Archive for August 11, 2017

Cable News Is Broken…

Posted in CNN, FNC, MSNBC on August 11, 2017 by icn2

The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi writes about what has turned me off of cable news…

Last year was a busy one for Hank Bargine, a freelance TV-news cameraman based in Colorado. The networks kept calling as the presidential candidates crisscrossed the country on the campaign trail. Bargine worked and traveled constantly, shooting rallies and other political events.

Now? Things are as slow as Bargine can remember in his 20 years as a news photographer. Bargine estimates he’s worked about 20 percent as much as he did last year. And he has no doubt what, or who, is responsible. “The Trump factor,” he calls it.

As in: The cable networks, in particular, have devoted so much time and attention to President Trump in his first six months in office that they have little time or interest in covering much else. Cable news has been so packed with Trump — wherever he might be, whatever’s he’s doing — that stories far afield from Washington don’t make the cut.

The current Trump-centric focus is an extension of the 2016 campaign, when the cable networks drew criticism for devoting disproportionate amounts of airtime to Trump, the candidate, at the expense of his political rivals. The networks — addicted to the improved ratings that all things Trump brought their way — seemingly couldn’t help themselves. “These are very good times for us, and the money is following,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in February.

If anything, 2017 has been more of the same — much more.

I’ll say.

There’s been a direct 1:1 correlation between the lack of output I have lacked to put out on this blog since the beginning of 2016 and the decrepit state of cable news.

Unlike Mediaite, TVNewser, and just about everyone else in media writing who has kept up with covering cable news and its incessant obsession over every Trump detail, be they pro or con, taken to absurd levels of scrutiny, I am completely apathetic about the whole thing.

To devote time to the latest Hannity ass kissing of Trump or the Joe and Mia fight or Tucker Carlson, Eric Bolling, and Jesse Watters’ hystrionics or CNN’s endless panels of too many people (many of which shouldn’t be there to begin with) on Trump news or MSNBC’s A, B, C, D, and E Trump centric blocks and squeezing six people on the screen all the time (even though only one is talking at any given time)…

…to write about cable news and its off kilter, out of proportion everything Trump does is news mantra and to do so with a straight face as too many of my colleagues have is to give legitimacy to something I find inherently illegitimate.

So that’s why I haven’t been blogging much. When you restrict your attention to areas cable news isn’t paying much attention to anymore, you don’t have a lot to write about.

Not that I expect others to follow suit. Ad dollars are at risk. I don’t make money doing this so I can afford to go take a powder purely on principle. Mediaite can’t. TVNewser can’t.

But just because I refuse to play ball and treat cable news’ lack of self-restraint and piss poor journalistic judgement as “the new normal” doesn’t mean I can sit by and watch cable news presidents take victory laps for said bad behavior…

“We’re reflecting the biggest story of our lifetime,” said Zucker in an interview on Thursday.

No on two counts. You aren’t reflecting the biggest story of our lifetime…you are unabashedly chasing ratings in a niche area in lieu of a global journalism approach. And this isn’t the biggest story of our lifetime.

But cable’s reliance on Trump is as much a programming strategy as a reflection of the news of the moment. Zucker acknowledges that the audience’s response to all the Trump news on cable validates the approach. Only a few years ago, “writers wrote that cable news was irrelevant, that it was being overtaken by the Internet,” he said. “The fact is, cable news has never been more relevant or more successful than it has been for the last two years.”

First of all few were writing that cable news was irrelevant and being overtaken by the internet because it simply wasn’t the case. It was the case for the broadcast networks nightly news shows but that story has been written and re-written going on for a decade now. Most were writing that print journalism was irrelevant and that it was being overtaken by the internet. That one may still bear out.

Cable news is more successful…I’ll give Zucker that. But that is not saying much either. I can make cable news very successful if I had my anchors all go topless. Doesn’t mean I should.

But cable news itself has never been more irrelevant than it is now for everyone but ideologues and political junkies. It is broken. People tune in not because they get informed…no they find the news faster via the internet…People tune in because they want their bubble-ish world views affirmed and for the entertainment factor of watching two sides disagree with each other.

