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Where has all the content gone? (Pt. 2)

March 22, 2010

pork rindsOnce upon a time, Al Gore invented the Internet. No wait, Tim Berners Lee in the UK did. No wait, it was the US Army. Oh, whatever. Various men came forward to argue they’d invented everything from the car to the plane to the harnessing of electricity, so let’s chalk up the fecking Internet as just another contest d’urination. The point is, I was astonished when, in my first year of college, a friend helped me discover the not so-World Wide Web on the other side of a TRS-80 computer screen. I had to learn UNIX to even send a message, and I didn’t know UNIX.

Fast forward a few years—okay, 7—and some new hotshot in the office told me to check out this new thing uniting computers all over the world. It was my first look at a browser.

“You can type anything in here,” he said, pointing to the search field in the corner of the Netscape Navigator window, “and there’s an Internet page about it.”

I didn’t like his arrogance. I typed in PORK RINDS.

Number of hits in 1994: zilcho. I declared I had won.

It became my benchmark search term. The next year, Webcrawler returned 13 hits. In 1996, there were 200. Just now, I typed it into Google and got approximately 295,000.

Not many people knew what to do with this thing, and even fewer thought it had any long-lasting potential. Approximately one crazy person named Jeff Bezos envisioned money in what looked like geek folly. Normal people didn’t, after all, use computers. Normal people used cars and televisions and radios, and maybe some self-important people used cell phones the size and weight of small dogs or very large bullfrogs. But they stayed away from computers unless they were at work. Even Bill Gates wrote off the potential of the Web. Okay, he’s not so much a visionary as a Pac-man of technology applications but he was in a great position to haul the Internet banner around, and he didn’t. You get the point.

CNN was just a cable news network. They thought of themselves as innovators, what with the endless flow of breaking news at the bottom of the screen, the quick cuts to intrepid reporters all over the globe, the flashy intro music, and so on. They owned satellites. The sun never set on CNN.

They saw the advent of the Internet and they jumped. And there were a ton of articles, suddenly, online, sometimes with pictures, but mostly not.

They were the first page I pulled up on September 11, 2001, and it was clear the world was ending, because I only saw the CNN logo in the top left corner, a horrible picture of dust-covered people, and a few headlines underneath. I was certain the world would never be the same.

It was a news source that was good for breaking news and for a broad look at what was coming off of the Associated Press wire that day. I didn’t think of it as in-depth news (unless it was Christine Amanpour reporting), certainly.

Like every major Web site and news media outlet, CNN has gone through a lot of revisions over the year, but none so piss poor and lazy as the dawn of the “i Reporter.” They’re posting people’s home videos. What, is America’s Funniest Home Videos not good enough since Bob Saget left? That guy gives me the creeps anyway.

Seriously, during Snowmaggedon—a truly insipid name for a snowstorm—last winter, was iReporting 28 percent of CNN’s content or so? If they’d posted one more video of someone’s crusty porch furniture getting covered in snow, I was going to gouge my eyes out. And people! Bring your furniture the hell inside! If you have enough money for a digital video camera, go get yourself a garage!

CNN posts nothing now except a big fat picture of the people in their articles, a 200-word article, and a bunch of iReporter segments. And ads for Wolf Blitzer and Larry King. There are big chunks for polls, like:

Do you think health care reform will turn the US into whoring, thieving socialists?

YES: 72%

NO: 16%

UNDECIDED: 12%

Right this very minute, the last item in the “Editor’s Choice” is a story about women who are buying “purse theft” insurance. This little bit of newsworthy substance must be critical to millions of American women who anxiously make their way through each day on the lookout for purse snatchers.

Seriously? The House passes health care reform, nearly a dozen people are dead in suicide attacks in Afghanistan, the Israelis, already on the outs for snubbing the US Vice President last week, assassinate a couple of Pakistanis, and the editor’s “choices” are a man who is ashamed to be Irish, the NCAA basketball tournament, the Paralympics, a teacher who really cares about his students, a video game that fetched a lot of money, and PURSE SNATCHERS.

I think there’s someone upstairs at CNN who decided to turn the entire site into a satire of itself, and they’ve started a betting pool on when we’ll all notice.

I know something’s wrong when this news story is better than anything I’ve seen on CNN.com in years:

CNN, I’m done with you. Have a nice life.

Stay “tuned” for Part 3—We lost Gourmet for this Bon Appetite crap? Everett also waxes philosophic at Trans/Plant/Portation.

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2010 3:20 am

    Seriously, during Snowmaggedon—a truly insipid name for a snowstorm—last winter, was iReporting 28 percent of CNN’s content or so? If they’d posted one more video of someone’s crusty porch furniture getting covered in snow, I was going to gouge my eyes out. And people! Bring your furniture the hell inside! If you have enough money for a digital video camera, go get yourself a garage!

    CNN has become the epitome of what I term “clown horn” journalism. They wrote the manual and update it daily. The blogs are the worst. I often wonder where they found those bloggers and why won’t they send them back.

    Ev, this was fantastic and I have finally exhaled. I was totally waiting for this and you did not let me down!

  2. March 22, 2010 7:00 am

    That bear clip was priceless, especially the reenactments of how the bear moves and climbs trees. Though to be fair, that was from a Fox affiliate — and however bad CNN may be, at least they still seem to have some connection with reality.

