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CNN's newest primetime anchor Erin Burnett isn't making any friends among the Occupy Wall Street protesters. In a visit to the front lines of the movement earlier this week Burnett grilled protesters on the specifics of their outrage, many say, from a point-of-view that's not befitting of a network that's often boasted of its objective journalism. However, Burnett's combative tone in her "Seriously" segment on Tuesday night--on top of a deleted tweet by business reporter Alison Kosik in which she makes fun of the protesters--is dismaying press critics and CNN viewers alike. On top of that, journalism watchdog group FAIR says that, Burnett misreported the facts in an attempt to make the protesters look uninformed. Burnett, whose fiancée is a Citigroup executive, is now being framed as the next generation of CNN personalities that stray from the network's commitment to being the "only credible, nonpartisan voice left."
Neither CNN nor Burnett are winning supporters from fellow journalists either. Dave Weigel called Burnett's Tuesday night segment "hippie punching," and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen tweeted, "Man, the blowback on Erin Burnett's visit to #occupywallst is like a crossover hit." Now, the press critics are weighing in, not only criticizing Burnett but an unnerving shift in CNN's approach that draws comparisons to Fox News. Eric Jackson at Forbes called her "vapid" in a sprawling take-down, and The Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik wrote off her new show OutFront completely in his Wednesday column:
Two of the fundamental attributes of good journalism are curiosity and a respect for the people on whom you report. Burnett got an "F" on both those counts with her Occupy Wall Street piece. Not only didn't she listen hard enough to learn anything from the people in the group, she and her producers positioned the speakers to be seen as objects of derision. That is deplorable.
Glenn Greenwald at Salon followed up on Wednesday afternoon with a post that thoroughly traces Burnett's career from her job as a Goldman Sachs analyst through her tenure at CNBC and now as CNN new star. The unavoidable ties between Burnett and Wall Street--husband is a Citigroup executive after all--clashes with CNN's ability to produce objective journalism so badly, he says, it's "embarrassing":
Needless to say, Burnett and Kosik consider themselves to be opinion-free, objective "reporters." Indeed, this is what Burnett said in the Vantiy Fair interview when asked if she sympathizes too much with the Wall Street plutocrats on whom she purports to report: "My job isn't to give an opinion but to try and explain what’s happening." …
It's the opposite of surprising that large corporations which own media outlets want to hire people to play the role of journalist on the TV who are slavishly devoted to their culture and their agenda. But that's the point: the pretense that these people are "objective journalists" delivering opinion-free facts is so discredited that they should just stop pretending. It's embarrassing already. Few things have exposed their deep, embittered biases as much as their snide, defensive reaction to these Wall Street protests.
The Young Turks also weighed in and offer some clips from Burnett's various interviews:
Of course, CNN isn't the only media outlet catching criticism for their coverage of the protests. We noted last week that there seemed to be as more coverage of the non-coverage than of the protests themselves. However, the backlash to Burnett is hitting CNN hard, who's struggling to compete with more partisan networks like MSNBC and Fox New for ratings, and brings her future at the network into question. "It seems as if she doesn't get journalism, and she sure doesn't get America, at least not the one I live in," says Zurawik. "Seriously."
We reached out to CNN to see if they were standing behind Burnett's reporting but hadn't heard back at the time of this posting. The network offered this statement, "We support Erin and the OutFront team and we respect that there will be a range of opinions on any given story."