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The Dismal State of Television News

February 15, 2007


What the hell is going on in newsrooms around the broadcasting industry?  I am speaking particularly about television news.  There’s no doubt its quality has been declining for some time now (I blame O.J.!)  Local, network, and cable newscasts have all chosen to put their pocketbooks ahead of their integrity (trading credibility for flash and instant gratification.)  It only takes a few minutes of perusing the TV dial to see just how low news organizations have let themselves sink.  Are we supposed to be surprised the cable news channels dedicated over 50 percent of their air-time to covering the Anna Nicole Smith story last Thursday? 

While Ms. Smith’s corpse lay rotting in a Hollywood, Florida morgue, there were plenty of real stories that should have been leading that evening’s newscasts.  We had a prominent newsman (Meet the Press’ Tim Russert) contradicting Scooter Libby’s grand jury testimony by testifying that he was not the person from whom Vice President Cheney’s aid had learned the identity of Joseph Wilson’s wife.  The U.S. military revised its air tactics in Iraq after a fifth military helicopter was shot down by insurgents using missiles, killing seven soldiers (initially officials had denied any such weapons had been used.)  Iran’s supreme leader said that if the United States were to attack Iran, his country would respond by striking U.S. interests all over the world.    

Instead of enlightening analysis of those issues, we witnessed breathless commentary and pointless speculation on the part of so-called ‘professional journalists’ covering the less-than-tragic death of a woman that did little in life except embarrass herself.  Where were the news directors to say, “Stop!” 

Wolf Blitzer stood in front of his annoyingly busy video wall in the Situation Room for 90 minutes, acting as if Queen Elizabeth had died.  There was no reason for CNN to focus all of its resources on a story like this other than greed.  News has somehow moved beyond simply informing its viewers and into the kind of tabloid spectacles that barely catch my eye in the supermarket checkout line.  Had Wolf been half as focused during his interview with Dick Cheney a couple weeks earlier he may not come across as an invertebrate, incapable of standing up to a man I wouldn’t waste my own spit on.  I guess it is a lot easier to do stories when the subject matter is dead and barely had anything to say when she was alive. 

And what the hell is going on with Katie Couric’s forehead?  I was watching 60 Minutes last Sunday when she did her fluff piece (a specialty–always highlighted by the detached delivery of her voice-overs) on Norah Jones.  My beer nearly shot out of my nose when I realized Ms. Couric’s forehead had the distinct look of a bad botox procedure.  If you are unfamiliar with the look, I would steer you towards photos of Nicole Kidman around the time she won her Oscar for wearing a rubber nose in The Hours

Nicole got away with it because she is an actress, not a news anchor.  On Katie,  it just makes her look like some kind of simian with the forehead of Frankenstein’s monster.  Is she trying to attract more viewers to her horrible evening news by completely undercutting her credibility with her vain insecurities?  No amount of botulinum toxin will give her the keys to success. She is a horrible newswoman and always has been (her Today replacement Meredith Vieira has only driven that point home.)  Yet she is allowed to whither on the news vine because some knucklehead at CBS is afraid to admit to the mistake he made hiring her in the first place.  I give her six months, tops.

If Walter Cronkite was dead, he would be rolling over in his grave.  Unfortunately, he is just old and senile, and about as worthless as the urinal at a Melissa Etheridge concert.  Where do you turn for your TV news?  Brian Williams and his crooked-ass jaw?  Charlie Gibson and his bad toupee?  How about that crybaby Anderson Cooper or extremely metro-sexual Keith Olbermann?  Fox News? Talk about freak shows… At least when I watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report they have the decency to let us in on the joke. 

Who is going to tell those other ‘jokers’ they aren’t fooling anyone? 

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