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Neil DeGrasse Tyson And Miles O'Brien Ponder Mystery Of Universe: CNN's Ineffable, Incalculable Suck

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Neil deGrasse Tyson and former CNN science correspondent Miles O'Brienhad a nice chat about how cable news -- especially CNN -- doesn't do so well with this "reporting" stuff. On Tyson's "StarTalk" podcast, O'Brien said that CNN didn't care so much for science reporters: “After all, what do we know about the Kardashians?” RawStory insists that this was a "joke," but this is CNN, after all. Tyson & O'Brien discussed a number of journalistic sins at the cable network, notably the tendency to present "two sides" of every story, as if all perspectives, however badly informed, were equal:


“Is it fair in a story about climate change,” O’Brien said, “which is clearly what I’m talking about, to do this journalistic convention of equal time for both sides. This is a huge mistake for journalism.”

Unfortunately, it appears that neither O'Brian nor Tyson were aware that John Oliver solved that problem a week ago: just have 3 spokespeople for the climate deniers, and 97 scientists onstage for the consensus view (just make sure that one is Bill Nye).

The two also discussed how the fragmentation of the media has affected journalism. O'Brien said that his former network (he left in 2008, and came back for two weeks this March to talk about airplanes) was going the discount-store route:

“We’re in the boutique age of journalism. CNN is just the department store -- the Wal-Mart of journalism,” O’Brien replied, “and think about what that does to quality. There is room for a Madison Avenue boutique, then, for people who care about things that are specific to them, and they will seek you out.”

“They will find you,” Tyson agreed. “They’ll find you.”

They also discussed technology, especially the important technical wonder of Jessica Yellin's "holographic" (not really a hologram) appearance on election night 2008. Tyson seems to think it was not really newsworthy, which makes you wonder why anyone lets him drive a Ship of the Imagination anyway:

“Wolf Blitzer pipes in this Jessica Yellin hologram,” he said, “and we see her floating in the middle of the space. It wasn’t an actual physics hologram -- because then he would have seen it -- it was put in that space for we, the viewers, and she was a three-dimensional photographed image who was put here on our screen.”

“But why does anyone want to see all sides of a reporter?” he asked, barely able to contain his laughter. “Who needs a three-dimensional report in a two-dimensional medium?”

Scoff all you want, Mister Science Man, but we happen to know that it was a moment that changed TV News forever, even if it was so embarrassing that no one has repeated it. Indeed, Tyson also conceded that "maybe we should applaud them that for the experiment, because you’ve got to see what works." And that, kids, is what science is.

Also, Tyson worried about news sites that merely aggregate others' reporting, but have

no reporters, just people who pick and choose. What would happen if everyone was an aggregator?” he asked. “Then everybody would just be aggregating each other’s aggregations.”

O’Brien agreed, saying “somebody has got to go to the city council meeting, somebody has to go to the launch. We can aggregate all we want, but we’re running out of actual, primary news-gathering instruments.”

We at Wonkette recognize what a serious issue this is, which is why we always "add value" to the stories we regurgitate from other sources, usually by including dick jokes.

In closing, Neil deGrasse Tyson's peener. You're welcome.