30 Years Ago: Cable News Network

On June 1st, 1980, Ted Turner and company created something we now take for granted–the 24/7 news cycle. Yes, CNN turns 30 today. As someone who lived in Atlanta (home to CNN’s headquarters) and who holds a degree in broadcast news journalism, I have more than a passing interest in this anniversary.

I am sorry to say, I don’t think the network has aged well. To be fair, CNN is not alone when it comes to practicing what can easily be labeled as sloppy or bad journalism. CNN is not the only network to confuse salacious celebrity focused drivel with news; not the only news organization more concerned with ratings than principles. It just happens to be the one celebrating a big birthday, so…

Here’s a look back at a few of CNN’s hits and misses.

This is what CNN looked and sounded like in 1980 when it first signed on the air:

Live coverage of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster:

A report from 1991 on the first Gulf War:

And, from 1994, the OJ Simpson Bronco chase. Pretty sure this is the event that changed everything…

Abuse of the term Breaking News:

For sentimental reasons, I wish Ted Turner would buy back the network he launched back in 1980. Realistically, I know that ship has sailed. Sadly, even the Mouth of the South can’t fix what is wrong with broadcast news today.

What is your primary source for news?


6 responses

  1. Since I grew up watching Ted’s tiny UHF Channel 17 and countless episodes of Gilligan’s Island, I remember chuckling at the thought of Ted providing news 24/7.

    It did not take long however to realize he was on to something. Clearly the impact of 24/7 news impacted quality and accuracy as there was an insatiable appetite on the part of viewers for breaking news which clearly lead to speculation on the part of the newscast as they tried to sort out the facts and details.

    I guess I get my “news” from various sources and CNN is in the mix.

    • Remember the earliest days of the WCW? And Bill Tush? Channel 17 all the way! Might have to write a post about that too…

      You are correct of course about how accuracy was sometimes sacrificed for speed–though I think today CNN tends to err on the side of caution rather than make embarrassing mistakes.

  2. I gotta say used to be a CNN junkie, now am a dabble at best — it seems haphazard and amateurish at times, the scroll across the bottom makes everything seem like a crisis, the international focus is weak.

    They play it safe too much.

    And Larry King needs to retire.

    I channel surf and use the internet – I would say by default bbc gets most of my time.

    Good post!

    • So true!! Larry King is horrible. Dude is like a giant lizard! Watch–he can’t keep his tongue in his mouth! And yes, the scroll across the bottom is annoying! I think it started after 9/11 when news was coming fast and furious–not sure why it continues.

  3. My source for news? Twitter.
    I remember where I was for almost ALL of those major news events, except for the first broadcast because I was too busy rollerskating around my driveway to the Xanadu soundtrack.

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