Atlanta’s Third Gift to the World

As part of the Metroblogging community’s sharing of the 7 Gifts to the World project, I present to you the Cable News Network (CNN).

Can you remember a time when you got your news only before work, at noon, and in the evening? CNN changed the way we receive news and information forever.

Ted Turner’s Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) came up with the idea of 24-hour news coverage back in the early days of cable, circa 1980. CNN was the template for the real-time, constant news coverage we are bombarded with every day; Without CNN there would be no Fox News and no MSNBC. Since 1980, CNN has branched out to the internet, CNN Headline News, CNN radio, and even taken over the airports with CNN Airport Network. CNN has a network of affiliates all over the world.

CNN was a fixture in my house growing up, but I have to be honest that MTV had a much stronger impact on my psyche than CNN ever did. CNN was just background noise during dinners, something I had to endure until Mom and Dad went to bed and I could watch Yo MTV Raps, 120 minutes, and Headbangers Ball.

My first real memory of CNN, though, was the coverage of the Challenger disaster in 1986. Footage of the explosion looped over and over on the screen that day, a snow day for me in 8th grade. Without CNN, we would not have had that Y-shaped explosion seared into our brains. Without CNN, I would never have had 6 nights in a row of recurring nightmares of airplanes being sucked into a black hole in the sky for the week following the Challenger disaster. CNN wields enormous power: The power to shape the way we remember things that unfold on the screen before us.

I remember my freshman year of college, sitting in the lobby of my University of Georgia dormitory in my pajamas (plaid, of course!) with people I barely knew, watching the first U.S. war of my memory unfold in front of me in real time. I was scared and I couldn’t stop watching. It seemed more real then than it does today. I think we have become desensitized to the things we see every day, over and over, controlled so carefully (or not so carefully?) by our cable news networks.

What are the nightmares that CNN and the other news networks’ constant stream of information have wreaked on children and adults alike in this new century? I don’t even have to describe what I saw on the screen all day and for weeks following September 11th; You all saw it. Every last one of you, and everyone sitting in the cubicles next to you. CNN is responsible for a mass consciousness of memory retained by a whole generation in our country and to some extent the world over.

There is no doubt that there is a gift to be had in the knowledge and constant flow of information we are given by the rise of the 24-hour news network. I think, though, that the cable news network is both a blessing and a curse. The real gift is the opportunity for positive action: Will we be the 18-year old girl stricken with fear, watching the television for 12 hours straight, or will we see the information, and form a plan for action?

The real gift is the way in which each of us chooses to use the endless knowledge of the world around us that CNN and its offshoots give us. Atlanta gives the world 24-hour news coverage. Atlanta gives the world knowledge. Use it wisely.

Want to read more about CNN? Here is the Wikipedia entry. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth at Or, go behind the scenes with a CNN studio tour.

2 Comments so far

  1. abby (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 4:18 pm

    Wonderful insight. great post, Annie! Thank you!

  2. Annie (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 4:33 pm

    Thanks, Abby. Glad you liked it!

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