CNN News University Presents: Media Overkill 101

TODAY'S WOLF BLITZER MEMORIAL LECTURE:
“How to handle a bridge collapse”

Most of us woke up this morning to news that a large bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota collapsed without warning.

Turning on the television after a shower, I found CNN fully engaged in the usual nonsense that passes for broadcast journalism:

  1. Helicopter circling, taking pictures that showed the bridge split into several pieces – the typical earthquake freeway collapse film that could have called up from their archives.
  2. An interview with a high school student who proudly used his high school newspaper “press pass” to get close in so he could describe what he had seen.
  3. A CNN Internet site where I could watch and  “comment” on the collapse.
  4. Absolutely no explanation of why such a large bridge might collapse with no one forewarned.
  5. A quick insert that the bridge ‘probably’ did not collapse due to ‘Al Qaeda’.
  6. Old film showing the river the bridge spanned after torrential rains intimating that the bridge was possibly eroded.
  7. A constant reminded that the death toll would rise – this repeated every two minutes.
  8. No interview with government officials.
  9. No interview with bridge engineers.
  10. No shots of drowning victims.
  11. Lots of good shots of emergency techs running around trying to find people alive.
  12. A switch to cover the stock markets across the world and the race to control the poles because there’s oil in “them thar' hills.”
  13. A piece on reality TV – Indian style.
  14. My PA sent in a comment – “Nothing like a bridge collapse in the morning!”
  15. One of the CNN affiliates just had a helicopter circling the area of the collapse without any sound save the engine noise.
  16. CNN Headline News had another helicopter focusing on what was titled “Carnival Cruise” ship CRASH – and featured a shot of the ship's bow, in port, in New York which looked like it suffered about 17 dollars worth of chipped paint damage – and I am not exaggerating. "Whaddaya got?" said the miked reporter, who may not have known her mike was on. “So Whaddaya got, fire? Ambulance? I'll talk about that last," she laughs –  then yawns, then clucks her tongue. "Is that right? West 56th and 12th Avenue?… Yeah it does… Copy." Now we get a shot of the reporter SITTING in the helicopter. "… And he left already, okay… The ship struck a pier as it was coming into the dock about 730 this morning – fire and ambulances on the scene – no reported injuries at this time.   Of course we will keep you updated – now to the weather with Chris!… What’s that?… Okay." And her mike went off.The cameraman zooms in on a woman strolling around in a bikini on the bow of the ship near its swimming pool.
  17. Meanwhile on CNN, the chopper is still circling with no sound. It loses its signal for a moment – then comes back on. The new anchorbabe keeps saying that 20 people are “missing.” What does that mean? How do they know how many or missing? “… And cars dropped as much as 64 FEET! We’re going to continue to 'work' with the video right here…" – then back to no voice and just shots of bridge, most of which is jutting up from the riverbed. "Just in to us from AP – we learned that the death toll has been lowered to 4 – we’ve been reporting 9 – we are working to confirm that 4 people are dead. It happened just after 6 pm yesterday, spanning the Mississippi River. Daylight has sprung upon Minneapolis!" Laughable.
  18. Of course they had to talk about “the children,” 52 kids on a bus – to which nothing disastrous happened.
  19. Now CNN reports an inspection conducted in 2006 said there were no structural problems on the bridge – gee, guess they were WRONG.
  20. Ah, now the shot of the Mayor saying this is the most tragic nights in Minneapolis history. Rocko Forte is handling it! Shots of children being carried in the arms of dads and fireman – the usual. All available from the archive.
  21. A guy named Ted Wright (for a minute, I thought I'd heard "Ted Knight," the comic actor who played hapless Minneapolis news anchor Ted Baxter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show") is interviewed and says he knows someone who is missing. “I would be happy to know she’s hurt right now… she’s alive.” She was on the cell phone with his fiancé just before. Now that’s a bit better.
  22. The bridge was built in 1967 – a uniquely designed structure – this from the government spokesman. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Toast). He's trying to get out from responsibility for the collapse, claiming that the bridge did not have to be replaced until 2020. However, he notes that there were lights and guardrails being installed at the time of the collapse.
  23. The question, says the CNN bobblehead: "What caused this collapse?" Next came a repeat by another talking head saying that more than half of the 500 bridge collapses in the US were caused by WATER! So – this is the unsaid charge – no one inspected the bridge after the heavy rains which flooded a road underneath the bridge. The bridge would have to be intact the idiot says. Then he says that temperature swings makes bridges unhappy. "Did all those things interact together to cause this collapse?" he posits in different words.
