Last month, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer tanked on Celebrity Jeopardy! with a final score of negative $4,600. This month, network cohort Soledad O’Brien managed to take home $6,200 for charity, but still came in third behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Spinal Tap’s Michael McKean. As some people have pointed out, this does not make CNN look amazing, especially in light of the news that CNN is currently last in cable-news-network ratings. But when we saw O’Brien at last night’s benefit for the News Literacy Project, she brushed the bad news away.
“Ratings are cyclical,” she said. “Remember, during the election we could do no wrong. That wasn’t very long ago.” Maybe the Jeopardy! debacle damaged CNN’s credibility, we suggested. “No, not really,” she said. “Honestly, nobody tests Wolf Blitzer on breaking news because he has to click on a buzzer and shout out an answer. The reason he’s a good journalist is because he asks thoughtful, insightful questions, and actually, speed in that case is not of value. So in his actual job, he does great. People gave Wolf a hard time, but I will tell you this in his defense: The buzzer is very hard to operate. People think it’s like you jump off your couch and are like, ‘Thailand!’ It’s not like that. If you go too fast, they delay you. They freeze you out. And they won’t allow you to hold it down. It’s much, much harder than it looks. You have to time it exactly right.” What’s more, she said, you start getting stressed out about not being able to buzz in properly, and that’s when everything falls apart. “You start focusing on how you’re trying to judge the buzzer,” she went on, the horror clearly coming back to her. “So if you get too focused on that, when they come to you, you’re like, ‘Wait, what was the question?’ You sort of blank. I realize it sounds like I’m making excuses, but truly it’s really hard!”