MEDIA MATTERS

Hurricane Irma Exposes Cable News Networks

CNN and other cable news networks found that the worst Hurricane Irma devastation was not in Florida but in a worse place: their credibility.  After convincing the nation that Irma would devour the entire state of Florida, the hurricane fizzled in the Caribbean and left the hysterical media red-faced.  [More] 

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Cable News Reeling After Hurricane Irma Bust

Despite a Buildup Stretching a Week, Hurricane Irma Proves to be a Big Bust, Causing Embarrassment and Damage to the Credibility of the Cable News Networks that Preached Doom and Gloom

By BUTCH WITT

Published September 10, 2017

 

MIAMI – CNN and other cable news networks found that the worst Hurricane Irma devastation was not in Florida but in a much more vulnerable place: their credibility.

After a week of dramatic natural disaster buildup where cable news experts predicted devastation throughout Florida, Irma fizzled – bigly.  In fact, Irma was nothing more than a tropical storm for nearly all Floridians.  On site reporters were left flailing around on live TV looking for anything – such as palm fronds on the ground – to create drama.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer admits his embarrassment that the hurricane disappointed his viewers.  “Based upon the scientific evidence, we had every reason to speculate some buildings would come down,” said Blitzer.  “Yes, some people might be less likely to believe us in the future, but we have to balance our reporting with our ratings.”

According to one producer who asked to remain anonymous, CNN’s top brass in Atlanta considered using dynamite to demolish abandoned structures to create the image of Irma destruction before being pulled back by local authorities.

Less contrite was Fox News’ Shepherd Smith.  “Yeah, I bring the drama, but I also deliver the ratings,” Smith said from Fox's New York studios. According to Smith, ratings are a predicate to delivering the news. “If I am not scaring people, I lose my microphone.”

Other CNN insiders report that staff and interns assigned to Irma were openly weeping when it became clear Irma lacked the punch predicted. “It feels so unfair, because we put so much work into this and were going to use it as the top bullet point on our resumes,” a distraught intern said.  “I guess sometimes things don't work out like you want.”

Also behind the scenes, there is much gnashing of teeth among the leadership at all of the cable news networks.  One MSNBC executive said privately that the Irma no-show will compromise their Trump coverage ratings.   “How long can we continue our Trump-is-Satan programming when we fail to deliver the goods on Irma?,” she said.

Despite all the concern about lost credibility, changes to cable news outlets do not seem eminent. “People like catastrophe and they like to me scared,” said another CNN cable executive. “People will stop watching when people stop paying to see horror films – which hopefully is never.”