I was halfway through a post celebrating TV news for the excellent job it has done in recent weeks in living up to its civic duty of informing voters, most notably on the limitations of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, when news broke that the House had rejected the bailout proposal.

I spent the rest of the day riding the wave of cable TV coverage on the nation's economic crisis, and was particularly disappointed by CNN where coverage was spearheaded by senior business correspondent Ali Velshi.

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In the immediate wake of the defeat of the bailout bill, CNN reverted to two of journalism's most superficial coverage strategies: reporting numbers without context, and showcasing dueling sound bites from Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill without helping the viewer measure the truth of either. The end result for viewers: more confusion rather than clarity.

What did the "plunge" of the Dow really mean in one the first headlines CNN had plastered across the screen? It wasn't until the Dow hit an all-time low that we got any historical context -- and I still don't know what all-time low really means in terms of real-life implications on Main Street.

But the superficiality of the early coverage was in no way as egregious as the highly opinionated commentary offered by senior business correspondent Ali Velshi in place of reporting the story as it unfolded. He was worse even than the ever-opinionated Lou Dobbs, who can at least argue on behalf of his blather that he is hosting a show not serving as the lead correspondent on a huge story with cosmic consequences.

Velshi was relentless in his unbridled advocacy for passage of a bailout bill. He warned those viewers who would reject the legislation because it didn't provide enough punishment for Wall Street CEOs by saying: "If we really want to kick someone...you should know you are kicking yourself. That kick comes around and hits you in the eye...We have to lubricate the credit market."

And then comes CNN anchorman Rick Sanchez re-enforcing the deluge of opinion and advice from Velshi with: "That's well put."

Does anyone at CNN remember how to report actual honest-to-God facts, context, reaction and then weave it into a presentation that helps the average viewer understand what is happening at this time of crisis?

Neil Cavuto, on Fox News, was far more restrained in opinion and focused on providing information that anyone on CNN yesterday afternoon. And I have to say the anchors at Fox kept stressing that both Republicans and Democrats were playing the blame game while the nation's economy appeared to be going into a meltdown.

Velshi and Sanchez certainly were not offering the kind of down-the-middle, fact-based, verified journalism CNN president Jon Klein claims his channel provides -- not by a long shot.

(Picture of Ali Velshi -- from CNN)

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