In the Crossfire

God only knows what’s in the Kool-Aid over at CNN these days. The network announced today the end of CNN”S “Crossfire” and it came not a day too soon. I congratulate them. I only wish I was afforded the opportunity to do so long ago! “Crossfire” has been a crabby, cranky program filled with unnecessary hype in an age when people’s reality is regularly distorted. I know few people outside of Washington, D.C. who could watch that program and say it had anything to do with their daily lives, other than perhaps to provide some cheap entertainment, a verbal version of the hyperbolic World Wrestling Federation.

So, I applaud – and loudly – the decision by new CNN/US president Jonathan Klein who canned the misfire of a program. He was quoted in today’s Washington Post as saying viewers need “useful information in a dangerous world and a bunch of guys screaming at each other simply doesn’t accomplish that.” He’s got that right – and apparently much more.

I’ve been working with journalists in newsroom for nearly two decades trying to help them tap into the life of communities and the nation to find and illuminate important stories, cover them as whole stories, and reveal the real tensions and conflicts that exist in them. It can be done. In fact, CNN works pretty hard at it on some of their existing programs.

But more must be done. In fact I am just finishing up a manuscript for a book on how Americans have retreated from politics and public life over the past 15 years; the news media, as we all know, has played a major role in people’s decision to retreat. Now, they must play a role in re-engaging people.

So, CNN has just upped the ante: how can they produce better television news that truly engages the imagination of people. I actually find myself rooting for them this morning.