Screen Captures is a feature written by…me. The fancy description says it’s a study of various headline “teaser” graphics found on cable news outlets that analyzes a sample for bias or note-worthy content.

But really, I just want to look at what they’re putting on the screen and see what’s good and what’s garbage. For the week ending 05-12-07:

“A Toast to the King”—CNN. Apparently, CNN wanted to celebrate Larry King’s 50 years in journalism by hyping it for about 50 years. This headline was originally seen the previous week; they ran it that many times. They also hawked DVDs and aired a number of “celebrity” comments where former guests took turns fawning over King. If each “toast” was real, the audience would have been too drunk to change the station. Maybe that’s how CNN plans to improve its ratings.

“GOP Abandons Bush”—MSNBC. Not even a question mark? Is MSNBC really saying the GOP has abandoned the President just after they upheld his veto of the Iraq spending bill? Sure, they’re making waves about re-evaluating the war in September and Bush’s support is eroding in his own party, but MSNBC is overstating the case a bit. They might be able to use this headline in a few months, but this seems more like wishful-thinking than accurate reporting by MSNBC.

“Prison Princess”—Fox News. Cable channels love two things above all: gossip and alliteration. With Paris Hilton’s impending jail sentence, they can indulge in both. Of course, she isn’t going to prison (she’s been sentenced to 45 days in county jail) and she isn’t a princess, so the entire headline is false. But why should that stand in the way of a catchy title? 

“Wild Fires Close Two Interstates” & “’Family Day’ Protests in Rome”—Headline News. You have to love Headline News. For a channel with “headline” in the name, they spend maybe 10 seconds thinking of their actual headlines. They’re not trying to be cool or flashy. They just describe the news topic and report away. A long, long time ago, that’s what headlines were supposed to be. You stay classy, Headline News.

“Katie Interviews the King”—CNN. To paraphrase John McEnroe, CNN cannot be serious. At the end of this week, they were still fawning over Larry King. In this segment, Katie Couric conducts an interview. Perhaps Couric’s ratings on CBS’ evening news broadcast have gotten so low that cable ratings might be an improvement. In any case, it’s a wonder that any news stories aired during this incredibly important milestone.

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