07/28/2007 05:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CNN: The Elephant In the Room

Silly me: I thought the cable news nets reached a new low in craven disingenuousness yesterday, when MSNBC went live covering Nicole Richie's DUI court appearance, slapped an aerial shot of the assembled press on its air and bannered the thing MEDIA CIRCUS OVER NICOLE RICHIE DUI. But I guess the lesson of the last 24 hours is that cable news continually manages to outdo itself in craven disingenuousness. Today's example: CNN's Rick Sanchez declaiming somberly, in that Dan-Aykroyd-does-Tom-Snyder way of his, that the guy who led Phoenix police on a televised car chase yesterday may be open to charges in the chopper crash that killed four local journalists.

Um, guys? Let's talk straight for a second. Local TV stations are going to keep televising car chases just as long as CNN and MSNBC and Fox keep picking up the coverage. That coverage is inherently dangerous. And it's hard to argue that the chases have any intrinsic news value to the people who live beyond the area that's directly affected. All they are is flashy visuals.

So maybe it isn't a stretch to suggest that the national news nets bear some measure of responsibility, however abstract, for this horrific accident. I'm not naive, and I don't really expect the idea to be raised on the irony-challenged, drama-happy airwaves of The Most Trusted Name in News. Maybe all we can do is hope that somewhere in the halls of CNN Center today, off the air, in a quiet moment, somebody has enough of a moral compass to suggest a little self-examination.