CNN catches the stupid

By Phil Plait | December 3, 2008 9:48 pm

For some reason beyond my ken, CNN is shutting down its science/space/tech division and absorbing it into their general editorial unit. This means less science coverage for sure, since it has to compete with the lowest common denominator of news (if it bleeds…). I’d love to see CNN’s reasoning for this; most polls show people want more science news, not less. Maybe they’re making more room for psychics on the Larry King show.

Miles O’BrienThe other bad news about this is that science journalist Miles O’Brien will be leaving CNN. I like the guy; I met him a long time ago at an astronomy meeting where we chatted for like one minute, but I was struck with how engaging he was. I now follow him on Twitter, and he actually sends out tweets while on the air (though off-camera). How cool is that? We recently reconnected because of Twitter, and talking with him once again reminded me that when it comes to science (and especially the Shuttle) reporting, he’s a solid guy.

He’s really good, and knows his stuff, and I’m sure he’ll land on his feet.

CNN though, maybe not so much. Despite the level-headed move of dropping that loudmouth know-nothing Glenn Beck [Note added: some commenters are unhappy I said this, either disagreeing with my statement or asking for evidence. OK, try here and here. I stand by my statement: Glenn Beck is a bloviating know-nothing.], this move to let go of science and tech reporting is as bone-headed as it gets. President-elect Obama has made it clear that science is one of his many priorities. We depend on science and technology information every single day of our lives. People love it, and people need it. Now CNN will be serving up less of it, when we need it most.

I’m thinking it’s CNN we don’t need as much, certainly not anymore. Sorry, Ted Turner., but this is plain stupid. You screwed this one up royally, and you’ve lost one viewer for sure.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind, Science

Comments (105)

  1. Your last sentence says it for me. I was already migrating away from CNN due to it’s more spectacular reporting habits and this just cinches it for me. Like you and many others, science, space and tech reporting are what I search for, what I want to see. So if CNN drops this I’m gone.

    Just the loss of Miles O’Brien is enough for me to leave CNN. Shoddy work CNN.
    You’ll soon realize your mistake and then it’ll be too late to get Miles back. Because he will have moved on to bigger and better things.

  2. b!X

    It’s the age of new media, Miles. Go start your own science/space news website (or find a current new media mogul whose network currently lacks one).

  3. b!X

    That was meant supportively, not snottily.

  4. Aw hell, Phil, I just got home from class and had an email about this and saw it on Twitter… Miles is a great guy. He interviewed Mark for a really neat segment on space music and our work with planetariums a few years ago and he was really a lot of fun to talk to. I’ve seen him around at a few places and always impressed with his work. I hope he lands on his feet, too!

    What is wrong with journalism in this country? It seems to be afraid of science even more so than when I was back in grad school combining astronomy with studies in science writing. Even then I got attitude from my profs about how “nobody” wanted to read science; yet, when I wrote books or did talks or interviews, people were fascinated with astronomy and space — and I don’t think that’s changed. What’s changed is that somebody upstairs at CNN doesn’t see $$$ in science reporting. Guess there’s more money in underestimating viewers.

    Makes me ashamed some days to admit that I once studied journalism. Back when it meant something to BE a journalist.

    Good luck to Miles!

  5. Oh yes, I agree that CNN has lost its edge. The stupidly slanted coverage in politics was dismaying; but I kept watching for a while because I thought maybe CNN would get its edge back. It hasn’t. In fact, it has infected the style of many other newsrooms — if anybody watched the live coverage from India of the Mumbai violence and carnage, the coverage was like breathless CNN on steroids without conscience. I’m sure the reporters in the street were appalled at what they saw, but the breathless reportage and emotional “insert the reporter into the scene” practice was really glaring. And, I think that the IDN or whatever it was is affliated with CNN and probably picked up some of the worst habits of “on scene” reportage from CNN.

    So yeah, count me out. I’ve removed CNN from my daily reads. There’s GOT to be a better place to get one’s news.

    ah yes… here’s the Beeb…

  6. Jeremy

    So Phil, where DO you recommend going for science news?

  7. Jeremy: On TV? Nowhere. It’s a lost cause. get your science news online. I have sites in my blogroll in the sidebar, and they’ll have more in theirs. Find what you like, bookmark/add them to your feedreader.

  8. Scott

    I pretty much gave up on television for getting news about anything. I find the internet to be far better.

  9. Troy

    I haven’t had cable for about 5 years now, but I do recall CNN was usually the only network that would give live and full airings of shuttle and other launches which I appreciated very much. They’ve always had a bit of a bimbo and himbo problem no question. It would be regrettable if increased competition has led to only the showing of events and footage that the vulgar masses flock to like some sort of bait pile.

  10. OtherRob

    Hey, Phil, just so you know, Ted Turner hasn’t been involved with CNN for a long time.

  11. Lisa

    If I had cable, I’d stop watching CNN. I find it difficult to understand why they are doing this. They are just around the corner from a very good school, Ga Tech (where my husband is a student). And it’s not like there is a lack of science going on in the world.

