Bests and Worsts of 2013

Well it’s that time of year again where everyone weighs in with their Bests and Worsts lists for 2013. Mediaite has a Best of list and a Worst of list. I’m going to chime in with my opinions to the cable news portions…

Best Cable News Anchor:

Andrew Kirell: Shepard Smith, Fox
Evan McMurry: Chris Wallace, Fox
Noah Rothman: Bret Baier, Fox
Tommy Christopher: Jake Tapper, CNN
Matt Wilstein: Rachel Maddow, MSNBC
Josh Feldman: Don Lemon, CNN

Worst Cable News Host:

Andrew Kirell: Martin Bashir, MSNBC
Evan McMurry: Greg Gutfeld, Fox
Noah Rothman: Chris Matthews, MSNBC
Tommy Christopher: Joe Scarborough, MSNBC
Matt Wilstein: Gretchen Carlson, Fox
Josh Feldman: Dear God, Chris Matthews, MSNBC

Setting aside the conflation of categories – Best list of ANCHORS, Worst list of HOSTS – I find it illuminating that five of the six respondents gravitated towards a journalist anchor in the Best category and four of the six gravitated to an opinion pundit in the Worst category. The unstated inference here is that people tend to go for talents they disagree with for their opinions when selecting a Worst whereas they tend to go for people with more journalistic bonafides in selecting a Best.

I wouldn’t single out one journalist anchor for best status because there’s too many who are too good to be left out. So my response would be a list of people I consider above and beyond their peers but for different reasons:

Shepard Smith, FNC
Jake Tapper, CNN
Bret Baier, FNC
Chris Jansing, MSNBC
Jon Scott, FNC
Brooke Baldwin, CNN
Chuck Todd, MSNBC
Anderson Cooper, CNN

I chided the Mediaite Worst list on Twitter as being universally wrong. My beef with the list is that all the choices are technically proficient at their craft. Much as I would love to throw in with Kirell on Martin Bashir, I can’t because he’s technically proficient at what he does. I object to him over what he does and how he does it. But that’s based on the notion that I’m personally offended by what Bashir utters and how he utters it rather than whether he utters it badly. For the purposes of this blog, technical proficiency is what I care about. When you start objecting to partisan rancor and the methods it takes you enter a gray area that says more about you than it does your selection.

I have a selection for this category but I’m not going to reveal it. Some people are naturals at this. Some people need work. And some people just look awkward on the air. I see no need in pointing out someone’s shortcomings in a medium that not everyone can easily get the hang of.

Best Cable News Pundit:

Andrew Kirell: Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox
Evan McMurry: Alex Pareene
Noah Rothman: Charles Krauthammer, Fox
Tommy Christopher: Joy Reid, MSNBC
Matt Wilstein: Marc Lamont Hill
Josh Feldman: This guy

Worst Cable News Pundit:

Andrew Kirell: Keith Ablow, Fox
Evan McMurry: Monica Crowley, Fox
Noah Rothman: Michael Eric Dyson, MSNBC
Tommy Christopher: Mark Halperin, MSNBC
Matt Wilstein: Michelle Malkin, Fox
Josh Feldman: Bob Woodward

Best…Worst…I con’t care. I care that there are too many of them on cable news. Period. Cable News’ crutch of pundit dependency in lieu of reporting more news stories is one of the biggest time wasters I know. The only exception I carve out of this are the technical analysts who are brought on to provide informed technical analysis for a subject that you, I, and the news anchor don’t have. The rest should be marched off a plank into the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean never to be seen again.

Best New Show:

Andrew Kirell: The Lead, CNN
Evan McMurry: All In, MSNBC
Noah Rothman: The Lead, CNN
Tommy Christopher: All In, MSNBC
Matt Wilstein: Parts Unknown, CNN
Josh Feldman: The Lead, CNN

Worst New Show:

Andrew Kirell: Crossfire, CNN
Evan McMurry: MediaBuzz, Fox
Noah Rothman: (Get To) The Point, , CNN
Tommy Christopher: Up Late, MSNBC
Matt Wilstein: New Day, CNN
Josh Feldman: (Get To) The Point, CNN

I’m not feeling too strongly about any of the new shows in the Best category but if pressed I’d probably go with The Lead because I like Tapper so much. As for the Worst, as much as I hate Crossfire and everything it portends for CNN there was only one real train wreck in 2013. But it’s not a new train wreck. It’s an old train wreck that’s been coming back every year on CNN. And it will come around again in a little over a week and a half. Can you guess what show that is? It’s not difficult.

