DL Breaks the News: CNN Drops The Ball

In this time of blue and red swing states, we have come to think of everything in opposing sides, generally dismissing the shades of gray (or in this case purple as it were). The news media it seems, is no different. Right leaning Fox mans the blue, while red-clad CNN tends to lean left, although both would say they are fair and balanced.**To clarify, i’m refering to their color schemes, not their political slant**With a credible Black candidate running for President of the United States, we have slowly watched CNN bolster the number of anchors and experts of color.  We’ve seen Soledad O’ Brien taking a larger role, Roland Martin deliver intelligent journalism, and more than a few intelligent Black talking heads with balanced delivery, not Braxton from the Jamie Foxx show, but nowhere near the Flavor Flav end of the spectrum.  We’ve even seen CNN attempt an ambitious, albeit in the eyes of some insufficient, series Black In America. While not perfect, I don’t believe you could argue that it wasn’t an earnest attempt at creating a fair discussion.In the wake of this, I had the opportunity last night, to check out another landmark for Black America proffered by CNN: D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.   It would seem a wonderful opportunity to see a fairly normative view of politics and socio-economic events and news that would probably draw in the common young viewers who may be generally disinterested or unable to follow urbane concepts or more sophisticated delivery of traditional older themed CNN programming.  It could have been a real opportunity to inform a segment of the population that desperately needs to know what’s going on in this world.Unfortunately, they blew it.  Big time.  I sat in the audience while they sent out a comedian to pump up the crowd, which is not unusual for a live audience, to keep the energy up.  The audience itself was arranged to present a wide array of diversity and it was certainly a crowd of all races genders, ages, etc.. True Rainbow style.  The comedian chose to give weak assed formulaic Def Jam from 1992 “Black people don’t do ______ we do this” jokes.  Not very funny but hey it wasn’t the show.  However it proved to be an ominous sign of the next 2 hours to come.The show opens with a monologue that obviously was written by people who weren’t Hughley’s writers. It was awkward (we had to re-shoot the opening because it really was that unnatural) and full of “Black” jokes referring to cholesterol, chicken wings, and “jambalaya juice vs Jamba juice.” And the whole Black vs White comedy paradigm that doomed Comic View to oblivion.The amount of black president jokes were enormous and included a tapdancing Sammy Davis Jr. as a child in a clip from an old movie, and an old black and white clip featuring a depiction of a hucklebucking Black president (complete with mention of pork chops).  It was insulting and beneath a comic of Hughley’s stature and in the audience we could all feel how unnatural it was.There were a few Chappelle Show-style skits with DL at a Palin rally which also felt deliberate and derivative, and a split-screen with three CNN foreign correspondents that was incredibly stiff and a waste of time, even after multiple takes.The icing on the cake came when three members of the production crew put on DL wigs in a homage to some baseball team who all got their hair cut into Mohawks to bond with one of their teammates but it reeked less of laughing with you and more like laughing at you.There were a couple of good moments, such as the appearance of CNN’s financial correspondent, Ali Velshi who made the situation more natural and put DL in a more comfortable frame with back and forth banter.  You could tell that Ali’s experience calmed DL down and made that particular segment more comfortable.There was also the first time endorsement of Barack Obama by former Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan.  It was a big moment for a new show but even that was low graded with “snitch talk.”At the end of the taping, Hughley admitted that the show was put together in a short amount of time, and that he had met his writers  only two days prior.  Hopefully they will form a better chemistry and remove some of the shtick, because they have a wonderful opportunity to bring in new viewers and educate them and build a viewer for future times.  Or they can continue to shuck and jive and have this show be the political version of the Magic Hour.At the heart of this is not the show, but the overall landscape of the presentation of Black people in media, much of which contributes to the attitudes of the Palin rally people and how they feel about Black people.  The lack of balance in presenting intelligent Black commentary is horribly apparent, and CNN, if it truly wants to be a leader in this field, should use this opportunity to really set the bar…at least until we ourselves get off our asses and do a little bar raising of our own.

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