  12. While I like O’Brien, he did do a whole week long series on Aliens, UFO’s and Alien Abductions last week. I agree, you really cannot find much science news on TV. Up here in Canada, we have Daily Planet on the Discovery Channel, but I really can’t stand the hosts.

  13. Now Miles can go back to his old job in Engineering on Deep Space Nine.

  14. Greg in Austin

    Anybody remember when CNN reported news 24/7? Now there are more people screaming at each other instead of investigating & reporting. Their Science and Tech sections on their website sometimes are not updated for days.

    What’s sad is that I often get more news about the Shuttle and ISS from Drudgereport. What’s even sadder is those news articles are often from the BBC.

    Science News from AP is usually pretty on the ball.


  15. Jamie G.

    During the elections I thought CNN almost got it, but then not quite. They have that face you get when you think you recognize someone you know back in high school 20 years ago, but your not quite sure, so you don’t approach them and forget about it. I hope someday the light bulb switches on, if not CNN, someone else.

    Speaking of science on TV… boy, has the Discovery Channel gone to pot lately with all the woo.

  16. Supernova

    @GuanoLad: I think that EVERY time I see his name. What hopeless geeks we are. :)

  17. Ann

    I hate to see Miles go. Maybe there will be a Science News Channel (and I’m not talking about the boring NASA channel)

  18. What do you mean drop Glenn Beck? The man published a book with answers to every major, pressing issue in the world today. Seriously, the man knows everything. (Well, according to himself.) How can you possibly drop an omniscient demigod from your lineup? Shame on you commie scientists!

    With that out of my system, the real reason why CNN is doing this.

    They need to catch up with Fox News and MSNBC which have dropped intensive, serious fact driven reporting and analysis with talking heads and fattened up their profits because pundits don’t need to be fair, balanced or even knowledgeable about their topic, saving money on research and news gathering operations. All they need to do is cause enough drama to glue enough eyeballs to the screen. CNN is following suit and trying to save tens of millions of dollars by not reporting difficult, tedious science news that require fact checks, analysis and explanations. They’d rather leave this task to AP and Reuters and just absorb this syndicated content into their site and headline news reporting. I don’t think that the quality will necessarily drop and the quantity would probably be the same or very similar. But anything original or in depth would be MIA. It would be the same generic stuff you can find anywhere.

    And yes, Ted Turned sold CNN a long, long, long, long time ago for ridiculous amounts of money so he was definitely not the person responsible for this decision.

  19. Shawn Shelton

    Thanks for letting us know. I just finished writing CNN and complaining. I made sure I told them they had just lost a viewer.

    Sheesh. Susan Jacoby must be shaking her head sadly over this. It just further supports the thesis of her book on the dumbing down of the US.

  20. Tim in Seattle

    That “loudmouth know-nothing Glenn Beck” huh? I can hear your reply already… “come on, I was joking, lighten up man”. That would be an appropriate response given that Glenn predicted the economic disaster a year ago, warned of terrorist plots on soft targets a year ago, and openly criticized McCain’s policies and predicted is defeat over a year ago. This know-nothing is someone all of us should pay attention to — or you can continue living with your head in the sand. I’ll defend the self-made, intelligent, articulate, wise, and caring Glenn Beck like he’s family. How many people will say that about you, huh?

  21. Quiet Desperation

    Meh. All the news channels have fallen into nonsense. Even Fox news was OK when it first started. None of them seem to actually do a news hour anymore. It’s all opinion and pundit shows now, even on CNN.

    Speaking of science on TV… boy, has the Discovery Channel gone to pot lately with all the woo.

    True, but as long as they keep coming up with gems like Storm Chasers I’ll stick with them. Season finale next Sunday! Will the TIV2 get it’s tornado intercept?

    And the recent Planet Earth miniseries was one of the finest nature documentaries I’ve ever seen.

  22. Sprocket

    The Guardian (British liberal daily) dropped almost all its science reporting a couple of years ago, after spending nearly 50 million pounds to upgrade the presses. Apart from the excellent Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column once a week, it’s utterly barren of serious science reporting. They also cut down on news (bizarre move for a left- leaning paper), replacing it largely with blather- sorry, opinion. Like the CNN changes, it’s a symptom of the editorial effort being led by scientifically illiterate designers who are interested only in impact, not the content.

  23. As a foreigner I’ve always regarded CNN as simply a US nationalistic propaganda channel. Well, maybe I was wrong, or maybe not. It doen’t seem relevant anymore, anyway.

