So, what is CNN?
THIS is CNN in 1998; the link is to a story debunking the network's Peter Arnett and April Oliver, who accused Vietnam soldiers of war crimes in Operation Tailwind.
This is from 2003. The network's Eason Jordan confessed that the network twisted the news out of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, thereby giving false impressions of the regime to the world so that it could maintain its access to the country (the article is posted at the author's web host for fair use and discussion purposes).
Then there's this from 2005. Eason Jordan accused the US military in Iraq of targeting journalists, and ultimately resigned in the wake of the outcry. "Somehow" the actual video footage of Jordan's accusations, made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, never surfaced.
Next, there's this incredible episode from 2006, where the network showed videos of enemy snipers killing American soldiers in Iraq. Even more incredibly, the videos were marketed on corporate affiliate Time Warner Cable as an On Demand offering.
Now there's this -- paying to have a story staged (bolds are mine):
June 8, 2007 -- The steamy e-mails that landed a CNN reporter in the news and out of a job detailed more than his adulterous affair - they revealed that the Africa correspondent apparently admitted paying militiamen to help him stage a story, according to several sources.
For months, Jeff Koinange had been dogged by allegations that in February, he paid off gunmen to put on a show for a story about Nigerian resistance.
The accusations from Nigerian government officials were so strong that CNN gave a denial during a February broadcast.
"CNN did not pay for or stage any part of the report," anchor John Roberts said. "CNN does not pay for interviews."
But a Swiss author - in an e-mail to Koinange's boss, CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton - details a months-long romance with Koinange, and quotes the correspondent as saying he traded cash for the story.
"Of course I had to pay certain people to get the story," Koinange says, according to the e-mail.
"But everything was done in agreement with CNN and in accordance with their usual standards. But you do not get such a story without bribing . . . You have to have financial resources. But at the end, it was worth it. CNN has its story and I have my 'fame.'"
The nearly 10-year track record above explains why CNN's ratings dive continues. Yes, Fox declined 15% last year, but CNN got zero benefit from it, as its audience losses persisted.
CNN's ratings have been on a steady decline since 2003, when it regularly got 689,000 households to tune in each day, to a low of 383,000 last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. For the first six months of this year, it's up to 431,000. Fox News, its younger, more conservative competitor, routinely trounces it in the ratings, often garnering twice the household ratings and recently besting CNN in prime time for key coverage of the presidential debates.
The Ad Age article goes on to note that CNN.com's web traffic is up substantially, as it appears to be a strong force in breaking news.
But that doesn't change the fact that CNN's TV side continues to falter on a relative basis, and will continue to do so as long as the grievous journalistic lapses continue. Though it's relatively difficult to spin news as it immediately happens, the network's web group would be well-advised to keep the traditional TV folks as far away as possible.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.