Archive for the ‘News media’ Category

More Trouble for Who, Now?

October 1, 2010

I really didn’t think I was going to post on this blog ever again, but this is perhaps the most idiotic thing I’ve ever seen.

The real story here, as anyone who is not a reporter out to make his mark in the mainstream media by taking a contrarian angle can see, is that Rick Sanchez, well-known to everybody who has ever seen him on TV as a big-mouthed idiot, opened his big mouth and said something idiotic.  But that’s not “man bites dog” enough for Time.

Stewart is as much of an innocent bystander to Sanchez’s stupidity and bigotry as Jeffrey Smuzinick was to Sanchez’s drunk driving, when Sanchez ran him over and drove away (and got off scott-free) back in 1990–undoubtedly due to the machinations of the International Cuban-American Cabal (note: sarcasm) that controls the US Justice system.

But by all means, keep an eye on this Nate Jones. With this kind of ability to call black white and to spin a news story 180 degrees from its factual basis, he will probably soon have his own cable news show.

Un-Presidented

March 20, 2009
"How come you don't do 'Iron Jay' anymore? That bit was hilarious!"

"How come you don't do 'Iron Jay' anymore? That bit was hilarious!"

I don’t have a lot to say about President Obama’s Tonight Show appearance, but there’ll never be a better excuse for taking this blog out of mothballs.

Clearly, this is an attempt by Obama to get around what his predecessor infamously referred to as the “filter”–that is, the mainstream news media–in order to speak directly to “the people.” Given how awful the news media has become, I think this is perfectly defensible. Leno let Obama speak at some length, and his questions, while not especially insightful, were no more trivial than those typically heard in The Situation Room, or from the other side of the Meet the Press desk. Leno’s no great shakes as an interviewer, but he knew to keep the focus on  his interviewee, and to stay on topic. Until the last, light-hearted segment, it was a relatively substantive interview.

It was not, however, a challenging one (though Jay deserves credit for poking the Pres. when he appeared to be overselling Geithner’s responsibility for the AIG mess).  It would be interesting to see how Obama would do with Jon Stewart or David Letterman. But that, of course, would defeat the other, less legitimate reason for “reaching out” via late-night TV: it’s not much of a risk. Obama going on Leno is hardly the same as Bush appearing on FOX News, but the probability of tough questioning is about the same–albeit for different reasons. (I’m not suggesting Leno’s “in the tank” for Obama, as Rupert’s crew was for Bush–just that Leno can be counted on to defer to Big Stars, whether from showbiz or politics, in a way that neither Stewart nor Letterman can.)

On the “Special Olympics” gaffe: Jaime Wieman has a good take (I love how he calls ABC jackass Jake Tapper the network’s “senior trivia correspondent”). It was unclear to me whether the joke was merely a self-deprecating comment on that still-low 129 score, or a characterization of Leno’s condescending applause (watch again, and see what you think). If it was the latter, that’s a little more impressive demonstration of quick-wittedness, and wickedness, in the sense of betraying a darker sensibility.

In any event, it was pretty inexcusable. I support Obama, and think he has used humor well, for the most part, but you just don’t do jokes about the Special Olympics on The Tonight Show. Especially if you’re President of the United States.

An Early Thanksgiving, and Some Leftovers

November 5, 2008

thanksgivingI am elated (and relieved) by the outcome of the election, and even, dare I say, a little bit hopeful about this country’s immediate future. Thanks voters, and thank God!

I’m as tired of thinking about politics as I imagine most of you are, which is why I’ve let a few recent things slide without posting. Here’s a few links worth a look, though.

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Comedy and “Balance”

October 29, 2008

Today’s installment of NPR’s Fresh Air featured an interview with SNL head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor Seth Meyers. He came across as an articulate and pleasant fellow, generous in his praise for colleague Tina Fey, boss Lorne Michaels, and recent guest-star Sarah Palin — and as an uninspired and workman-like creator of mass-market comedy. Seth Meyers is to comedy what an Applebee’s entree is to food: reliably palatable, but nothing memorable.