  24. guestwork

    Miles is ace material, one of the maybe three space journalists out there who really know the stuff they’re talking about, mostly due to an almost child-like enthusiasm about all things space. Plus he’s able to transmit that enthusiasm and get even the most abstract concepts out to the Joe Sixpacks on the other side of the screen without dumbing down the reporting too too much. Sorry to see him leave CNN (screw them), it really is a bit of an end of an era that way, but I’m sure he’ll find something else soon enough. A part of me wishes NASA PAO would hire him…

  25. Alan Haggard

    This is just yet another example of how television news (particularly 24 hour news networks) is/are becoming increasingly idiotic, archaic, and irrelevant (when not being used/abused for propaganda purposes, which tends to occur more now than ever). Fox News & MSNBC are by far the worst culprits. I’ve always regarded CNN as the lesser of the two (or three or more) evils, but after reading this I’m starting to rethink my prior assessments. But I digress.. the only reason I watch television is for entertainment. The things that entertain me most tend to be comedic in nature (Adult Swim seems to fill this niche nicely, as well as Comedy Central in small doses) or if it’s something I find particularly interesting or enlightening, like the History Channel for example, the Discovery Channel, PBS or Discovery HD, Discovery Science, National Geographic, etc. When it comes to the news I stick to the internet (mostly) and in some cases, printed media. Ironically, one of the first things I do upon waking is read the news articles found in widgets on my iGoogle homepage, primarily from the following sites:

    Reuters top stories, BBC top stories, Google’s top stories, Yahoo’s top stories, Yahoo health news,,, Discovery (Channel) News, Scientific American, New Scientist, New Scientist: Space,, Discover (Magazine), National Geographic, Slashdot, Gizmodo, WebMD, Digg, Seed Magazine, ScienceDaily,,,, Google Reader w/ various RSS feeds, etc.

    ^ This is more than enough to quench any thirst for “news” I might have, but mostly to inform me of the latest advances in the topics that interest me most. TV news is submoronic trash compared to this.

  26. Kit

    Apparently they’re getting rid of it because “Planet in Peril”/Anderson Cooper 360 covers the environment so there was no need for a separate sci/tech unit.

    Because sending tight-pantsed hotties into the rainforest to make you cry is totally an all-encompassing report of scientific/astronomical/medical/technological discoveries. I can’t wait to see Anderson Cooper report on breakthroughs in stem cell research while cuddling a three-toed sloth in the jungle.

    I respect what the show does/tries to do, but … what an absurd reason to get rid of such a great reporter and news team.

  27. Michelle

    I used to read CNN’s website a few times daily. Now I don’t anymore. Why? Cuz they’re beyond boring, and I feel like they have sunk down to Fox’s level.

    I’m not weeping so much.

  28. J. D. Mack

    I hardly watch TV at all any more, but during the week before Thanksgiving, I found myself on a cruise ship that carried CNN on their satellite TV. I was dismayed at how poorly CNN presents the news. The reporting of the U.S. financial crises seemed intent on inducing panic. The rest of the time was filled with non-news, such as the fact that an anchor had not worn a tie the day before.

    Guess I’ll just continue to get my news from blogs ; ).

    J. D.

  29. silvermike

    Can’t O’Brien just get his job back on Deep Space 9?

  30. It was the offering the headline t-shirts that was the last straw of credibility lost with me, but I’ve long been annoyed by their dozen headlines covering one subject.

    They also seemed to have a UFO story every day last week. What the hey was up with that?

  31. I actually followed politics this cycle and it started at CNN – ended up at MSNBC long before the election for most of the news though – so at least to me – thier political coverage was lacking something

    Now that theyre dropping science I doubt ill ever end up back at CNN for news, maybe a combination of msnbc, the new york times and This is grossly disapointing.

    Obama better not touch the moon –> mars thing if only to make it move along better or faster. And Miles OBrien — I appreciated your coverage of the little bit of space and science that CNN allowed. I hope somebody else picks you up soon. If you read Bad Astronomy. Here-here and goodluck.

  32. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!? Best of luck to Mr. O’Brien. Wonder what “Franko” will do if there is no Sci-Tech blog?

  33. Starviking


    This is on top of Aviation Week & Space Technology giving their veteran space reporters the boot last week.

    Interesting to see what gets the boot when there’s a recession.

  34. Sion

    I often wonder about what I’d miss if I ever leave the UK for far-off climes and it usually will include the BBC. It’s not perfect, not by a long way, but from what I’ve seen elsewhere on this planet, it is easily the best of what is available.
    Wouldn’t miss the weather, though.

  35. Japhy

    I first thought CNN started to nose dive in the integrity department when they ousted Aaron Brown for Anderson Cooper, just because Cooper threw a fit during the Katrina coverage. He made the news rather than report the news and they rewarded him for doing so by replacing a seasoned, respected anchorman.

    I’ll always remember Mile’s coverage of the Columbia disaster. He was educational, informative, and on top of the story with his connections to NASA. Any major space news will not be the same now on CNN and I will stop watching CNN now altogether.

    (I can’t stand Wolf anyway)

  36. Sir Struggle

    They’re following the same trend that other channels have (unfortunately) followed over the past few years. I blame ESPN for starting it 8 years ago, and has become unwatchable with their OVERLY opinionated shows. FOX News and MSNBC are just as bad.

    Apparently, we aren’t allowed to watch/read the news and formulate our own opinions anymore. We’re just given our opinions ahead of time. I’m glad they saved me the trouble of having to think about it.

