Thursday, November 17, 2005

CNN is Yellow

There’s something ironic about a show named “Paula Zahn NOW” airing a story about an event that happened over two years ago. Even allowing time for the investigations required to produce the investigative journalism for which CNN supposedly prides itself, one has to wonder why it would take so long to sort through the facts and to listen to the opinions of all the parties involved. Part of the delay in airing that news segment on television was apparently due to the story being bumped in favor of covering the events related to a number of hurricanes that have recently left parts of the southern U.S. in shambles, but that wouldn’t account for why the story is airing years after the event took place. Given the nature of the news trade, one has to conclude that the story of Suzy Gonzales’ suicide really isn’t considered important by the CNN journalists; it’s one of those “filler” stories that is used to take up time in a news show when there’s nothing more interesting to report. It’s the equivalent of what’s called “small talk” in casual conversation.

There’s nothing wrong with small talk per se, but when investigative journalism indulges in it one would hope that the people producing the story would at least try to present a balanced view rather than try to palm off opinions as objective fact. The show blames the posters to Usenet group for the death of Suzy. Suzy’s father states that the newsgroup “brainwashed” his daughter into killing herself. But by her own account she had started thinking about suicide when she was 11 or 12 years old, years before she started interacting with the posters to that group. Why isn’t that mentioned in the show? The news story claims that posters of ASH “gave her the tools” with which to commit suicide, but if there was evidence that someone from ASH shipped her the cyanide or other paraphernalia with which she killed herself, why hasn’t that person been prosecuted under the existing laws of the land which prohibit such assistance?

Given that there are people who attest that their experience with ASH has actually encouraged them to live and that one of these people was interviewed for the news story, why wasn’t even 15 seconds of the 4 hours that were spent filming an interview with him included in the story? Is it because a “heartbreaking belief” makes better copy than the whole story?

And why doesn’t this “cautionary tale” provide any suggestions as to how parents could actually open a dialogue about suicide with their progeny? Earlier in the show there was a segment that encouraged parents to discuss with their kids what exactly it is they are learning in school; is the message here that it’s more important to know what one’s kids know about sex than it is to know if they are thinking of killing themselves?

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