On further reflection, that’s pretty unfair to Applebee’s. Maybe he’s more like a Denny’s Grand Slam: not great, but readily available and unlikely to make you actually vomit.

Two things from the interview jumped out at me as worthy of comment. First, he called Amy Poehler’s delivery of the Sarah Palin rap (I’m paraphrasing, but this is close) “one of the best performances in the history of Saturday Night Live.”

Okay, maybe the Denny’s comparison is too generous. How about Jack in the Box: usually okay, but with occasional e. coli poisoning.

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Definition of Character

October 11, 2008

Time‘s James Poniewozik has some interesting insights into the possible impact of Tina Fey’s impression on the public’s impression of Sarah Palin. On the one hand, he notes, an impression that succeeds in capturing what the public sees in a candidate — as Fey’s Palin surely has — can be devastating because it is “shamanistic; it’s like owning a voodoo doll: capture your target’s soul, and you can make her dance just by waving your arms.” Fey “owns” Palin’s image in this sense.

And make no mistake, that is a powerful thing. Chevy Chase’s depiction of Gerald Ford, though it was not even really an impression — let alone a very convincing one like Fey’s Sarah Palin — had a huge claim on the public’s perception of the man, and probably contributed to his political downfall.

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SNL News, and More Republican Whining

October 9, 2008

Before I get to the whining, the New York Times’s Bill Carter, the Woodward and/or Bernstein of the late-night comedy beat, has an interesting article on how the election is boosting the fortunes of SNL and other shows. It includes some interesting ratings info, showing the Comedy Central shows’ strength in the 18-34 year-old male demographic.

Via Mark Evanier, news that tonight’s prime-time SNL special will be a weekly feature up until the election. For some reason, this news fills me with foreboding.

One reason is the fact that, in addition to the easy (if funny) shots they’ve been taking at Sarah Palin, SNL has, in the name of “balance,” also become one of the Mainstream Media’s principle conduits for the dissemination of bizarre, right-wing talking points. A case in point is the angry, tedious bailout sketch I wrote about a few days ago, which presented an Oliver Stone-like conspiracy theory that managed to blame everybody but the party that’s been running things for most of the last eight years for the current economic mess.

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This Just In: Brian Williams is a Tool: UPDATED

October 4, 2008

UPDATE: A commentator has suggested Williams was merely comparing the two current candidates with Eisenhower and Kennedy, rather than mistakenly suggesting Eisenhower ran against Kennedy. I don’t think so, but you can watch for yourself, beginning at about the 3:22 mark. For a transcription, see below.

I just heard Brian Williams—twice—compare the contest between John McCain and Barack Obama to “Eisenhower/Kennedy.” The chief problem with this comparison is of course that Eisenhower never ran against Kennedy. Nixon ran against Kennedy.

Even a network anchor can be expected to misspeak once in a while, of course. But Williams said it twice, and even took time in between to explain the basis of his erroneous comparison: experience vs. new blood.

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Is This Going to be a Thing?

September 27, 2008

“Hey John — my eyes are up here.”

In the aftermath of the debate, John McCain’s refusal to look directly at Barack Obama is garnering a good deal of attention from pundits and bloggers. My expectation is that this will be something late-night comedy shows pick up and run with, but right now that remains to be seen.

But it is certainly the kind of thing SNL, Leno, Letterman, et al. can latch onto. Moreover, it is the sort of thing comedy can do a lot to amplify, and make consequential. For example, even people who didn’t watch any of the Bush vs. Gore debates knew about Gore’s audible sighs, at least in part because SNL made fun of them. Topical comedy — especially the mainstream, “equal-opportunity offender” sort we see on network TV — always prefers dealing with the silly, the trivial, and the personal over the serious and the substantive. It’s easier to mock, it’s more accessible to people who don’t necessarily follow politics that closely, and it’s relatively uncontroversial, because it doesn’t touch on issues or ideologies. Unfortunately, “journalists” like these sorts of stories for the same reasons.