    Even the last bastion of hope, the Discovery Channel, is now completely corrupt with the highest bidder getting their message broadcast ahead of more level headed types. I honestly want to know what percentage of the population really watches Whale Wars and doesn’t just want both sides to sink immediately into icy water. No, I don’t agree with the whaling around Antarctica either, but actively promoting terrorism isn’t the best way to win me over to your cause…..Sorry.

  37. Technogeek

    There’s a joke about CNN’s hologram technology in there somewhere.

  38. kurt_eh

    Who needs science coverage anyways. What ‘merika really wants to know is detailed reporting of the exact instant every time Britany Lohan passes gas!

  39. Annette

    Michael L Says:

    “While I like O’Brien, he did do a whole week long series on Aliens, UFO’s and Alien Abductions last week. I agree, you really cannot find much science news on TV. Up here in Canada, we have Daily Planet on the Discovery Channel, but I really can’t stand the hosts.”

    Jay Ingram is a good host and he is quite the astronomy geek it seems. However I just don’t understand the females that they keep bringing in with no scientific credentials at all. It just irritates me to have someone presenting news on my passion when all they are is a pretty face that really couldn’t care less what they were reporting on. The last two were also in dire need of a sammich.

    CNN is on my TV all day but they have now lost me as a viewer. Granted, I get all of my science news online but what they did is a blatant slap in the face so out of principle, I’m switching. It is the average Joe who doesn’t scour the internet for science news like myself who will be missing out, and in return it will decrease public awareness and appreciation of the work being done. This will only add to all of this narrowminded nonsense like “NASA is such a waste of money. Who cares about recycled pee when the economy is crashing?” while the person is enjoying luxuries and benefits of NASA research every day.

    This world is ruled by the wrong people and the general public doesn’t know whats good for them, as they are led to believe that more “things” will make them happy even though it never cures their sadness. If the leaders were scientists and engineers, we would probably have most of the worlds issues solved (like hunger, environmental disaster, and disease) along with some Star Trek quality exploration going on instead of war after war after war.

    In all, bad move CNN. I’m disgusted.

  40. carbonUnit

    @Technogeek: “beam me up, Scotty – there’s not intelligent live on this network”

    CNN’s slide began for me when Headline News ceased to be, well, headline news. Now the evening is full of idiot talking heads, especially Larry King and Nancy “where’s Caylee” Grace. Crackpot News Network…

  41. Annette

    Jamie G says: “Speaking of science on TV… boy, has the Discovery Channel gone to pot lately with all the woo”

    No kidding. Can someone please tell me what “Canada’s Worst Driver”, “Canada’s Worst Handyman”, and “Cash Cab” have to do with science and technology?

  42. From the Hive Overmind (aka DISCOVER management):

    Ummmm. I don’t want to overstep my bounds here, but how about coming to for your daily science news and commentary? We have a fantastic news blog (80 Beats) edited by a brilliant woman (Eliza Strickland).

    Like CNN we’re trying to run a media business in a very tough environment. Unlike them, we’re totally committed to good science.

  43. If you can get us a preview/edit function on Blog comments, you are in no way overstepping your bounds Mr. Lowry.

    If you can’t get us that, then I say HERESY! There are no other blogs worthy other than Bad Astronomy! 😛

  44. MDF


    Glad to stumble upon another AW&ST reader. Kicking their space reporters just furthers my perception of that magazine turning into an economics rag rather than a ‘Technology’ magazine.


  45. AW&ST: As we call it in the military “Aviation Leak and Spy Technology”. 😀

  46. How much Brien is leaving CNN? Miles O’Brien!

  47. Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)


    Another lobe of the Hive Overmind here. We’re working on comment preview! Hopefully in January. Srsly.

  48. RL

    Hey! Hands off Cash Cab. Its a great show!

  49. Phil B.

    I don’t have a problem with CNNs politics, but I stopped watching a couple of years ago when they chose to devote nearly a week of 24 hour coverage of Anna Nichole Smiths death.

    Meanwhile MSNBS is mostly editorializing and prison shows. And theres no way in Hell I’m watching FOX. Its gotten to the point where I get my news from the radio and And of course, God bless BA for being THE source for space and science news.

  50. Spacemoose

    This is kind of off topic but has anyone watched the History channel’s “Universe” series? I am halfway through Season 2 right now and it’s amazing. Way to go History Channel!:)

  51. Thanks for the info Mr. Kenigsberg! That’s actually great news! Time to have two tabs on Discover Magazine open at all times now! :)

    Hey, Dr. Plait, these Hive Overmind folks don’t seem to be all bad. :) Looks like you really know how to pick who you associate with.

  52. Boomer

    Man that sucks. I liked Miles O’Brien too… I was impressed with his coverage of the Mars probes and shuttle missions, he was refreshingly knowledgeable about space and science in general. Hope MSNBC picks him up!

  53. @Annette,
    It’s the female hosts that annoy me. I’m not being sexist, but, they really do not know anything about science, and it’s quite clear. Honestly, I can almost hear Ingram groaning at times, especially with the newest hostess they have.

