Some disturbing details in this NewYork Times piece on CNN promoting an HBO movie “The Girl In The Cafe”.
CNN, which like HBO is owned by Time Warner, will run 25 minutes of clips from the film as part of the network’s reporting and as part of an hourlong special on the film. That will be followed by what is certainly a coup for Time Warner’s cross-platform marketing: Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain (who received an advance copy of the film) will be interviewed by Christiane Amanpour on the subject of global poverty, followed by a filmed segment of Ms. Amanpour reporting from an impoverished village in Ethiopia.
Jonathan Klein, the president of CNN’s domestic operations, said that the movie was an intriguing way to make a complex issue comprehensible to the audience. “We will be covering the summit and I’m not sure that many Americans know what it is, or care or understand why it matters. The movie is a phenomenal way of making the central issue of the G-8 summit accessible to Americans.”
Using a movie to push a hard news story? The audience can’t figure it out on their own if CNN is the only source for the story and there’s no movie? That’s the way I read what Klein is saying. It doesn’t say a lot about the confidence Klein has in his own audience’s ability to comprehend a story and it implies that CNN isn’t capable of breaking down stories like the G-8 and global poverty on its own and present it in a way viewers would understand and comprehend fully. No, they have to tie it into a fictitional movie on another network that isn’t even playing the issue straight…it’s a romantic comedy. What would the reaction be if Hotel Rwanda had been made into a romantic comedy?
But this is corporate America and tie-ins and cross-promotion are apparently more important than untainted journalism. That’s too bad because according to the article CNN has the pieces to do an in depth special on the G-8 and World Poverty on its own if it tried. And I think the public is smart enough to understand what’s going on. They don’t need a movie tie-in to explain it to them.