CNN has parted company with Tucker Carlson and plans to end “Crossfire.
Given the opportunity to explain, Jonathan Klein, the new president of CNN, said he wants to do “roll-up-your-sleeves storytelling, not “head-butting debate. He agrees with Jon Stewart: partisan talk shows are “hurting America.
Kleins motive? I wonder if its that the Liberal Left keeps losing the debates. Time to roll up the forums on which this frequent embarrassment is allowed to happen.
There is a clear division of media by ideology. The Liberal Left has long controlled American storytelling, especially narrative television and the film world, mainstream and alternative. Its good at story telling and it uses it often to prosecute a “critical angle on things (think Judging Amy and American Beauty).
The Right is good at debate and better at “holding forth. This gave it an advantage in the 80s world of radio, and increasing presence in the world of Talk TV.
Is this a new strategy for the Liberal Left and Democratic party, a way to reposition following the election loss of 04? Go with what you know? Stop picking fights you cannot win? (Of course, its possible that the viewership numbers are not strong for Carlson and Crossfire. The Times article is unforthcoming on this key point.)
But heres what makes me suspicious: Kleins choice of phrase when he refers to “roll-up-your-sleeves storytelling. I take the phrase “roll up your sleeves to be a short form for “lets get practical, lets get serious, lets set aside the posturing and engage with the world.
So whats “roll up your sleeves story telling? Two choices: a) a contradiction in terms, or b) a rhetorical effort to position CNN as the party that does “real,” hard headed journalism as against those posers who merely talk.
If its “B, we are looking, perhaps, at two nascent Democrat strategies: Getting out of debates you cannot win and painting the venues so abandoned as clueless and unworldly.
The world might let you get away with the first strategy. But the second? Please. Let’s hope this is just Klein shooting from the hip. Because strategy “B” is not a strategy. It’s a delusion. And this must be the natural weakness of the story teller: to fail to see the limits of the story telling.
Carter, Bill. 2005. CNN Will Cancel Crossfire and Cut Ties to Commentator. New York Times. January 6, 2005. subscription required here