    @ Tim in Seattle:

    Please tell me YOU are joking? Surely, you do not believe that Beck has any credibility? Especially after having such renowned “expert” analysts as Tim LaHaye, (“Left Behind”, author, talking about end of days events), renowned and well respected religious leader, John Hagee, giving his “expert” take on world events, and Ben Stein. Beck is nothing more than a blabbering idiot. For further proof of that, Beck, technically was not fired, but lured away from CNN by that bastion of fair and balanced news broadcasting Faux News.

  54. TruthSpeaker

    “…that loudmouth know-nothing Glenn Beck…”

    I require evidence that supports the claim you are making before I consider accepting it as true.

  55. Just one more reason not to watch CNN.

    Dear NASA – hire Miles and get him on your ‘educational channel’ that has absolutely the most interesting stuff visually on it – but usually there is no soundtrack. I usually flip past this with the kids and there is always a cool shot of the shuttle or ISS but no one is telling us what we are looking at – just tech chatter from mission control.

  56. Curt

    As others have already noted, Ted Turner no longer has anything to do with the operations of CNN. In fact, he has expressed his disappointment in what CNN has evolved into. When he founded the network in 1980, his dream was to emulate the status and reputation of the The New York Times newspaper–not the N.Y. Post, but the N.Y. Times. And, from my perspective, that was indeed what happened. For a little more than 20 years, that is. But in recent years, as most loyal viewers probably agree with, the network has taken a giant turn away from respectable journalism. The decision to do away with the science and technology division is just one more reason not to watch CNN anymore. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any other television/cable networks filling the void. But Ted Turner is not to blame.

  57. TruthSpeaker, would Glenn Beck acting like a moron at least give you pause?

    * Glenn Beck, anchor for CNN Headline News, predicted on 2006-AUG-09 that AUG-22:

    “… is the day that Israel might be wiped off the map, leading to all-out Armageddon. … [It] could be the day that Agnostics get down on one knee and start to pray, ‘Sweet Jesus, are you coming today’? ”

    And he is bloody loud! I think when he gets excited he rates at about 110dB. 😉

  58. CincyJeff

    Just another step in the “dumbing down of America”. I believe a couple of real news channels, valid educational channels (no monster hunting and speculative science, please!), maybe a few movie channels that didn’t thrive on gore and grisly fare, and some sports that were less gladitorial would be adequate. There isn’t enough quality content to justify hundreds of channels. Now that the populace has become little more than programmed cattle, TV just provides what they’ve been taught to crave by the large corporations that own them. A vast wasteland, indeed.

  59. tacitus

    I require evidence that supports the claim you are making before I consider accepting it as true.

    Then I submit about 1,000 hours of video tape of just about every show he made for CNN during his tenure there. He may have the gift of the gab, but every time he uses his gab is proof that he is a know-nothing.

  60. Wayne

    “Glenn Beck, anchor for CNN Headline News”…

    You seriously thought he was a news anchor?? He had an opinion show, and stated often that he had a conservative bias and wasn’t a news person. Granted, he was on a “news” channel, but he never claimed to be a news anchor. I put up with his silliness and loudness because he talked about things that nobody else was talking about.

  61. IVAN3MAN

    Larian LeQuella: “And [Glenn Beck] is bloody loud! I think when he gets excited he rates at about 110dB.”

    That’s because empty vessels always make the most noise.

  62. Rodney

    They lost me when the hired Glenn Beck. (That’s why this is the first I’ve heard of him being gone).

    I hope you’re right about O’Brien landing on his feet. I’m beginning to think that being a solid journalist counts against you getting a job on TV news but I remain hopeful.

    CNN could have gotten me back, as a viewer, by losing Glenn Beck but this cancels it out for me.

    They probably have to get rid of O’Brien, and the whole science/tech department, before can they make their big, secret move to get Han-Nutty over from FOX.

    That’ll up the ratings for sure!

    We need the fairness doctrine back…


  63. Oops, my bad, that was from a post on a debunking about the end of the world as we know it site. I didn’t QC it regarding his status before I pasted that particular bit in.

  64. Annette

    Michael L: No, there is nothing sexist about saying that – I’m a woman and it makes me all the more offended when they choose a pretty talking head rather than scientist who knows what she is talking about. I’ve been saying it ever since Gill Deacon left – at least that woman was an educator prior and had a lot of knowledge on environmental issues. =

    RL: It may be a good show but it needs to say off of my darn science and technology channel. 😛 When I was a kid I got hooked on Discovery’s documentaries and coverage on everything from the ancient pyramids to alien “what if” specials. “Frontiers of Construction” even inspired me to become an engineer during my first year of university when I was confused about the future and didn’t know what professions there were outside of my little village of 400 people. It opened up the world to me. This is one of the many reasons why channels like CNN need to keep the information flowing. But it seems that now, the documentaries are few and far between and most of the engineering type shows have been replaced with reality TV.

  65. Tom

    It all reminds me of the “Parlor Walls”. With my wife’s friends always screaming.

