Out Of Range…

Mediaite’s Joe Concha pens an article about picking three talents from the big three cable news networks who are underrated based on their range…

Compliments are a dying sentiment in the online writing business… a craft increasingly built on snark and cynicism. It just ain’t cool to offer praise when a biting remark or well-crafted kidney punch generally gets more applause and attention. But let’s buck conformity and offer up some kudos to those who don’t get nearly enough credit for possessing an attribute you cannot teach:

Range.

Right off the bat, the inclusion of Anderson Cooper is a head scratcher for me on two counts: 1) Because he’s CNN’s flagship anchor and therefore not underrated by any reasonable definition of the term. 2) His range is well known and has been well known for nearly a decade now. I was writing about it nine years ago. Add 1 and 2 and you get “What is this doing here?”

The problem with using the range barometer when applied to CNN is that CNN spreads most of its non-specialist people (e.g. people who aren’t Bureau Chiefs, Military reporters, etc) everywhere. Therefore they are constantly being thrust into new territory so by default the average range of a CNN talent is going to be wide. Cooper, Lemon, Tapper, Burnett, Cuomo, Baldwin, Camerota, Berman…when everyone is allowed to have wide range, it’s harder to find people who are flying under the radar.

BTW, this is not necessarily a plus. When most people are capable of doing anything, nobody stands out. Worse, it creates for some bizarre branding issues. Not that I’m deliberately singling anyone out here, but, using a media reporter to cover a snow storm, for example. Or a weatherman to talk about astronomy stuff.

Concha senses his pick might be a reach to some (uh, yeah…)

An argument can be made that the 48-year-old Cooper doesn’t belong on this list since his lucrative contract (reportedly $11 million/year) shows he’s not undervalued by his own network. But money is one thing, recognition is quite another, and Cooper doesn’t seem to get enough of it.

I gotta call B.S. on this too. He may not be getting the publicity today he used to get under Jonathan Klein’s regime (especially that alleged massive Marketing Campaign) but that’s beside the point because he got enough 10 years ago and his presence has been everywhere that there is no credible way that you can argue that Cooper’s versatility is being low balled. At this point it’s so self-evident it practically doesn’t need mentioning.

Concha goes on to define his version of “Range”…

How is range defined here as it pertains to cable news? Quite simply, it is someone who can wear the performance hat of an anchor (traditional news delivery, no editorial) and host (some traditional news delivery, some editorial, more personality-based)… and can seamlessly adjust to any kind of format or time of day/night. Most importantly, they can execute all of this on a high level. They’re the Swiss army knives of television…

I’d say that’s a fair definition though I do have a bone to pick with Concha stealing my shtick

Watching NBC News’ “Swiss Army Knife” @ChrisJansing anchor MSNBC’s coverage with @HarrySmith…
– 6:23 PM – 15 Nov 2015

Ok, not really. It’s not like I trademarked it or anything…

Anyway, I already discussed Cooper being not at all suited for this classification but I found myself scratching my head at Dana Bash making the honorable mentions list. Whaaaaat? Since when has Bash done anything outside of politics for any significant length of time? Range? What range?

The other two choices Concha made were Shannon Bream from FNC and Steve Kornacki of MSNBC.

I like Bream. I agree with Concha that she makes for a great “utility player”. Where I disagree is regarding range; not whether she has it or not but whether it’s been shown.

As I’ll show later with Kornacki, Concha gets a little too specific about what he keys in on for range here, compared to his original definition for the term. Sure, Bream has hosted and filled in on lots of different shows on various hours of the day…but given the network she’s on and its very narrow focus (compared to say CNN on a regular non-politics dominated day)…it by default will restrict her range in what she covers and how she covers it. Bream may indeed have the range Concha suggests she has but FNC’s format rigidity isn’t going to let her display it.

Concha’s Honorable Mentions to Bream were Martha McCallum and Dana Perino. I would argue that McCallum has a greater demonstrated range than Bream simply based on what she’s done on CNBC and FNC combined. But Perino? Whaaaaaaat? Putting a pundit on the range list? Someone who is never going to be known as a general news anchor? What kind of range is that exactly?

My candidate would be…Megyn Kelly. This sounds counterintuitive since she’s such a star. But she’s a star who is known mostly for being tough as nails…

…and also for being Donald Trump’s arch nemesis.

Unlike Anderson Cooper though, Kelly hasn’t had a big multi-million dolllar PR push over a couple of years to establish herself as that “can use anywhere” talent. For the longest time…in fact for too long…the PR push around Kelly was that she was the “rising star”. This meme went on for so long that I started openly mocking it because it was patently obvious to me by that point that she was no longer a rising star but was in fact a superstar.

