Thursday, December 04, 2008

Miles to Go

You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who's been screwed as thoroughly and with as much sheer audacity by CNN over the past few years as Miles O'Brien.

Yesterday it was announced that after 16 years with the network, Miles is being given the chance to "pursue other opportunities" along with six producers in a move that effectively dissolves CNN's Science and Technology unit.

For Miles, it marks a somewhat anemic end to an impressive tenure at CNN -- sort of like putting down a former champion horse that you yourself are responsible for running into the ground. Miles was once the proud owner of a very nice, largely secure gig as the co-anchor of a daytime show based out of Atlanta alongside Kyra Phillips. But that was before mercurial CNN President Jon Klein decided to inexplicably pull the affable Bill Hemmer off the anchor desk on American Morning and "experiment" with the team of O'Brien (Miles) and O'Brien (Soledad).

The experiment, apparently, wasn't a success. Less than two years later, Klein had another one of his arbitrary "Eureka!" moments, spun the Wheel-of-Anchors and replaced both Miles and Soledad with the current team of John Roberts and Kiran Chetry.

Miles returned not to the anchor desk in Atlanta, but to reporting duties and the occasional fill-in host slot. (He anchored The Situation Room as recently as last Wednesday, during the Mumbai terrorist attacks.)

In other words, Jon Klein offered Miles O'Brien a major promotion -- the chance to helm a flagship show in New York -- if he'd leave behind his stable situation in Atlanta; he uprooted Miles and disrupted the lives of his family only to then turn around 22 months later and say that it just wasn't working out.

That's not "strictly business" -- the nature of the beast.

That's fucking sociopathic.

It's an unwillingness to accept or a complete disregard for the fact that you're capriciously toying with people's lives.

What makes these lay-offs particularly conspicuous, though -- maybe even reprehensible -- is that they come less than two weeks after an article in the New York Observer detailing CNN's lavish spending during its election coverage: the celeb-studded parties, the new show launches, the pricey A-list pundits and, of course, that stupid pretend "hologram." In the piece, Jon Klein boasted to writer Felix Gillette:

"We can afford more people on our air and off our air. So, goddamn it, we’re going to have more people."

Except that, obviously, they can't -- and they're not.

Which makes him entirely full of crap.

Although it's almost superhumanly ironic that Klein is willing to pay for the silly technology but not for the technology unit, it shouldn't really surprise anyone at this point. He's proven time and time again where his priorities lie -- and they're nowhere near the maintenance of true journalistic excellence. It would be amusing if it weren't so sad that Klein's pride in the ability to create a phony, "holographic" image of a human being now serves as a kind of metaphor for his entire way of thinking. He's become the George Lucas of the TV news universe: tinkering like a mad scientist to create a soulless, graphically enhanced feast for the eyes -- minus the actual people required to breathe life into it -- just because he can.

I'm not worried about Miles O'Brien; he's smart and talented and he'll likely find new work quickly -- even in this economy. After all he's been through over the past few years, he may even see this as a godsend.

What concerns me is the future of the rest of the excellent and now unemployed tech staff -- people like Peter Dykstra, who's been with CNN pretty much since the dawn of time. Or Alex Walker, who typically does most of the work while receiving none of the glory.

These are the ones who will really suffer.

Well, they, and you -- the audience.

But hey, at least you'll still have the pretty holograms.


DXM: First Class All the Way/11.19.08

(Also make sure to check out Jacki Schechner's take on this here.)


idiosynchronic said...

This is concerning to me in the same way that Congress closed the Office of Technology Assessment in 1996 -

Theoretically, yes, any reporter should be able to work a tech/science story, construct a truthful representation and find experts, but I think we all know that in this age of press release and short news cycle driven journo, a journalist with some native science knowledge is a good thing.

I don't think Klein purposely eviscerated this expertise like Newt Gringrich's GOP lobbyist hellions did in '95, and it's certainly not the same magnitude, but he's made it a lot easier for newsmakers to pull pseudoscience or other bullshit into a CNN broadcast.

Alex Barreto said...

One of the reasons I liked CNN was the fact that they had a dedicated science/spaceflight correspondent. In this day and age where cheaper was always thought to be better in the news business, it was genuinely comforting to know that the person describing the various Space Shuttle and Mars Rover missions was intimately familiar with not only the technology but also the people at Mission Control. It said to me that CNN thought these things mattered even when most people in America could care less. Now they appear to be saying the opposite and that is simply insulting to me as a viewer. Hopefully, these folks who lost their jobs will land on their feet or better yet, come up with a better way to build a newscast. Good luck to Miles and the rest of the poor folks who got an early Christmas present.

zombiestories said...

Honestly, in the last couple of years, the only time I can remember deliberately watching a cable news show was for the recent election, to see Baracks speech live and on a decent screen. The rest of the time I just pull all of my news in real time from the web.

In fact I rarely get my news from the networks sites.

Add to that the obvious dumbing down and right wing pandering they are all engaged in (Glen Beck, Nancy thingy, Thingy Hughley doing the news?) they can all die a horrible death.

Seriously, is it that hard to actually just report on the news? It used to be that you could watch the news over an hour, get your fill, know it was all relevant and not dumb ass filler or feel good crap. Now the 24hour cycle, paid content, 'Coming after the break' teaser crap that materializes about 30mins later, are all almost guaranteeing that these networks will die, and I for one am glad of it.

Love the Blog btw.

Anonymous said...

