Wednesday night, CNN and ESPN were both put in awkward positions. The former had excellent on-the-spot coverage and was bringing in commenters from various fields, but was taking the Penn State student demonstration entirely too seriously. There was the threat somebody could get hurt, of course, and some kids were genuinely mad. But for the most part, these sports fans were just having dumb fun.
ESPN struggled to cover an event that hadn't been scheduled at all. But at least they didn't run a Dr. Phil interview and cut to Piers Morgan Tonight, both of which CNN did around midnight.
At one point, Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated showed up to defuse the aggrieved-student narrative, leaving CNN anchor Isha Sesay to dig through CNN's word bank for something else to describe what was happening:
Video via @cjzero.
And, yes, Staples agrees with the Penn State Board that Joe Paterno had to be removed from office.
Some were off-put by the network's choice of terms in describing the State College scene, as if CNN was trying to force a story and sensationalize. But you can't really fault CNN for treating the yelling and lingering as a serious, serious thing. They reacted to what was in front of them in the context of what they're experience at covering.
We all speak our own languages, and Staples just happens to speak the language of college athletics. So good for CNN for bringing him on.