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None of this seems that strange and alienating to the people working here. The young crew walks around in an unhurried and casual manner that doesn't much mimic the frantic pace of up-to-the-minute news. Occasionally, someone makes that hand and finger pointing like a gun gesture that people are supposed to make on television sets. Lemon has his iPhone out again, his thumb sliding slowly against the screen in the unmistakable manner of someone checking a Twitter feed.
Everyone working on the set wears an earpiece through which they hear a live feed of the show's audio: the video clips, the wooshing transitions, the talking heads in distant studios, and so on. If you're not part of the crew and don't have an earpiece, the room remains almost completely, eerily silent. Every once in a while, someone will say something like, "Two minutes." On occasion, one member of the crew will speak with another about something in a hushed murmur. Otherwise, the set is silent, sealed off from the world.
At 5 p.m, the set swings into motion. Lemon looks directly into the camera and says, "We begin with new developments from Libya and a big capture. The most wanted man in Libya is in custody right now. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the notorious dictator, was captured in a desert gun battle."
Lemon discusses the situation with an international correspondent. The crew can hear both sides of the conversation and Lemon nods along as she talks. On a nearby monitor, both Lemon and the correspondent are visible, transformed into side-by-side talking heads. But the room itself is silent. It takes just a second to realize that this whole studio, the entire science-fiction-like infrastructure has been built here just so this one guy, the anchor, can sit in a quiet room and ask questions. It is an awe-inducing thought, that this place is a calibrated, finely tuned institution solely in the service of question asking.
Lemon asks the correspondent, "What's the reaction in Tripoli?"
The strangeness of the studio is that it easily can become something else; in a minute you could be filming something entirely different than the news. It could be a scene in Star Wars. It could be a comedy show. What's disconcerting is that the gimmicks and the stupid jokes and the fluff pieces fit in so easily here. It feels like if we look away for just a moment, we might look back and the news really will be a game show.
Lemon's attitude, his style of talking back to his own show and to CNN itself, is a reminder that the whole reason for his job, for this room existing at all, is to ask questions. The moment that gets obscured, it just becomes another television show. Sure, he's a bit vain and a little cocksure, but this guy wants the news to be just as much of a star as himself. He doesn't want to be the loudest voice in the room, he wants to ask questions. It seems so simple, but it might be the best bet cable news has for a future.
Lemon asks another question. "Is this the last big catch? Who else is out there?"
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