The Cable News Network, commonly known as CNN, is a major cable television news network that first aired in 1980. The purpose of the network is to make information on the latest current events constantly available to the public so as to maintain a more educated populace. CNN introduced the idea of 24-hour television news coverage, with the aim of covering the most important events of the day, whether domestic or international. For much of its existence ranking as America's most popular cable news network, it broadcasts primarily from its headquarters at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and from studios in New York City and Washington, D.C. Globally, the network airs through CNN International and has combined branded networks and services that are available to more than 1.5 billion people in over 212 countries and territories. Despite numerous criticisms and allegations of bias, CNN succeeded in providing television coverage of breaking news round the clock and throughout the world, keeping the public informed about current affairs. Communication among all peoples of the world is necessary to bring about a more peaceful and harmonious world, and CNN has made a significant contribution to this process.
CNN was founded in 1979, by Ted Turner and Reese Schonfeld. The founding purpose of the network was to make information on the latest current events constantly available to the public. Schonfeld served as its first president and chief executive, originating and developing the 24 hour news concept. Since its launch on June 1, 1980, the network has expanded its reach to a number of cable and satellite television networks (such as CNN Headline News), 12 web sites, two private place-based networks (such as CNN Airport Network), and two radio networks. The network has 42 bureaus around the world and more than 900 affiliates worldwide. CNN has also launched many regional and foreign-language networks around the world. It is a division of Turner Broadcasting, which itself is now owned by communications conglomerate Time Warner.
CNN pioneered cable news, reporting live on events as they happened through its 24 hour coverage. Initially somewhat unnoticed compared to the established broadcast networks, CNN came into its own through on site reporting of breaking news. While many would point to the 1991 Gulf War as its defining moment, Charles Bierbauer, a veteran reporter who was CNN's senior Washington correspondent, suggested that there were earlier moments, such as the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986:
CNN was the only network live. So I'd say it was when we made decisions to do what the other networks did not want to invest their time in doing, and that made us stand apart from them.
On September 11, 2001, CNN was the first network to break news of what would prove to be the attacks on the New York City World Trade Center towers. Anchor Carol Lin was on the air at that time and did a live interview by telephone of Sean Murtagh, CNN vice-president for finance and administration, who had witnessed the attacks in New York City firsthand.
CNN debuted its news website CNN.com (then referred to as CNN Interactive) on August 30, 1995.
CNN launched two specialty news channels for the American market which would later close amid competitive pressure: CNN Sports Illustrated (CNNSI) shut down in 2002, and CNNfn shut down after nine years on the air in December 2004.
In 2006, reacting to the wide-spread growth of social media and user-generated content, CNN launched CNN Exchange and CNN iReport, initiatives designed to further introduce and centralize the impact of everything from blogging to citizen journalism within the CNN brand. As of 2006, CNN was second in world rankings regarding international news coverage, with just over half of the audience of the BBC. The BBC differs from CNN International which uses local reporters in many of its news-gathering centers, although they cover stories from an international perspective.
CNN has not been immune from criticism in its production of news programming. There are many controversies and allegations of bias that have been directed at CNN (these refer to both the domestic version of CNN and CNN International):
CNN has come under criticism by conservatives claiming that CNN has a liberal bias. Critics, such as Accuracy in Media and Media Research Center (MRC), have claimed that CNN's reporting contains liberal editorializing within news stories, and have jokingly referred to CNN as the "Clinton News Network," the "Communist News Network," "Chicken Noodle News," or "Clearly Not Neutral."
Some liberal observers have claimed that CNN has a conservative bias. For example, media watchdog Media Matters has documented several hundred separate instances of what it sees as conservative editorializing during CNN broadcasts.
CNN had also been criticized for excessively pushing "human interest" stories and avoiding depictions of the violent images of events during the Iraq war; the result of all this being an alleged propagandistic presentation of news. Some critics have claimed that this constitutes a systematic bias in favor of the war.