Talk about "you're capriciously toying with people's lives" and "That's fucking sociopathic."

Here's the first of many emails received from Anderson Cooper, before Klein arrived he was a super nice guy. Then.....

"From Cooper, Anderson Wed Feb 25 07:59:53 2004

From: "Cooper, Anderson" Add sender to Contacts
To: redacted
Date: Wed, 25 Feb 2004 10:59:53 -0500
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="----_=_NextPart_001_01C3FBB8.682XXXX"
Content-Length: 787
Xxxxxxx, thanks for your holiday card. I hope you are well. ac"

when you think you can still email him with the same things you used to talk about after Klein arrives. This happens:

From: "Cooper, Anderson"
To: "Xxxxx Xxxx">

I don’t know who you are, nor do I care. Apparently you think I have a shred of interest in any thought you may have. I do not. You are a freak. How pathetic is your life that you spend time writing emails like this. Truly pathetic. Your emails will now be automatically blocked. Feel free to change the channel."

Damn good PR if you ask me. I think maybe being the "face of CNN" is taking it's tole on someone's sanity or is Klein "taking care of things". (The second one was forwarded to me by someone else so I don't have the headers from CNN, the first one I received, that's why I have the headers but I've xxx'd for protection.)

aaron said...

Cue [strike]Klein's[/strike] CNNFan's creatively bizarre justification in 3....2....

mixtapetherapy said...

Hmmm...uprooting a man and his family away from a cushy life in Atlanta, only to face getting fucked in the ass and sacked in New York?

Why does this sound so familiar?

Charlza said...

I've always enjoyed Miles O'Brien's work on CNN. He always seems so excited about what he's talking about. I truly hope he finds a great fit for his talents too.

I thought it was a big mistake moving him to the morning. That just wasn't a good fit.

As for the science division...the average American just wants more entertainment/celebrity news and gossip. The education system is already in shambles, so who needs a science division? The environment is also falling apart, so who needs news related to it?

I joke about it, but I also shed a tear.

Anonymous said...

Explain to me how Miles gets turfed and Richard Quest gets to keep his job after being arrested with his dick in a noose and a toy up his butt in Central Park at 4 am? WTF?

Kate said...

The Quest thing is still absolutely bizarre.
And I'll miss Miles and how excited he got over anything involving planes/spaceships. It was so educational (whenever he could make it so) and really freaking adorable.

Donal said...

From what I've read, highly-paid TV types are being dumped all over the country. In my former home town they just dumped a major radio personality.

eliza said...

I was waiting for you to weigh in on this. Well said. I've always enjoyed watching Miles O'Brien. There are better things than CNN in his future.

Anonymous said...

They can Miles, but keep Rick Sanchez? The mind boggles.


A Bowl Of Stupid said...

Both sadly and ironically, my sister and I were just chatting, lamenting about the sad state of the news industry, and about how she's glad I didn't go the journalism route (I was thinking about going to work for the Herald before I left Miami).

Almost everyone she (and you) ever worked with is getting shit-canned, some of them at the prime of their careers.

She considers herself lucky to have gotten out when she did, and on her own terms (And she says hi, too).

P.S. What did I tell you people about making any Rick Sanchez references?

Anonymous said...

When they canned you, I called Atlanta (and emailed) and said I'd never watch CNN again. I have, once in a bar, once at an airport. I don't even know what the hologram looks like

Starshadow said...

I will certainly miss Miles. Every time his segments were aired on CNN International, I always managed to pay attention.

It's a big loss for the international news viewers. Obviously Mr. Klein doesn't realize just how global his network's reach is, or how interested the world is in US space/aeronautics development.

Anonymous said...

Do they really send out emails from CNN telling viewers they have pathetic lives when Anderson Cooper lives under Jon Klein's thumb? I wonder if he sees the irony.

That's messed up.

Anonymous said...

Looks like nasty email is the new tech savy way at CNN. John King wrote this little ditty and notice how it gets personally nasty. It sort of matches the tone of the email that Chez got here from Jon Klein.

Odd that since Jon Klein arrived at CNN things have changed there drastically and for the worse.

Odd as well that all the people would start to take on Jon Klein's personality traits or does Jon Klein send these out for people?

Chez said...

Just a quick note from the Management:

Needless to say, CNNfan did in fact comment on this piece. I'm not publishing it. He's commented on a couple of the posts around here lately and I've rejected them (which is unusual; I don't reject much of anything) because I know that he's just looking for the attention. He's also sent me an e-mail every other day offering his often contradictory opinions on one thing or another. I haven't responded to any of them, until today.

I won't bother going too deeply into what I wrote to him; I basically told him that he doesn't work for CNN and therefore has no idea what he's talking about. Normally that's not a problem, but his thinking that he could offer some kind of informed opinion on Miles and the tech staff being laid off (indirectly defending Jon Klein, of course) borders on offensive.

So, we had our laugh. We made appropriate fun of him -- but CNNfan's been exiled from these parts.

Incidentally. No, CNNfan is not Jon Klein (not unless it's the most elaborate hoax I've seen in some time). He's just a groupie who bought a domain name and has an unnatural obsession with CNN.

Some people follow bands or sports stars -- this guy loves Jon Klein. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

"this guy loves Jon Klein."

I feel unclean.

Is it as much as Anderson Cooper or differently?

Anonymous said...

Exiled? For what?

Anonymous said...

maybe miles can go sell used cars now -looooser