People want to hear over and over again how bad Trump is doing on MSNBC and CNN. They want to hear about the latest dysfunction in the most dysfunctional White House of all time. They want the mindless endless speculation and prognostication from the know nothing cookie cutter paint by numbers panels that appear incessantly like penguins lining up to jump off an ice flow.

People want to hear over and over again about why Trump is getting a raw deal on FNC. They want the Hannity ass kissing, the Tucker Carlson elitist smugness, and the Fox and Friends brown nosing. They want to hear about Seth Rich. They want to know about the latest threat and outrage from the now impotent Hillary Clinton. They tune into a network full of fake news journalists to hear people scream about fake news. They tune in to watch mindless conservative pundit-toids beat up on feckless liberal zombies incapable of independent thought.

How is journalism served by any of this?

It’s not. And no amount of chest beating and self-crowing by Jeff Zucker is going to change that…not to mention this bit of self-serving banality from Phil Griffin…

“We try to squeeze in major stories that need to be told,” MSNBC President Phil Griffin said Thursday, “but there is one story that is dominating.” Besides, he adds, “We don’t want to do 20 stories with drive-by reporting. [Cable news] is much better when it picks a few and goes deep, looking at it from all sides.”

Or, in MSNBC’s case, picks one with a few variations on the one, and drones on about it ad nauseam.

There is one story that is dominating because you decided to make it dominate. This self-fulfilling prophecy that is the Trump phenomenon has always been a media generated issue. The supply has always come before the demand.

Most of the White House’s daily briefings have been devoid of real news value and yet cable news has covered them live far more times in the past six months than ever before in a similar timeframe. Not for the news. For the entertainment value.

Journalism works best when it presents as much of the news as possible and lets the reader/viewer digest the whole picture. It fails miserably when it cuts back on story count in order to pursue one lucrative but narrow demographic.

I haven’t seen cable news lose itself this badly and fail the viewer so utterly since the Florida recount. In that case, as with this one, cable news took a legitimate story of national import and perverted the hell out of it, losing all perspective and judgement while turning it into a spectacle designed to entertain rather than meaningfully inform.

For 40 something days we were inundated with images and words that we have since long forgotten.

We are due for at least another three and a half years of off kilter Trump coverage on all three cable news networks. Have a nice day…

Sloppy, sloppy…

Posted in FNC on August 11, 2017 by icn2

The Cut’s Amy Larocca writes the latest “There are a lot of blondes on FNC!” story…

Normally I wouldn’t give a story like this the time of day. Yes, there are more contractual employees in key on air journalism positions on FNC who are blonde than there are on all the other channels combined. And though that ratio of blonde to non-blonde has gone down the past 10 years it’s still large enough that only a blind person would deny the prevalence. Or, if you want to be generous, the coincidence.

So the story on its face is not worth my time. What is worth my time is how the writer and the site’s art team has stacked the deck against FNC.

Take a look at the first image in the article. There’s sooo much wrong with it…

– Everyone’s hair has been colorized to the same monotone color. Jenna Lee may be a blonde…in a dark blonde sort of way…but she’s not THAT blonde!

Update: Ok, she’s a redhead. That’s what I thought but some of these images didn’t look very red…and I got fooled.

– Page Hopkins? Gee, couldn’t you get examples who have worked at the network in the past four years?

– Katherine Timpf, Lis Wiehl, Margaret Hoover, etc… – Gee pad out your image with contractual analysts and contributors, why don’t ya?

And then there’s the second image which features Rita Cosby…

…who hasn’t worked at FOX in over a decade.

I could go on…but you get my point.

The images make it out like the article is all about FNC women but the author only devotes a single paragraph to the network.

Too much Schadenfreude…

Posted in CNN, FNC on August 11, 2017 by icn2

CNN’s Oliver Darcy writes in detail about what allegedly happened at FOX with the Seth Rich story…

For more than two months, Fox News has declined to explain the story behind one of its most high-profile journalistic disasters — the publication of an article that aimed to tie slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich to Wikileaks. Now CNN has learned the details and is disclosing them for the first time.

Read the rest if you want to know what (allegedly) happened.

Instant Take #1: CNN publishes a flawed story online (Scaramucci), retracts it fast, and three people are fired resign shortly thereafter. FNC publishes a flawed story online, waits a week to retract it, and so far nobody has been held accountable.

