When Piers Morgan first came to CNN three years ago, the network was already in decline. Morgan arrived to fill the nine o'clock evening spot previously anchored by Larry King. King interviewed the most interesting and important leaders of the time, and celebrities, some with talent. He also interviewed psychics, faith healers, and people who talked to the dead, swallowing this crap with endearing (and infuriating) credulity. This was not news, but one grows fond of grandpa and when King left, even I, a hardcore news junky, was sad.
I felt no fondness for his replacement, Piers Morgan. The worst kind of host -- a lightweight, smarmy talent contest judge with prior employment by Rupert Murdoch at one of the worst tabloids in British history. This was the end.
My antipathy lasted until the day he sank his teeth into the issue that would doom him: gun control. Gun violence was something Morgan cared about and it transformed him.
In the wake of the Aurora and Newtown gun massacres, he took on anyone who'd talk about guns and their availability to the insane and partially insane. His position was clear. He believed there should be more gun control. He spoke to surviving victims of gun violence and families of the dead. He spoke to advocates on both sides who could make rational or even quasi-rational argument, including employees of the NRA and even more extreme organizations. He fought hard and did not give up despite obvious pressure (and threats) to do so. At times, as he wrapped his show, he spoke eloquently, as a father one suspects, about the vast number of horrific and unnecessary deaths caused by guns in America. He became the opposite of what he appeared to be at the start. He became a man of conviction.
As every single day in America is filled with avoidable gun deaths, his obsession was news. What could be more revealing of political cowardice in America than this? Kids had their brains blown out -- elected officials caved to special interests.
Morgan pointed this out relentlessly. As he stated exactly where he stood, there was no hidden bias. He handled himself well. He was real. And he was getting better and better at putting hypocrites and bullies on the spot.
By the time he got the boot for this a few weeks ago, I was a fan. For me, his departure is the last straw. After twenty years of getting my TV news from CNN, I will go elsewhere or just confine myself to internet and print.
Having fired Piers Morgan for devoting a few hours here and there solely to gun violence in America (which kills more than 30,000 people a year), CNN indulged in a far more obsessive orgy of speculation about a plane that flew out of a foreign airport and crashed into a foreign sea. What has been learned since the plane took off three weeks ago, could be conveyed in ten minutes. Instead hundreds of hours have been blown on the story.
During these hours and weeks a dozen other serious news stories were ignored or received less attention than they deserved. The Ukraine crisis grew worse abroad and GM was revealed to have ignored (concealed?) a massive safety issue at home leading to several deaths over almost a decade. Only a mudslide (good visuals) could distract the flight-obsessed reporters for a few hours.
Lacking the conviction of its best reporters, the network has become a ghoulish disaster-victim-exploitation-porno-channel. Anderson Cooper, a once fine journalist, has become tear-jerker in chief. "I can't imagine how you'll get through this." (Come on, cry!) "Our thoughts are with you." (Weep! Go on!)
He and CNN, however, miss the essence of both news and (commercial point this) drama: in the long run people are only interested in those who do things, who change things, who make news, not those who are the passive victims, however tragic they may be. Nor, in the long run, will people be held by speculation when in their hearts they know they are missing real news that may change their lives.
Tonight, CNN is still OCD on flight 370. "Breaking news! There is none!" "More Tears To Come -- Stay Tuned!" The "edging" continues interminably, but not for me.
Goodbye, Piers Morgan, RIP CNN.