network HLN now produces with hosts like Nancy Grace, Joyce Behar, and A.J.Hammer (Showbiz Tonight). Last month, CNN execs replaced its president Jonathan Klein, who held the job for six years, with Ken Jautz, described in the article above as “a former CNN Berlin bureau chief who had successfully juiced the ratings of sister network HLN by taking it down-market and tabloid.”

CNN is still profitable with its current news format. But for how long? Fux News and MSNBC have pretty well cornered the market on opinionated journalism.  Tabloid journalism is much cheaper to produce (no overseas bureaus necessary to catch Lindsay or Paris or Mel in their latest acts of self-immolation), but that would simply duplicate the efforts of HLN.

What CNN really needs is another good war to cover. The US is winding down in Iraq (after having bombed it back to the stone age with its very visual Shock and Awe campaign). Afghanistan doesn’t have have any good targets to bomb, as Rummy so famously complained. So where are they going to get some of that exciting nose cone video of cruise missiles slamming into buildings?

Hmmmm…Maybe they should send Wolf Blitzer, a former AIPAC lobbyist, over to Israel and see if he can’t convince Bibi to attack Iran. Hell, if he succeeds they’ll probably give him his old slot back, the one that the Jew baiting Rick Sanchez took from him.

And the seasons, they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and ’round and ’round
In the circle game
And go ’round and ’round and ’round in the circle game.

– Joni Mitchell

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