But anyone can see that she is that utility player swiss army knife type. It just hasn’t shown up much on FNC as it could have (and like with Bream I fault the network’s format as holding Kelly back). This is why it’s such a big deal that Kelly gets her Barbara Wa-wa celeb interview special on Fox Broadcast (Note: I’m sure it will re-air on FNC too…and FBN…but Fox Broadcast is the real prize). This will finally show the world what most of us had suspected. But until then Kelly gets my nod as the one on FNC with the most underrated range.

Like with Bream, when it comes time talk about Kornacki, Concha gets very hung up on one part of his range definition while ignoring deficiencies in other key parts of that definition. For Kornacki, Concha is mesmerized by his ability to pop up all over MSNBC’s schedule. Well, ok…it’s fair to note that. He’s Phil Griffin’s Flavor of the Month right now, just like Thomas Roberts was Phil’s Flavor of the Month a couple years ago and was popping up all over the place. Eventually Kornacki will be eclipsed by Phil’s next Flavor of the Month…provided Phil is still around that is.

But what about the rest of that range definition? What about being known for something other than Politics?

Look, Kornacki is a politics wonk, just like Chuck Todd is a politics wonk. He’s a natural like Tim Russert. He’s not a trainee who acclimated himself to it like David Gregory. That much is clear when you watch him. Politics is in his blood.

But you aren’t going to get Swiss Army Knife consideration if people think you have nothing but corkscrews. And though Concha goes on to detail all the media names Kornacki has written for that’s a completely useless stat because it has nothing whatsoever to do with what he does on MSNBC’s air.

None of this is to say that Kornacki doesn’t have the potential to expand his reach and be a younger version of Jake Tapper. But it hasn’t been demonstrated so far with how MSNBC has used him. So I just do not agree that Kornacki’s range is anywhere near what Concha makes it out to be. There’s just no proof of it on TV. Yet.

In my opinion both of Concha’s Honorable Mentions, Willie Geist and Chris Jansing, have greater demonstrative range than Kornacki. But if it’s going to be a throwdown between those two that fight is over before it starts. Geist hasn’t toiled in the shadows as long, hasn’t covered the death of a Pope, hasn’t covered a volcano erupting, hasn’t covered a Nuclear meltdown scenario on location, hasn’t covered every election since 1980, wasn’t on the air for 9/11, wasn’t a White House correspondent, didn’t interview OJ Simpson live, didn’t go on the road for 9 months in 2004 to cover the election from primaries to the general, etc, etc, etc…

Even if I didn’t have an acknowledged bias towards Chris Jansing, it’s patently obvious that she’s MSNBC’s most underrated talent with the greatest range for the simple reason that she’s done so much for so long and hardly anyone has said anything about it.

5 Responses to “Out Of Range…”

  1. I noticed 5 of his 6 Honorable Mention folks lean right.

    Martha McCallum, Dana Perino, Willie Geist, Erin Burnett, Dana Bash

    Sole Exception:
    Chris Jansing

    That’s are Joe.

    Eye of the beholder, right?

    All things considered it was an interesting read as was Spud’s take. I am always interested in what others have to say about anchors and hosts given that some of it is subjective. Although I am still looking for a good argument as to why the mannequin-like Willie Geist is on television.🙂

  2. As long as Wolf Blitzer can thrive, nobody should be throwing darts at Geist for perceived mannequin-like behavior. Not that I agree with such an assessment either.

  3. […] Underrated cable news champs who can do it all…an alternate […]

  4. Concha’s ‘range’ exercise is interesting and everyone will have there own choices I suppose.

    I don’t have a big argument with Cooper as he’s gone out of his way to cover a range of news stories over the years. I’d give Martin Savdige the nod as an honorable mention over Dana Bash as he really is under the radar at CNN. Michelle Kosinski also has a pretty varied reporting career.

    Over at FNC my choice would be Shep Smith who is comfortable covering any story, I’m not sure why he’s not mentioned. I don’t watch enough FNC to have an opinion on anyone else.

    I agree, as much as i like SK, he’s almost exclusively a political reporter/host. I can’t argue with Jansing having the most range at MSNBC but you can make a case for Rachel Maddow as having a pretty good range when she wants to. Look at her Middle East coverage or her stories on planned parenthood. And of course her Flint coverage was way ahead of most national coverage of the story..

  5. I would say that Erin Burnett is under utlized at CNN compared to Cooper , Who I don’t even think is underrated when I think of people at CNN , Wolf and Cooper pop up first. Not sure ,but Berman at CNN is very versatile and works well in anything he does… he makes their New Day a better program as a sub than when the main male anchor is there, he should be on an underrated list. At MSNBC , my pick is Alex Witt (though I may have a bias) she has been there forever , does a good job , at the old days she was one of top anchors with Jansing and Holt, and few others. I don’t think Willie ever was underrated he seemed to move up pretty quickly. Chris Jansing worked harder and longer than Giest at MSNBC/NBC she moved up slowly and saved the channels back end a few times , nothing agiainst Giest he had something that propelled , besides his name, but Jansing has proven herself more. Martha McCallum has shown she’s versatile much like Bream.

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