A Dear John letter to CNN
By Mary Keyes Rogers | July 8, 2017
I think we both know it’s over. After 37 years together, I’m leaving you.
This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. You must have noticed that I’ve been avoiding you and, on those rare times when we are together, you must have detected the look of disgust and contempt in my eyes. Our current relationship is exhausting me, disturbing my sleep, filling my thoughts with fear and hate. I want to love you, yet like an addict, I have kept coming back for more.
Ours has become, dare I say, an unhealthy relationship? It is over.
What makes this so difficult for me is that we have history. Do you remember that day in 1980 when Bernard Shaw introduced us? I was only 17, but I knew with all my heart that you would be a significant part of my life. You assured me that you would always be there for me, in good times and in bad, 24/7, and you kept that promise.
My dear, looking back, I can’t help but feel nostalgic:
1986: You brought me and the nation to tears reporting on the space shuttle Challenger disaster. You taught me everything I ever needed to know about O-ring failure.
1987: We were inseparable for 60 hours while clinging on to the last morsels of hope that Baby Jessica McClure would be rescued from that Texas well.
1991: You really hit your groove in the first Gulf War when Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett, and John Holliman were the only journalists in place to report live during the initial hours of the Coalition bombing from the darkness inside the al-Rashid hotel in Baghdad. I was so proud of you for your fearless dedication to news coverage.
1994–95: O.J. Simpson, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ron Goldman. From the white-Bronco pursuit to “If The Glove Doesn’t Fit,” you had me in the palm of your hand.
1997: My husband was out of town, and I turned to you late at night from the loneliness of my bed. Princess Diana’s vehicle had been involved in a crash. We spent the night together, with the dawn’s first light bringing the confirmation of her death. I cried, and you stayed with me.
2000: This was the first time I left you. Your screen clutter, like a teenage boy’s acne, just turned me off. So, I, in turn, turned you off.
2001: I came back to you when my sister-in-law phoned on the morning of September 11, hysterically insisting I return to you immediately. Aaron Brown held me in the warm embrace of his humanity declaring, “There are no words” as the second tower fell. It was his first day broadcasting live, on the saddest and scariest day of my life. He got me through it.
2003: You replaced Aaron’s nightly anchor spot with Anderson Cooper 360, claiming my Aaron was too cerebral for the younger demographic you sought. News for grownups was over.
2007: You hired Kathy Griffin to join Anderson Cooper’s New Year’s Eve Live. Enough said.
2010: Honey, you became stubborn. Everyone told you that Piers Morgan was not fit to replace Larry King. You lost touch. You stopped listening.
Now, in the heat of this 2017 summer, my sense of embarrassment and need to distance myself from you has grown into anger and disgust. You have lost your way, taken advantage of your power, and are damaging my country.
How do I loathe you? Let me count the ways:
1. Had you stuck to journalism instead of chasing ratings, Donald Trump’s campaign never would have been taken seriously nor received the grotesque abundance of coverage you gave it. I hold you responsible for his election.
2. You cover non-news to the point that it becomes news. A suggestion for you: Rather than devoting hours and days of panel discussions pointing out the ridiculousness of our president’s tweets, don’t cover them.
3. You fail to accept that the 2016 election is over. You promote your town hall meetings as if Senator Sanders and Governor Kasich were going to cage fight.
4. You currently have 56 political contributors on your payroll. I have no interest in nine biased talking heads simultaneously spouting opinions instead of facts.
5. Your standard for “breaking news” has never been lower. Hey — breaking news: I just ate a sandwich!
6. Trust me, we are not experiencing a daily constitutional crisis.
7. I don’t look to you for the history of comedy, Anthony Bourdain, or Mike Rowe.
8. You fail to deliver the news.
How To Win Me Back
I need journalism. Hard (fact-checked) news, investigative stories, with a smattering of human interest coverage that reassures me there is still some good in this world. I want a baby in a well that pulls the country together. I miss quirky news about singing cowboys, karaoke cabs, and ice hotels. More than that, I am looking for coverage of prison reform, the epidemic of mental illness, innovations in the senior care industry, and progress in campaign finance reform, just for starters.
Inevitably, you will ask, “Is there somebody else?” Alas, no. I don’t know where I’ll go or who I’ll turn to for news. I just know that you and I are done.
Mary Keyes Rogers is a Traverse City resident, business consultant, speaker, writer, and Experience 50 podcaster. firstname.lastname@example.org