    Soon it won’t be a 52″ screen mounted to the wall but the whole wall itself. Then we’ll have to have two television walls…

    I gave up on TV a long while ago. CNN et al. are only looking for the quick buck from the sensation, the controversy or the blood guts and gore. They’ll all soon regret where they’ve gone.

    Thanks Phil for taking the time and energy to make media available for us that’s outside the TV mumbo jumbo.

  66. Jim PhD

    I have to agree with OtherRob.

    Blaming Ted Turner is sort of like blaming Bob Guccione for everything on your blog and in Discover Magazine.

  67. Truthspeaker:
    You want evidence that Beck knows nothing?

    Just watch his show… actually, right now you can’t. You’ll have to wait til Spring when it debuts on Faux News.

  68. gopher65

    Miles O’Brien is one of the few science reporters that I like. I first noticed him about 7 years ago on CNN, and I’ve been a fan of him ever since (well, as much as you can be a fan of a reporter… you know what I mean).

  69. Gary

    This is unfortunate. I don’t watch TV much anymore, but now I know I don’t need CNN in my bookmarks toolbar.

  70. Phil – CNN caught the stoopid again just yesterday morning. Robin Meade (“Robin in the Morning”), while talking about the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and Luna in our evening skies, said that, “This is the most important ASTROLOGICAL event of the year.” (emphasis added) This was accompanied by a nice astro photo of the conjunction.

    The Main Stream Media (MSM) is already pretty stoopid about science. (I’m speaking from experience here, on both sides of the mic.)

    We get the quality of media coverage that we demand. As long as the ratings for fru-fru programs are high (think the latest celebrity gossip show), then the MSM will put there energy there.

    This is, of course, a catch-22. Folks see that CNN spends an hour a day on Bradjelina, and zero time on science, and infers that the stories with the coverage must be the more important topics.

    Thanks Phil – keep up the good fight! (And I’ll keep doing my wee little bit from the studios of public radio WNMC-fm.)

  71. Beelzebud

    Glenn Beck is the reason CNN Headline News got blocked on my TV.

    Oh and as others have mentioned, Ted Turner isn’t involved in CNN, and hasn’t been for quite some time. Which is a shame really, because he was the reason CNN had a science division. On the Cosmos DVD set there is a lengthy interview Turner did with the late great Carl Sagan that is worth checking out.

  72. bjn

    What’s really sad is the state of reporting across the board and the decline of all news media. The intertubes are killing good, well-funded journalism (by killing the business models that supported it) and it’s not surprising to have the niche of science journalism getting the axe. Blogs are great, but they’re not a substitute for journalism. We need a new model for electronic news that will pay for top journalistic talent and investigation.

  73. I pretty much stopped looking to American news services for coverage of the Middle East. Now I look to the BBC and others. I recommend Al-Jazeerah English, although its bias tends to be slightly in favor of the various Arab Monarchs.

    I used to watch CNN about six or seven years ago. They really seemed to have a bead on most situations. I remember for the longest time my internet homepage was Now it’s kind of like- CNN, meh.

    The science angle in particular is depressing, because I remember being up at three in the morning when CNN had live exhaustive coverage of the John Glenn shuttle launch (STS-95). I remember I was fourteen at the time, my parents had gone to bed. I was on the other side of the world at the time, which is why it was so late. The CNN crew talked to scientists, and Clinton (who thanked them for their extensive coverage), and it was very good reporting.

    Now we have things like the CNN website repeating that myth that you can look at an eclipse through photo film.

    How the mighty have fallen…

    I liked like Miles O’Brien too.

  74. Forgot to add, Turner hasn’t been involved in CNN for a while. Ever since the AOL buyout (I think).

  75. Chris A.

    Two words to explain why I gave up on CNN years ago: Nancy Grace. Pure tabloid trash (and I’m referring to both what’s being reported and who’s reporting it here).

    @Tim in Seattle: You need a reason to loathe Glenn Beck? How about his sophomoric joking about Heath Ledger’s death before the body was cold, just because Ledger acted in a movie that Beck found distasteful (“Brokeback Mountain”)? I wonder if Beck would mock Luca Lionello (who played Judas Iscariot in “The Passion of the Christ”) should he (God forbid) die prematurely? What a tool.

    Then again, Tim is probably a troll, and I just rose to the bait. Mea culpa.

  76. Tina in Spokane

    I thought CNN went downhill when they gave Glenn Beck a show and Headline News no longer carried the Headline News. I liked being able to tune in to Headline and get news when the other networks were carrying “talk shows”. I’m certainly happy to see Beck gone, but I rarely watch CNN anymore. For politics I go to MSNBC, for other news I go to CNN online, BBC and Reuters.
    I will really miss Miles.

  77. Shawn Shelton

    “I’ll defend the self-made, intelligent, articulate, wise, and caring Glenn Beck like he’s family. How many people will say that about you, huh?” – Tim in Seattle

    More than you think, buddy. Beck has made more idiotic comments than wise ones. The ones you mentioned are probably the entire list of intelligent comments he has made. A broken (analog) clock is right twice a day. Beck’s social commentaries are moronic and bigoted. It’s like Ben Stein, I’m sure he’s a brilliant guy as far as his field goes, but I don’t avoid calling him a complete jackass because I’m afraid that doesn’t apply to his economics expertise.