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Don’t Mess With Dave

September 25, 2008

“Something doesn’t smell right.” That may well stand as the public’s verdict on John McCain’s surprising “suspension” of his campaign yesterday. Perhaps it will even end up being McCain’s political epitaph.

Lyndon Johnson knew he’d lost the public’s mandate when he “lost” Walter Cronkite. With this judgment, McCain just lost David Letterman.

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WWJSD? (What Will Jon Stewart Do?) updated

September 24, 2008

Updated below

By now you’ve probably heard that Senator McCain has chickened out “suspended” his campaign and unilaterally attempted to postpone Friday’s scheduled debate, so he can hasten to the Capitol (presumably in a celestial chariot, drawn by wing-ed horses) to Save the Republic.

McCain must rid himself of the distraction of debating his opponent, so that he can devote all of his Mojo to solving this crisis (as only a Maverick can!), or we’ll be looking at 12% unemployment, and a depression by Monday.

Never mind that McCain hasn’t cast a Senate vote since April 8. And the fact that he’s slipping in the polls? Pure coincidence.

If the news media falls for this stunt, they are officially beyond redemption. If the public falls for it, we’re beyond stupid.

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Jon Stewart: MSM’s Last McCain-Lover?

September 17, 2008

Josh Marshall’s TPM has another entry in its “Tire-Swing Watch” — a running tally of media members once enchanted with John McCain who have finally quit giving him the benefit of the doubt. Today’s disenchanted former fan is The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, whose column is well worth checking out. It seems McCain’s extraordinarily dishonest campaign has not only caused Marcus to question his “Maverick” bona fides, it has emboldened her to utter what is, in the MainStream Media world, the ultimate heresy: “balance” does not equal fairness.

This may be a Copernicus moment: a challenge to conventional wisdom that could, if enough other media members pick up on it, or stumble upon it themselves (as Galileo did with heliocentrism), could fundamentally change their picture of the universe — and thus, the picture they present to the public.

This would be a welcome change. The practice of reporting every devious political tactic with the qualifier, “both sides do it” attached has nothing to do with fairness or thoroughness, and everything to do with preempting partisan critics who will cry “Bias!” any time their candidate is caught.

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A Friendly Reminder

September 16, 2008

I’ve got a book:

Anchors & Pundits

September 11, 2008

So MSNBC’s parent network, NBC, and corporate grandparent, GE, decided that it was the better part of valor to bow to pressure from Republicans whining about “bias” than to continue pursuing a winning ratings strategy: they demoted “liberal” Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews from campaign-season anchor duties (by the way, if Chris Matthews is a “liberal,” we might as well throw out the dictionary–the word has lost all meaning). The totally untainted by bias David Gregory (whom you may remember as one of Karl “M. C.” Rove’s backup dancers) will handle those chores from here on out.

The last straw–or more accurately, the excuse–for Olbermann’s demotion was his on-air objection to the GOP’s exploitative use of graphic 9/11 footage at their convention. Instead of maintaining the pretense of disinterested “objectivity,” Olbermann reacted to something he found shocking and disgusting with shock and disgust. For an anchorman, that’s a big no-no.

The principle that reporters and anchors should put aside their own opinions and present all points of view fairly is a good one, in theory. In practice, however, journalistic “objectivity” has been turned into an excuse for throwing skepticism, judgment, and even the recognition of empirical truths out the window. We must respectfully report what both “sides” say, even if one side says “fire is hot,” and the other side says, “fire is NOT hot, and third-degree burns are just Satan’s way of making us think that it’s hot–just like he went around burying all those dinosaur bones to make us doubt the book of Genesis.” Over the last couple of decades, the GOP has played the the media’s fear of being charged with “bias” like a violin, and the result is that views that would once have been considered nutty, and tactics that would once have been considered sleazy (like McCain’s baseless charge that Obama supports sex ed for kindergartners), must now be accepted without question. This is not “objectivity,” it’s capitulation to the irrational, and to the bullies who depend on the support of the irrational.

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