    I can’t wait to hear what (if anything) you have to say about Fox.

  3. badhedgehog permalink
    March 22, 2010 7:06 am

    Aye, very much so. There was a time, I reckon for UK news websites it was around 2000-2005, where the content was pretty good (like you say, not in-depth news, but a good spread of the day’s stories and a teensy bit of analysis), the design and layout was pretty good, and user-generated content was saved for big breaking stories.

    Since then, everyone, yea even the BBC, has been getting stuck in to the manual of “clown horn” journalism (top phrase! this is exactly what it is!), because you wouldn’t want to get left behind, would you. Sky News has one of the largest and tootiest clown horns currently in operation. I’m glad I clicked on it today, though, or I’d have missed a photo gallery of a tiny baby dressed as various notorious dictators.

  4. evmaroon permalink
    March 22, 2010 10:21 am

    Good point. I was thinking news content vs. news content, kind of like Spy vs. Spy, in which one spy falls out of a moving train while the other has a bomb rigged to the tracks.
    Truth be told, I thought CNN’s cable coverage jumped the shark when during the last election, they stood around a hologram of a reporter and had a circle jerk over their stunning technology. I was agog that of all the things they could create with their hologram, they chose some third rank correspondent.

  5. evmaroon permalink
    March 22, 2010 10:23 am

    It’s really the little things in life, isn’t it? Did they do a Pol Pot recreation? He’s so often overlooked in notorious dictator roundups.

  6. evmaroon permalink
    March 22, 2010 10:25 am

    (You led me right to this response, but here goes.)

    Let me make sure I understand this: you want CNN to send back the clowns? Then they need to all fit into the tiny car again, and I’m not sure that’s possible.

  7. March 22, 2010 10:39 am

    OK I think saying CNN has “some connection with reality” may have been overstating it. How about just CNN is “less obviously propagandic?”

  8. March 22, 2010 10:43 am

    And oh crap I just violated Snarky’s first rule with “I can’t wait to hear what you have to say about…” So I’m going to shut up now.

  9. March 22, 2010 1:17 pm

    “the largest and tootiest clown horns” – I love this.

    I’m ashamed to admit I submitted an iReport 2 years ago. In my defense – Ah, fuck it. I can’t defend myself.

    CNN is still good for the 24-hour reporting of bullshit.

  10. March 22, 2010 4:38 pm

    I’d have missed a photo gallery of a tiny baby dressed as various notorious dictators.

    Please tell me there is a baby dressed as Idi Amin. *honk honk*

    Also, raise your hand if you didn’t google “Pork Rinds”?

  11. March 22, 2010 4:40 pm

    Seriously, I have found myself thinking this. It’s always Stalin and Mussolini and the South American dictator du jour.

  12. March 22, 2010 4:41 pm

    Waitress, there’s a clown in my news item!

  13. March 22, 2010 7:26 pm

    Awesome bit Ev! I tire of most news outlets, online or not. EVERYONE has an angle. Wether it’s politically motivated, or motivated by money (hello, networks using bits about stuff it owns as ‘news), or ratings motivated, no one is really above having an angle anymore.

    I will be interested to see the next bit on Gourmet/Bon Appetite as I am/was an avid reader of both, and actually felt that Gourmet was going downhill before it’s demise.

  14. evmaroon permalink
    March 22, 2010 10:27 pm

    wow, thank you for the link! I’m actually speechless. but just for a minute.

  15. evmaroon permalink
    March 22, 2010 10:33 pm

    I mean, I’m no believer in objectivity, but I also think there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned journalistic standards. CNN appears to have modified these into something that allows for … oh, I don’t know, crap.

    Well, I hope I do the Gourmet/Bon Appetite story justice!

  16. March 23, 2010 3:41 am

    Gah, it was a real bummer when Gourmet peaced out. Now there’s nothing good to read at the doctor’s office.

  17. badhedgehog permalink
    March 23, 2010 5:49 am

    Dictator costumes on the baby: Adolf Hitler; a rather spangly Augusto Pinochet; Ayatollah Khomeini (but that’s a rosary the baby’s holding); Benito Mussolini (very stylish, baby is rocking those jodhpurs); Chairman Mao; Idi Amin (yes! with leopardskin and medals); Joseph Stalin (stick-on moustache, air of somewhat poopy concentration); Saddam Hussein; Slobodan Milosevic

  18. March 23, 2010 9:43 am

    ha. I’m not the boss of you!

  19. March 23, 2010 9:44 am

    Ahhh, they went edgy with Milosevic. Well played!

  20. Bonita permalink
    March 23, 2010 11:01 am

    Get at me if you’re interested in a guest blogger spot

  21. March 23, 2010 11:08 am

    Great. We’ll keep that in mind. In the meantime, don’t be a stranger here.

  22. evmaroon permalink
    March 23, 2010 11:49 am

    sweet!

  23. June 28, 2012 1:32 pm

    You all are just a whole ‘nother bucket of news nutties (not to be taken negatively).
    “Also, raise your hand if you didn’t google “Pork Rinds”?”
    consider my hand raised. I have such trust in Ev, I let it go figuring I google enough shit these days since I can’t trust anyone else. Ev, consider yourself something or other. and redlami beat me to it with the comparison to Fox. Can’t say either is worth a shit. Bravo job, Ev! (as usual)

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