Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cable's crystal ball?

I'm amazed at how increasingly common it's become for on-air "reporters" to fancy themselves knowledgeable pundits. I was watching cable news the other day -- maybe shouldn't say which channel, but heck, who cares...

So I'm sitting there watching CNN and anchor so-and-so is blah-blahing about the unrest in Lebanon. I was only half paying attention, but I caught enough to hear that, all of a sudden, she says something that sounds like this: "If they had only sent troo0ps, this never would have happened." Umm...WHA? Really? Never would have happened? I'm sorry, so-and-so, are you a psychic, as well as a poor reporter?

How does something like this happen? How do reporters -- print, broadcast, what-have-you -- get to predict or state things like this so confidently, so soundly, as though they know that as fact? Did someone tell so-and-so that they thought it might never have happened? Well, then...attribute that, puh-lease? Attribution. Attribution. Attribution. S0-and-so, I'd like you to write that on the chalkboard again and again, oh, and no cookies after class.

And today, cable news continued its pattern of making me nervous; not because of the threat of U.K.-based planes targeting NYC, Washington and other U.S. destinations. But because cable news outlets constantly ran tickers screaming "Bomb plot thwarted"; "Attack was to be of 9/11 proportions"; "Baby formula allowed on planes."

And my favorite, subtle tagline: "Terrorism in the sky."


All of these quick-hit tidbits poured from law enforcement officials and found their way as fast as possible to bellowing headlines on TV and online. All without all of the accurate information to back it up, most of which we likely won't get for days, or maybe weeks. But in order not to cause widespread freak-outdom, news anchors assured viewers that the bad guys were behind bars and that, for now, they rest knowing our governments were "on it." Pack that baby formula and be on your way.

Good thing I wasn't just half paying attention then. Otherwise I might have just panicked.


At 6:28 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Oh man am I glad you posted about this.

Along these lines, I was watching The Daily Show this week and Jon Stewart had a segment on an apparently huge story, according to pretty much every cable news network: the apacolypse.

That's right. Apparently we are seconds from the end of the world, and all the cable news networks were reporting on it.

Really? Really? The Apacolypse?

Even Good Morning America was in on the mix. One of their anchors was interviewing a crazy conservative Christian preacher dude who declared that because it's the end of the world, you have to find Jesus, pray, be saved, etc.

And the anchor's response: "Well, I guess it's time to get right."

"Get right"? What?

I am not sure what's worse: the show interviewing this decidedly one-sided and perhaps extreme person, or the reporters unbelievably biased and really just unacceptable response.

I had to agree with Jon Stewart, who noted - About 5 or 6 billion people might disagree with you.

I was disgusted and disappointed, as I often am after watching one of the Daily Show's segments lampooning cable news.

In other news, although I hate to admit I watch the Today show, I often do while eating my cereal. But today, I was somewhat impressed with Matt Lauer's interview with the president of BP about their oil line break and the subsequent spike in gas prices.

He relentlessly grilled the exec on why we were paying for a mistake they knew was possible, especially considering they had a $7 billion profit this year - that's billion and profit. Lauer was good, the exec squirmed. And although I am sure it did little to change sad fact of corruption in the oil companies, it was nice to watch the grilling and hope a ton of other Americans saw it too.

Oh and CK, I agree with you on the cable news crystal balling. Crazy shit.

Now I am off to "get right."

At 9:25 AM, Blogger AG said...

Alabama - Let me just point out that it is $7 billion in RECORD profits (as in way, way far and away above the yearly take home, which was in of itself one for the books). As for "getting right" you better snap to it with finding that whole Jesus Christ as lord and savior thing.

CK - I can't even watch cable news. Not only does it shave points off my IQ for every minute I endure, but it makes a stabbing pain appear behind my right eye, which I don't think is good.

Bottom line, I'm not sure I've got IQ points to lose anymore after what I subjected my brain cells to over the course of the past couple years (ok, 10-13 years) so I'm off the CNN.

At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 1:43 PM, Blogger Davique said...

Ha ha, I saw that on the Daily Show, actually the full quote was "Like my mama always said, you better get yourself right." So it wasn't just the interviewer admonishing us, it was also her mom!

You know what the problem is with these Daily Show clips though? They feast on these morning shows and cable news foibles, so the viewers who aren't regular news watchers (95% of our generation) come away thinking that all news is ridiculous. When in fact, the network nightly news broadcasts and respectable outlets like BBC World and Newshour are never featured on the Daily Show because they actually do a good job.

But the viewers are left with the impression that it's all crap and they just shouldn't bother paying attention. That's what I hear constantly from people my age. All news is crap so why bother reading/viewing it.

I don't know what the solution to this would be. I love the Daily Show, but I think as a whole it does more of a disservice to journalism than anything else because it leaves the impression that all news is a joke.

But for a generation obsessed with entertainment and self-gratification, it may be the only way to inform them about what's going on.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Hmm I can't totally agree with you there, Dave. I think the Daily Show makes it pretty clear that it's cable news that sucks ass, and I am also not a huge fan of the network's nightly newscasts.

I also think it's necessary to have folks like Jon Stewart questioning the coverage, and frankly showing how ridiculous it is. Often (as with his lambasting of the administration), the clips alone speak for themselves.

My guess is people say the TV news is crap because really most of it is. For example, local news is a tragedy and the Daily Show rarely lampoons them. But people are still equally as frustrated with it.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Lights said...

I like the bit in the blog about the ticker. Why do we need the inflamatory ticker and subtitles? Did any of you see the Lewis Black interview where he goes off about the ticker and how stupid it is and then they removed it (but only for the remainder of his interview)?

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Davique said...

Ha, I didn't see that, where was it? As regards the Daily Show, I think they make fun of local news quite frequently. Really the format of the show, as it was originally created, was a satire of local news.

I think people like us, who work in media, watch the Daily Show in a very different way than most people our age do. My roomate, for instance, is one of the most ill-informed people I've ever known. He watches the Daily Show but doesn't really pay attention t the news part, just thinks it's funny to mock all TV news beause he thinks it's all ridiculous. We may understand that the show is mocking particular genres of news that are very bad (local, cable, etc)but people in general think that all news must be like this.

And I still think the networks do a pretty good job with their evening newscasts, considering the time constraints they're working under.


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