    Dr. Plait knows we got his back. :)

  78. TruthSpeaker

    In my earlier post I made the skeptical, scientific, and rational request for evidence of BA’s statement that, “…that loudmouth know-nothing Glenn Beck…”

    As I type this reply, the evidence I have recieved includes…

    From Tacitus: “Then I submit about 1,000 hours of video tape of just about every show he made for CNN during his tenure there. He may have the gift of the gab, but every time he uses his gab is proof that he is a know-nothing.”

    From Michael L: “Just watch his show…”

    –Way to go providing actual evidence rather than just broad generalizations. Isn’t that what we criticize the “psychics” and others for doing?

    Good job skeptics :-(

    From Michael L: “Just watch his show…”

  79. Miguel

    I’m with Tim and Truthspeaker. If you are going to call someone loudmouthed and know nothing, it’s pretty poor form to do it with no evidence or reasoning. It sort of makes you seem like a loudmouthed know nothing.

    Shawn Stein is worse — calling him a bigot without providing a reason. That truly makes Shawn Stein the bigot (i.e., a person who firmly holds to blind opinions without caring about supporting reasons).

  80. I think Glenn Beck’s lack of rationality is self-evident, but if you want evidence, try here or here.

  81. changcho

    BYe bye CNN, you’re going down the toilet and I’m not following…And yes, G. Beck was an irrational loudmouth.

  82. Truthspeaker:
    You want evidence Beck is does not know what he’s talking about?

    Here’s proof:


    And here: (I remember being shocked when I saw this on his show)

    Now, if you would be so kind as to provide proof that Glenn Beck is a competent journalist with even the slightest understanding of current events, please, let us know.

  83. Radwaste

    You guys, don’t forget that the network guys suck, too. I just watched some idiot state with horror that a bank sponsoring a ritzy art show was actually seeking new clients. The nerve!

    Hey, newspeople! How come you don’t seem to hire anyone who knows anything? There are hundreds of underemployed actors who know more than your writers do about any subject. Just go ask them!

  84. Richard

    The same kind of situation cropped up at the local Borders. A year ago, there was at least 10 feet of shelving for science books. I was always enthralled wondering if I’ll get another Stephen Jay Gould book, or maybe something from Michio Kaku.

    This year, I stepped on over to the science section and saw that it was now little more than 4 feet. I had a bad feeling that if I turned around that I’d see something equally disturbing.

    Sure enough, the Religion and Spirituality section had more than doubled what Science ever had.

    I was severely disappointed by all of this. Sham books about “the other side” got better reception than the latest discoveries from Nature herself.

    Just, totally sad.

  85. Negatron


    Did you look at the links Phil provided? duh…

    btw Phil,

    The second link takes me to the Vonnegut thread.

    “busy, busy, busy…”

  86. CNN cans Miles because you don’t let CNN accountants know that you care about space and technology.

    That’s where you go to tell the network directly what poor choices they are making. Put up or shut up!

  87. Mark Wilcox

    I think too much is being made of this. CNN is just one component of a much larger news conglomerate called TimesWarner that is trying to cut down to core competencies. This is similar to what they have done in the past – in particular in the past year.

    For example – they killed an entire network – CNNFN. They still do finance news. And there is even a pretty major finance section on Which actually links to other TW magazines (like Inc or Forbes). I imagine that will be the same as with Sci/Tech.

    They will still cover any major sci/tech news – just won’t have anyone working in CNN Center every day on sci/tech stories.

    But given then plethora of tv choices plus Internet-media, there are plenty of options.

    And if you want sci-tech stuff to get more attention – then make better product and get good at communicating the message (e.g. marketing and pr).

    The “woo” gets more attention because they make better product and really understand the marketing/PR side of the business. That is something the “non-woo” crowd must get better at.

  88. Chris A.

    Okay, I have to retract my earlier post. It was John Gibson who mocked Heath Ledger’s death, not Glenn Beck. I apologize for the mistake.

    But Beck’s still a tool, as has been amply demonstrated by others’ posts here.

  89. Franko

    Miles O’Brien knows the skeletons in the scientists’ closets
    Not a dog, but an unchained newshound, eating the oppotunity
    After a rest, starting with guest appereances ?

  90. Starviking


    Not a AW&ST reader per se – as a Japan-resident Brit I just haven’t had the chance to read it much. Some of the AW Blogs are good – I hang out on the ARES blog there.

  91. Jeffersonian

    @Tim in Seattle
    “Glenn predicted the economic disaster a year ago,”
    Since it was a chief issue of the 2004 election (given the continued cost of the war and ensuing debt to China), and that millions of us saw it coming, that’s not exactly impressive. In fact if he only figured it out a year ago, he’s pretty dense for a news commentator.