Best Cable News Hire:

Andrew Kirell: Jake Tapper, CNN
Evan McMurry: Irin Carmon, MSNBC
Noah Rothman: George Will, Fox
Tommy Christopher: Jake Tapper, CNN
Matt Wilstein: Brian Stelter, CNN
Josh Feldman: Jake Tapper, CNN

Worst TV Hire:

Andrew Kirell: Newt Gingrich, CNN
Evan McMurry: Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Fox
Noah Rothman: Alec Baldwin, MSNBC
Tommy Christopher: Newt Gingrich, CNN
Matt Wilstein: Herman Cain, Fox
Josh Feldman: Alec Baldwin, MSNBC

Again, what’s with the category conflation? Anyways my Best hire would go to Tapper easy. Worst? That’s a little more problematic. Baldwin would probably get the nod but not so much because he was a bad hire but because his show was so awful. However part of me is hedging because I’m wondering if next year I’ll be looking back on this year wanting to scratch out Baldwin’s name and replace it with Ronan Farrow’s.

Update: Yup, one year later and I’m retroactively changing my vote from Baldwin to Farrow.

Worst Cable News Low Point:

Andrew Kirell: Selfie-Gate/Santa-Gate/Handshake-Gate in same week
Evan McMurry: Obama rodeo clown
Noah Rothman: Reaction to gun control bill failure
Tommy Christopher: Joe Scarborough slanders people with autism again
Matt Wilstein: CNN’s poop ship coverage
Josh Feldman: O’Donnell’s trainwreck interview with Weiner

Much as I’d like to go with the CNN cruise ship debacle or the sensational court TV coverage on CNN and HLN, my cable news low point was Jeff Zucker publicly broadening the definition of news and what it’s doing to CNN’s news brand and newscasts.

Best Cable/Network News Moment:

Andrew Kirell: Megyn Kelly destroys Erickson/Dobbs
Evan McMurry: Greenwald tells Gregory ‘you’re criminalizing journalism’
Noah Rothman: Greta shutting down Martin family attorney’s claims
Tommy Christopher: Megyn Kelly’s “White Santa”
Matt Wilstein: Russell Brand hijacks Morning Joe
Josh Feldman: Piers Morgan just sitting there letting Alex Jones rant

My Best moment: Al Jazeera America’s launch. The ratings have been miniscule…the carriage isn’t where it needs to be. But if you want news, it’s the place to go as CNN continues to “broaden the definition of news” and do less and less real news.

4 Responses to “Bests and Worsts of 2013”

  1. Spud: List of people I consider above and beyond their peers but for different reasons:

    Shepard Smith, FNC
    Jake Tapper, CNN
    Bret Baier, FNC
    Chris Jansing, MSNBC
    Jon Scott, FNC
    Brooke Baldwin, CNN
    Chuck Todd, MSNBC
    Anderson Cooper, CNN

    Top notch, The truly meaningful part of the article.

  2. Tapper is, for me, hands down the most capable news anchor. It’s impossible to tell what his own political views are and he comes across as someone who wants to get information and is less interested in creating buzz or playing games.

    Best of all, his ego doesn’t get in the way of his interviews. He’s not interesting in one-upping the person he’s interviewing.

    Those are rare qualities in cable news.

    Runners up: Todd – difficult environment but he tries to steer a middle course; Wallace – also a difficult environment but he challenges people from both sides.

    Tapper, Todd and Wallace all are capable of doing serious, deep journalism when called on it. I’m not sure many of these other anchors could do so.

    Most wasted potential: Maddow. She’s smart, articulate, proficient in front of the camera but she’s incapable – or unwilling – to leave the leftwing cocoon. If she does, she can be a star; but if she doesn’t she’ll always bet a female Hannity.

    Wasted potential runner up: Baier needs to challenge the conservative POV more on FNC. He lets them get away with too much especially since it’s almost always two conservatives to one liberal during the discussion part of the show.

  3. Baier is conservative. Like every liberal host on TV he won’t spend a lot of time challenging his own thought process though at least he has someone always present who might. That’s a least a rare treasure on TV. The forces in the mainstream that challenge conservative thought are so overwhelming, Bret hardly needs to add to that. He’s fair and adds some balance.

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