Who’s the Hero?

Anderson Cooper CNNThe photo at left is from the back cover of Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. It exemplifies much of what can be right with American journalism, and some of what’s wrong, too.

The part to celebrate, of course, is CNN’s decision to highlight some eminently praise-worthy people. Yes, there’s an element of cliche about it — running the show in Thanksgiving — but so what? If we can’t give thanks for (some of) the people who deserve it on our best holiday, when can we?

The best part of the program, at least from the promos and articles about the people being honored,  is that they’re “regular folks” doing out-of-the-ordinary things. (Military personnel seem to be ineligible for these awards, which is an odd omission, but the honorees are certainly impressive in their own right.) You can find instructions on the website on how to donate your own time and/or money to various causes championed by the honorees. All in all, CNN is doing something good for the world with this event.

But look again at this image. Who’s that towering over the honorees? Why, it’s Anderson Cooper, the host of the program. Apparently he and his network are the real heros.

Look, I know this is about promoting an event. And I  know that Cooper is the face people will recognize.

But the way this is framed tells the story of network “journalism” today — a celebrity-infused system that conflates news readers with the people they cover.

Anderson Cooper may well be a fine journalist. I can’t really say, as I’ve given up on CNN and the other U.S. “news” networks for anything but stenography for the rich and powerful, fluff and, occasionally, breaking news where the events tell their own stories.

If Cooper is a indeed good journalist, or even a respectable one, this image should make him cringe. And someday, sooner than later, he should say so out loud.

One thought on “Who’s the Hero?”

Comments are closed.