Report Card for CNN: D-

The other night, CNN gave President Obama his 200 day report card. People voted online and CNN reported the results on TV.

The results were predictable.

When I was a technology facilitator in the school system (for 22 years), I taught lots of children how to use a spreadsheet.  One of my favorite intro lessons was showing them how to average grades — demonstrating how one zero can bring an excellent semester average way down.  One F can ruin a good GPA.  I tried to show the kids that skipping an assignment altogether is not “just one assignment,” but possibly a way to repeat a grade.

Obama got 54 percent of the popular vote in the election. His voters will give him an A. Those who voted for McCain will give him an F. Unless people have changed their minds — which would not have happened this soon — he would get a C, which he did. He also got a C on his first 100 day report card. Unless something big happens (ie. 9/11, stock market crash, budget surplus) it’s likely to stay that way. His report card simply reflects the country’s current political spectrum.

Letter grades, with the general public voting online, is a good way to make a funny calculation of Obama’s popularity, but it’s meaningless as a grade. Report cards should be an objective assessment of a person’s work.

I did not vote, nor did I watch it. I would have given Obama an A, but by the time I saw it, the voting was over.

They had their panel of mostly partisan commentators on all night — discussing the results of this poll. If they had been discussing his Presidency it would have made sense.  Instead, they were trying to go for the drama, like election night, and discussing the poll. I watched a few minutes. It wasn’t dramatic.

I like Larry King. I liked him on radio, before his show on CNN (and called in a couple of times). I watch the show sometimes, depending on the guest. When the guest is good, the show can be interesting and enlightening. Larry gives his guests time to answer questions.

This night, Larry King and everything else was preempted by the poll results.

They behaved as if this were breaking news. It wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t newsworthy enough to fill an evening on a news channel. It’s a good way to interact with viewers — but it’s all manufactured. What was going on in the world? What were their reporters doing?

I know it’s not my place to judge a news organization. They need to do what they need to do in order to make money and stay on the air. CNN can be an easy, entertaining way to get news, and I watch too much of it.

I know money is the bottom line. Controversy and close elections are better for ratings — and I think we’ve paid a price for this kind of journalism (especially in 2004). I’m guessing some of the programming makes some of their own journalists feel like barfing. Seen Lou Dobbs lately? Glenn Beck, who is a joke, started out Headline News (although he was probably somewhere before that).

They do their fair share of hype — but that is, as Cronkite would lament, “the way it is,” with the current state of commercial TV news these days.

They hyped both Iraq wars, and they reported the Swift boat ads as if both sides of the debate had equally valid factual arguments — even though one side did not. They don’t guard their language at all, when it comes to editorializing in a straight news report. That’s just “the way it is,” these days.

I still watch it.

The Obama report card would have made a nice segment — not an entire evening of news.

Too bad. MSNBC on the left, which I like, and FOX on the right, which I don’t like, are basically talk radio with little news.

CNN, with its resources, could be that solid, responsible, straight shooter in the middle. The other night, it got an F.