When Hype Is Tripe

The CNN anchor Don Lemon began his 10 p.m. newscast grandiosely:

“It is big. It is historic. And it has even grounded the president of the United States. Tonight, the latest on a volcano interruption [Huh?] for millions of air travelers worldwide. It’s a CNN exclusive.”

Shortly after his own eruption, Lemon crowed:

“This exclusive CNN video from earlier today, a view of the volcano you won’t see anywhere else.” Earlier today? All news happens earlier than any newscast reporting it.

And then Lemon said:

“CNN’s Gary Tuchman did something extraordinary today. As you know, he has been reporting from the base of the Iceland volcano. [No, I didn’t know.] Today, he was able to fly around and next to the volcano in a helicopter—the only network TV reporter to get airborne. Tonight, here is his exclusive report.” The only network TV reporter to go aloft? We’ll see about that. Up to this point, Lemon’s complete script (excerpted here) includes three todays, three tonights and three exclusives.

Tuchman said his copter had flown “a few hundred feet” from the volcano.

Despite Lemon’s flamboyant hard-sell, Tuchman’s coverage was not exclusive.

More than 14 hours before Lemon’s newscast, on April 17th, Neal Karlinsky, on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” began his report from a copter, “You can see some exclusive footage looking down into the eruption.”

Three-and-a-half hours before Lemon’s broadcast, at 6:30 p.m. ET, ABC’s “World News” ran another piece by Karlinsky showing him flying in a chopper. He said he was 600 yards from the volcano. Then he apparently flew closer.

And on NBC’s “Nightly News” that evening, Chris Jansing reported on her helicopter flight “very close” to the volcano.

This isn’t the first time CNN boasted of an exclusive that’s not exclusive. And it’s probably not the last time.

© Mervin Block 2010