  24. So far there is no discussion that the entire upper Mississippi River is now un-navigable as the collapse spans the entire width of river at this point.
  25. Now we take another few moments to just look at the video.
  26. Gary Banbineau and Andrew Worrall were on the bridge: (paraphrasing) "I was in the blue truck I could see the whole bridge going down as I was falling as it fell all the way to the ground. Just like out of the movies." CNN asks, was your truck in danger of flipping? "Cars were skidding down and falling over me after the collapse except for a white car which did not fall but hung just above me. I stayed in my car – got out real quick – helped a woman off the bridge with me – then I ran back to the school bus. Where our section was resting there was a rocky edge where we could jump of the bridge. I started grabbing kids and handing them down – it was complete chaos – the kids were screaming and crying – some were hurt or cut – some had to be carried. When the bridge hit the ground – my back – I didn’t know if my back was broken – i'ts more sore today than it was yesterday – I am going to get it checked today" (… and then go see his lawyer!) Now Worrall, the kid with the press pass who took pictures, came on. “Have you ever seen anything like this before?” (paraphrasing) "Seeing it in person live it is indescribable – It looked like there were 30-40 cars on the bridge to me. I did not talk to anybody. The police tried to shoo me off once – but they were busy trying to help others and left me alone." “How is this impacting this town?” He was cut off by technical difficulties (snicker).
  27. Chief Clack of the fire department came on: we are worried about the structure… not a rescue operation anymore… a recovery operation. (But wait, what about the missing 20 people?) Chief Tim Dolan comes on: not a lot has changed since last night… we set a perimeter dealing with traffic and pedestrians… we are not gonna let you close to the scene… we know there are numerous other vehicles in the water… the recovery of the vehicles and people in those vehicles is gonna take a long time (Why?)… Our sympathies go out to families involved in this and who don’t have answers… we are dealing with the Mississippi River, we are dealing with currents… I would like to say that we have gotten a lot of assistance from Red Cross and Target with food… we wanna make sure we thank St. Paul… (Huh? This isn’t the Academy Awards, is it?)… I’ve heard that there is controversy on how many dead – we said we don’t know – at this point, and I talked to the coroner – but at this point there are still some unknowns – also we are fighting a bit of data privacy….we will have a report on that later… we had at least six families at the center looking for people – and we have several calls.We never went to seven dead – we will get that from the coroner’s office – they are on scene now. We are estimated that anywhere from 20-30 people unaccounted for, but this is just an estimate. I would expect that the death toll will rise.
  28. Sheriff Stanek comes on. All he proved was the customary sheriff-against-city-police situation: Number of vehicles in the river and on the bridge – thanks the other agencies – we have high tech equipment and GPS – we are treating this as a crime scene because we do not know why the bridge came down (all the reporters eat that line up) – we have sonar and divers – we moved in heavy equipment last night to remove things – we train ad nauseum for events like this – thanks to all the agencies again – recovery mode kicks in – we are thirteen hours into this thing. Again, crime comes up, emphatically: not an act of someone doing it – but are federal partners and Coast Guard are investigating – we expect there will be additional fatalities – too early to speculate. (In other words, they already know there are some dead trapped under water and drowned, and if they say there are more dead there it would hurt the families waiting for news of their family members.)He continues: there are at least a dozen cars under water. But then the CNN news reader says there are 50 cars under the water and the bridge. Huh?
  29. CNN reports there is an emergency center set up at the Holiday Inn – also the Red Cross as usual is asking people to donate blood – although it is not needed for this event.
  30. The bobblehead reports that as of last night 79 total victims and 55 transported with the others going to hospitals on thir own. This fellow from the hospital does not know how many are still in the hospital.
  31. The Red Cross – of course – are there tooting their own horn. They are asking for blood of course.

There you have it. CNN – the first name in exploitation of catastrophe!

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