Instant Take #2: CNN seems to have no qualms about digging into the behind the scenes of a competitor’s misfortune and lack of disclosure and accountability. But when you mention the words “Fareed Zakaria” you will get stonewalled. It seems that, for CNN, not all media failure stories are created equal or merit the same level of scrutiny and disclosure.

Instant Take #3: If I’m FNC, I’m going to come after CNN’s “flaws” as publicly as CNN has come after mine.

Jeffrey Lord Fired by CNN…

Posted in CNN on August 11, 2017 by icn2

This is stupid. CNN dropped Jeffrey Lord from its roster over a “Seig Heil” comment? Of all the things in the world Lord has done both on CNN’s air and off it, and they only fire him because he makes a sarcastic quip on Twitter?

Lord was an embarrassment for CNN in particular and the conservative cause in general and should have been dropped years ago. But the fact that this is what got him fired says a lot about the state of the network. You can repeatedly dumb down the on air discussion…a discussion the network repeatedly has tried to sell as a plus in its journalistic coverage…and the network won’t care but you do something stupid on Twitter and you’re dead meat.

The Bolling Situation…

Posted in FBN, FNC on August 11, 2017 by icn2

I have held off writing about the Eric Bolling situation because, frankly, I don’t know what to make of it. Bolling was suspended pending an investigation by FNC after a Yashar Ali article came out in the Huffington Post saying that Bolling engaged in some rather Anthony Weiner like behavior a few years ago with a few FNC/FBN female colleagues.

Bolling has proclaimed his innocence and filed a 50 million dollar defamation lawsuit against Ali.

Usually with this kind of story you can get an idea early on which way things are headed but this time I’m just not sure.

On the one hand we have Ali’s story which allegedly has been corroborated in some way by over a dozen anonymous people.

And yet this story is coming out differently from what happened with the Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly (and even the Charles Payne) stories. In those, either lawsuits were filed (Ailes), legal settlements were paid out (O’Reilly), or a complaint had been lodged with FNC’s outside lawyers (Payne) before the story broke in the press.

But in this case it’s the opposite…the story has come out before anyone apparently filed any kind of complaint against Bolling. And the fact that said alleged photo, if it indeed exists, didn’t leak out after several years is…odd. These types of incidents usually do get out into the public domain by now.

That in itself does not repudiate the story outlined in the Huffington Post but it does make me sit back and go, “Hmmmmm…”

Just as FNC scrubbing Bolling’s name off The Specialists Twitter feed makes me sit back and go, “Hmmmm…”

…though not so much when you consider that The Specialists’ web page is 100% intact.

Update: Not 100% intact. Some changes were made. But not all traces of Bolling were expunged either so…somewhat inconclusive.

In a post Gawker world, the landscape for public defamation lawsuits has changed, particularly where web journalism is involved. Gawker’s demise has emboldened others to take a shot at cases that prior to Hulk Hogan’s legal take down of Gawker would not have been contemplated. Not that this means Bolling’s suit is meritless nor is that what I’m saying. But the idea of multi-million dollar defamation suit as intimidation weapon is a concept we can’t dismiss as easily as before.

One of two things will happen. Either FNC’s investigation clears Bolling (and any clearance better contain details as to why the charges don’t hold up) or the investigation turns up something and then FNC is in a pickle.

Losing Bolling would hurt…especially after Ailes and O’Reilly were forced out and Payne currently twists in the wind. It would permanently damage The Specialists which, despite FNC making this out to be a panel show, is really a Bolling vehicle. He’s the heart of it and if you search Twitter you’ll see a lot of tweets demanding Bolling be brought back.

The lawsuit itself is thorny. Either its an intimidation bluff attempt that will wither and die the moment the discovery process is opened or it’s the real deal and Ali’s in big big trouble. We won’t know for sure which way this is going until/unless it makes it all the way to court.

The lawsuit may actually complicate matters for the network. It would be particularly bad if FNC let Bolling back on the air but the defamation suit went ahead and Bolling lost after evidence came out in court refuting Bolling’s denials. That would put FNC in a bind. This possibility is one reason the investigation may take a long time to resolve itself because FNC may wait to see what happens with the court case.