    “criticized McCain’s policies and predicted is defeat over a year ago”
    With, say, 5 major candidates in a race, you can predict the failure of one of them with 80% odds of success. Easy.
    I’d be impressed with him if he ever ran retractions on all the **** he claims daily. But no, he just moves on to more falsehoods.

  92. Jeffersonian

    @Richard Says:
    “Sure enough, the Religion and Spirituality section had more than doubled what Science ever had.”

    I was reading that in times of economic growth, interest in knowledge and facts grows, vice versa in times of economic hardships where people turn to the mystical and supernatural and your discovery fits that model with Borders meeting those wants.

  93. Wait…what? I only made it through about half of the comments extolling the greatness of Mr. O’Brien before having to finally say – are you kidding me? Yes, he seemed relatively informed about some science stories like the shuttle and rover missions. Wait, as the science correspondent (since being bumped from the main desk) isn’t that the only thing he has to do?? After the ufo special last week, how anyone can claim he is good for science education (or skepticism) is beyond me. While he didn’t come straight out and say he saw an alien ship he made it clear several times that he saw something that “can’t be explained”. Ugh! With all of the wonderful scientists and skeptics and skeptical groups like Phil and the JREF and the NYC Skeptics (based two blocks from O’Brien’s Manhattan apartment) at his disposal, why couldn’t he present a single skeptical alternative to the multitude of true believers he trotted before millions of viewers every morning? He only mildly redeemed himself with one piece on SETI – but an entire segment on Roswell!?!? How’s that for breaking news! I think the X-Files gave that whole nonsense a more balanced presentation. I thought I was having a flashback of some bad Unsolved Mysteries episode from the 80’s Robert Stack – now that was science journalism!

    Was he trying to save his job with a week-long tabloid fluff piece? He should have gone out with a little class at least. By the end of it, I was left wondering if Hoagland’s voicemail was full, so they couldn’t broadcast some of his ravings.
    To the end of cnn’s science reporting, that’s too bad but not unexpected. As for Mr. O’brien, good riddance.

  94. Franko

    Miles O’Brien actually beleved Hansen and the ManBearPig ?
    Seems like it. — Charisma and the scientific smarts of Al Gore
    Miles O’Brien, please start a Blog, convince US; cooling is warming

  95. Debra

    I came here from a google page for Glenn Beck to see when he would start his new show, and I couldn’t believe the nasty things being said about him in this blog and comments. The first time I listened to him, I was kind of wary. But the more I listened, the more I could see where he was coming from. I think the politically correct segments of our society have hurt us in the US, and I think he is a breath of fresh air. He certainly is courageous.

    There are so many things we just don’t discuss because they might offend someone, when the discussion just might be beneficial. I hate people being shouted down, and this blog and comments about Glenn Beck have amounted to a virtual and remote shout down. You only want to hear your point of view – everyone else must be too stupid to live. Get over yourselves!

  96. Steven L. Sanders

    You are going to give up Science on CNN? Gee, why doesn’t that surprise me? You have been rerunning all the junk instead of keeping up with the news for a few years now, so you are as far behind as Ted Turner himself. I live in Raton, NM, so I know more about Ted Turner than you might think. But if you remove the science from your news, you might as well remove CNN as well, you have little to offer anyone anyway these days, and FSTV is getting more and more viewers everyday, and yes, I am one of them. At least I get the truth there, instead of someones bleached-out version of it. Well, go luck on the new plumbing business or whatever you guys will be into next, just remember you were told by a lot of us where this was going, so don’t be too surprised when you get there, ok? Say, “hi” to Glenn Beck when you arrive too, ok? Steve.

  97. Chris Winter

    I took a look at Glenn Beck’s book a couple of months ago. I noted this on pages 20-21:

    “How many times have you heard that CO2 is responsible for huge natural disasters that killed millions of people? The truth is, it’s actually the other way around: As CO2 has increased, deaths from extreme weather have decreased.”

    First, has anyone heard that about CO2? I never have.

    Second, as CO2 has increased, monitoring of hurricanes and tornadoes has gotten better, as have building construction codes and disaster preparedness. Gee, could that be the reason for fewer deaths from extreme weather? Nothing to do with CO2 at all.

  98. Ralph

    CNN starting losing credibility with me in 2003, when I had an alphanumeric pager and decided to add “CNN breaking news” to my service. The 2nd Iraq War had just started in March, and I was a little concerned when my pager went off in April, starting with the news item:


    That doesn’t match any journalistic definition of breaking news I’m aware of.

    Just because a news organization didn’t figure out something for a month doesn’t make it breaking news a month later.

    Now that Headline news has degraded from 30 minute news summaries to “the nancy grace and robin mead” network, I just tell my Tivo I don’t even get that channel any more. I sincerely hope Tivo provides this kind of information on user-initiated de-listings (in bulk) to their upstream cable systems, but somehow I doubt they do.

    If anyone can point me to an a la cart service where I can keep C-SPAN 1 and 2, I’d be happy

  99. I like this concept. I visited your website for the first time and simply been your fan. Continue to keep posting as I am gonna come to read it everyday!!


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