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(The Washington Post) – Is CNN as bad as everyone seems to think it is? Often, yes. The network’s live coverage of Monday’s destructive acts in Baltimore, and its seeming appetite for more trouble on Tuesday, in many ways demonstrated the strengths and shortcomings that are involved when a cable news channel tries to chase a live (and incendiary) story while haphazardly feeling around for a central statement or a bigger picture.

The purist ideal of “reporting the news” — a value that so many of CNN’s critics claim has long since vanished — simply will not suffice anymore; in an effort to remain true to its original mission but also stay ahead of its many competitors (including anybody with a phone), CNN appears to aim for programming that is news-themed, delivered by journalists obsessed with their own emotions.

On Monday night, the network held fast to a “Baltimore Is Burning” headline despite some of its sources reminding on-scene reporters and in-studio anchors that the fires and looting had kept to certain blocks and that the situation had not escalated into an official riot.

Contrary to that input, what CNN had, for several hours beginning Monday afternoon, was an earnestly excitable correspondent, Miguel Marquez, giving urgent play-by-plays from North and Pennsylvania avenues of looting and fire-setting and, in a rather dramatic fashion, standing aghast as young men with knives punctured a fire hose meant to help combat a blaze in a nearby CVS drugstore.

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