Among the criticisms levied against CNN, as well as the other major American news channels, is the charge that CNN has taken a lenient approach to the Bush administration, particularly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. At the 2002 Newsworld Asia conference held in Singapore, Rena Golden, the executive vice-president and general manager of CNN International, was quoted as saying:
Anyone who claims the U.S. media didn’t censor itself is kidding you. It wasn’t a matter of government pressure but a reluctance to criticize anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people. And this isn’t just a CNN issue—every journalist who was in any way involved in 9/11 is partly responsible.
Critics take particularly strong exception to the handling of the Bush administration's rhetoric leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. CNN’s own veteran reporter Christiane Amanpour characterized the behavior of the news media as "self-muzzling" and as "cheerleaders for the Bush war drive against Iraq." CNN coverage of the Iraq war has been criticized by international journalists for much the same reason. An editorial in the German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung compared CNN war coverage to "live coverage of the Super Bowl," and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television news network has long criticized CNN for selectively portraying U.S. soldiers as heroes. It should be noted that the bulk of the criticism is directed towards CNN domestic news broadcasts within the United States; CNN International is considered more "sober."
In January 2006, CNN was banned in Iran as an expression of condemnation when CNN mistranslated a live broadcast of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. In the translation, CNN quoted Ahmedinejad as saying "the use of nuclear weapons is Iran's right." According to a release from the Iranian government, the president said "Iran has the right to nuclear energy," and went on to say "a nation that has civilization does not need nuclear weapons and our nation does not need them." The ban was lifted a day later after CNN issued an official apology for the mistranslation.
In October 2006, White House press secretary Tony Snow accused CNN of "propagandizing" the American public. Insurgents located in Iraq had filmed some of their attacks on American soldiers. CNN obtained the tapes from the insurgents and rebroadcast them in America weeks before national elections were to occur. Snow said during a press conference:
your network has shown pictures of snipers hitting Americans, which was used as a propaganda tool, so the fact is that … it shows real sophistication on the part of these guys, because it creates the impression that Americans are sitting ducks, and that these guys are capable, when, in fact, while you have a capable enemy, they're dying in much greater numbers and suffering much greater damage.
As a result of CNN's news reports, U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter asked The Pentagon to remove embedded CNN reporters, claiming that "CNN has now served as the publicist for an enemy propaganda film featuring the killing of an American soldier."
Despite numerous criticisms, Ted Turner's network is considered the Western standard in international news and a pioneer in its genre. CNN was the first 24-hour news network to reach global prominence. It utilized the increasingly ubiquitous medium of cable television to reach more people with more news than ever previously thought possible. The presence of a national news network gives the ability to reach people across the country with one voice. Also, the 24-hour medium lets people receive up to date current events any time of day rather than having to wait for the evening news, as was formerly the case during the reign of network news broadcasts.
A television movie, Live from Baghdad, was later made about the network's coverage of the first Gulf War. Coverage of this and other conflicts and crises of the early 1990s (including, perhaps most famously, the Battle of Mogadishu) led to the coining of the term "the CNN effect," which testified to the perceived impact its pioneering real time, 24 hour news coverage had in influencing the decision-making processes of the American government.
The "CNN effect" is a theory in political science and media studies that postulates that the development of CNN had a major impact on the conduct of states' foreign policy in the late Cold War period and that CNN and its subsequent industry competitors have had a similar impact in the post-Cold War era. While the free press has, in its role as the "Fourth Estate," always had an influence on policymaking in representative democracies, proponents of the "CNN effect" have argued that "the extent, depth, and speed of the new global media have created a new species of effects" qualitatively different from those which preceded them historically. Indeed, many world leaders get their English-language news from CNN International, and react to immediate events based on its reporting rather than relying mainly on communication through diplomatic channels.
Deeper penetration and wider broadcast of statements and actions by public figures may increase transparency, but it can also complicate sensitive diplomatic relationships between states or force an official reaction from governments that would otherwise prefer to minimize political risk by remaining noncommittal. The information revolution and spread of global mass media through the Internet and international 24-hour news thus has the effect of accelerating the policy-making process, requiring a faster tempo of decision and action in order to forestall the appearance of a leadership vacuum.
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