It took us a while to pick up on this tasty little story on CNN’s Wolf Isaac Blitzer, by Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik. But we’re glad we did. It’s a dizzyingly entertaining near-canonization of the reporter on his twentieth year at CNN. To say Blitzer comes off well is an understatement. As Zurawik tells it, Blitzer is the positively heroic, straight-news banner-holder of cable, a lone wolf (sorry!) down-the-line newsman among a sea of opinionated shock jocks. And a throwback to CNN’s heyday:
At a time of major institutional change, with such recognizable names and faces as Christiane Amanpour, Larry King and Lou Dobbs leaving the network, Blitzer also provides the channel’s most visible link to the days of the network’s greatest glory in 1990 and 1991, when it dominated in coverage of the air war in Iraq and the fall of the Soviet Union — two of the biggest stories of the last 20 years.
Zurawik’s piece offers us some insights on what maketh the Wolf:
“Usually by 8 in the morning, I’m on the treadmill for one hour,” the son of immigrants from Poland says. “I’m running, watching TV, flipping channels — “CNN American Morning,” “Today,” “Good Morning America,” see what the competition has. … In between all of that, I’ve already been e-mailing with the producers. They’ve got ideas. I got ideas. Sometimes you gotta nail down reporters, producers and guests early.”
He’s even working to save those parts of the industry he’s not involved in:
…CNN’s lead political anchor says he still reads The New York Times and The Washington Post in print form before diving into other newspapers and blogs online.
The man is a jogging, screen-watching, newspaper-reading, hologram-interviewing God! And he talks in the kind of inspirational-newsman-in-a-movie speak that would bring even the most hardened journo to his or her knees:
“Remember, I’m a reporter,” says the University of Buffalo history major who earned an M.A. in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University. “I was our Pentagon correspondent. I was our White House correspondent. It’s in my blood.”
“I tell my staff we don’t put crap on the air,” Blitzer says. “If we don’t have it hard, we’re not going to put it on the air. And just because the competition is running with it, that doesn’t mean we have to run with it. We’re going to check it out, we’re going to vet it. As important as it is to be first, it’s more important to be right. And it makes me ill when we have to go on the air and apologize or correct.”
And a sensitive side, sigh.
Not much to add to that really. Zurawik’s observations are all true in their way, and he tempers them with concerns about Blitzer’s future at the shall-we-say readjusting network. And it wasn’t as if Blitzer has many skeletons in his closet to dig up (that Jeopardy appearance certainly did the rounds).
Nonetheless, the piece does finally give me an excuse to play this very funny video from the Onion News Network. See what happens when a little girl raised by Wolf appears on breakfast TV.