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September 3, 2005

Crunk News Network

After yesterday. I don't believe I'll watch CNN again for a long time. Aaron Brown's bosom can heave all it wants about "race and class" in flood-ravaged New Orleans; his sighs look hypocritical against that endlessly looping clip of a demented-looking black man woofing at the camera by the Superdome.

Some negative images are newsworthy - looting and dead bodies, for example. We don't want to see them, but up to a point, we must.

But why this guy? Why, out of thousands of people in and around the Superdome, did CNN choose to put a face on the suffering with this bad imitation of "crunk" rapper Lil Jon? Is it because crunk just happens to be the most popular style of rap in the country right now? Is CNN is competing with MTV?

Say it ain't so, Aaron. Your bosom heaves so professionally, I almost forget that your reporters can't seem to make contact with any of the thousands of ordinary people enduring the hunger, thirst, filth, heat, and desperate anxiety of this terrible week. Like President Bush staging a Bill Clinton bear hug with two young girls who despite their brown skin were not African Americans, your intrepid reporters seem incapable of stepping across the divide and actually interacting with "them."

Everyone's bashing the public sector this week, but one of the things it has been doing right is cover this story. In one hour last evening, PBS's "Newshour with Jim Lehrer" reported more about the crisis than ten hours of CNN. Not only did they interview a real reporter, Peter Slevin of the Washington Post, who left the CNN folks bobbing in his wake, they also found some down-to-earth, sensible African Americans to testify what they were going through. Let's hear it for bold investigative reporting!

Posted by mbayles at September 3, 2005 10:54 AM


I agree that the media is embodying the old saying that the hand doesn't know what the head is doing, or something like that. First, they're trying to blame the slow response on racism. they're really trying to slay Bush. Then they're showing images of people that viewers will look at and say that is a crazy dangerous black man and I wouldn't get near him to help him, images that undercut sympathy and that have racist implications. I know such images are news. But an image of a crazy acting white man does not evoke the same response as the image of a crazy black man. For black people the fear is that others will think we are all like that. The real issue is how the media should shape what it shows. Should they say we won't show this because of what people will think? If the man was white would they show him over and over again? To what extent is the media responsible for people's prejudices? One thing I do wish is that the media would stop making excuses for black people behaving badly. I think it makes things worse in the eyes of others who are not black, not better. Just don't give the impression that everyone is like that.

Posted by: Rachel at September 6, 2005 10:06 AM