Thursday, July 27, 2006

mourning nightline

Isn’t it weird to advertise a show while the show is airing? The only time I see those ridiculous lightbulb ads for Nightline is during Nightline. I just assume that advertisers are just not paying for ad time on the broadcast any more, so they have to fill the time with something, no matter how inane.

I miss Ted Koppel. I miss being able to watch Nightline to get a deeper analysis of what’s going on in the world. I miss Dave Marash and Michel Martin.

The new format sucks. Many stories are several days old—I’ve already read about whatever the topic is in the New York Times or Salon, or even Newsweek. Martin Bashir cackling about the secret code in the judge’s ruling on the DaVinci Code lawsuit was already a couple of days old and solved by the time he got around to it. Jake Tapper’s lame interview with Markos Molitsas—hasn’t that story been done to death yet? Dogs eating at restaurants, men carrying purses, Cynthia McFadden’s ridiculous earrings taking center stage as she interviews ... who, I forget, was it Mel Brooks? All I remember are those big blue beachballs hanging from her ears as she stole center stage ... let’s see, celebrity baby names ... ooh such important topics to cover. Even Terry Moran has lost credibility—certainly pitched no hardballs during his Guantanamo “investigation.” And what’s with all the topics relating strictly to rich (or upper middle class) white folks with kids? Like the day care series, or single moms who can afford to be inseminated artificially and can afford to raise a kid on her own

The most retarded show yet was the show about khat, which was billed as the drug of terror—I guess because terrorists are allegedly making money “trafficking” in it. What was stupid about it was the lack balance. Is khat more dangerous than caffeine? What immigrant communities has it devastated? What drug lords in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia? Back when I was in graduate school at Columbia University, I went out with an Ethiopian grad student and hung out with him and his friends—all either students or immigrants and all khat chewers and all of them productive members of society. I tried it several times. Khat gave me less of a buzz than expresso. For people from the Horn of Africa and, I think, Yemen, chewing khat is like drinking coffee for us.

Anyway ... back to why I don’t care about Nightline anymore ...

The main reason is there isn’t enough depth. The anchor du jour makes a good start covering something important such as say, Iraq, or Israel/Lebanon, or North Korea, or whatever, then just as it’s starting to matter, it’s time to move on to the next story. The anchors, or whatever they’re supposed to be, look like morons when they smile brightly and say, after showing image after image of mayhem and destruction in Lebanon or Iraq or whatever the current horror of the week happens to be, “Now for a look at [insert some inane topic here]” Makes it really hard to take them seriously as journalists. Three stories in 20 minutes means none get covered well. It used to be that I could count on turning to Nightline for a closer look at whatever important news broke that day—a war, a Supreme Court decision, a law enacted, a disaster—and get some idea of what it might really mean. If not that very night, then the next night. And Ted & Co. seemed perfectly capable of running with breaking news. You know, like real journalists.

Not Nightline Lite.

When did McFadden turn into such a lightweight? She used to cover stories that mattered. Bashir has always been a celebrity hack (he did that show with Michael Jackson—which I didn’t bother watching because I don’t give a shiite about Jackson) so I don’t expect much from him. Moran—well, maybe he pissed somebody off—I always thought he was a decent reporter, especially since his CourtTV days, but being stuck at Nightline as his regular gig seems like a big step down. ABC will succeed in killing off the show once and for all.

I don’t care anymore.

posted by lee on 07/27/06 at 10:43 PM
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Saturday, July 29, 2006

new york times endorses ned lamont

It’s true, the New York Times endorses Ned Lamont. Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

On the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Lieberman has left it to Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to investigate the administration’s actions. In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized.” To suggest even rhetorically that the American military could be held to the same standard of behavior as terrorists is outrageous, and a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Lieberman prides himself on being a legal thinker and a champion of civil liberties. But he appointed himself defender of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the administration’s policy of holding hundreds of foreign citizens in prison without any due process. He seconded Mr. Gonzales’s sneering reference to the “quaint” provisions of the Geneva Conventions. He has shown no interest in prodding his Republican friends into investigating how the administration misled the nation about Iraq’s weapons. There is no use having a senator famous for getting along with Republicans if he never challenges them on issues of profound importance.

If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.

Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

Meanwhile, Joe is driving a big-ass bus throughout CT, polluting the air and the airwaves. Oh, so NOW he decides it might be wise to spend some time in the state he allegedly represents? Trying to ride the bus and Clinton’s coattails to another term.

I know the race is close. I’m just hoping Democrat Nutmeggers vote for the candidate who will truly represent us, and not for the candidate who betrayed us. I really hope I can spend September and October working to get Ned Lamont elected in November—campaigning for, at long last, a person I can proudly support—instead of pulling the lever for whomever I will think will do the least amount of damage to our democracy.

Vote for Ned Lamont on August 8th.

posted by lee on 07/29/06 at 10:38 PM
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gordon joseloff’s column for public eye

Public Eye is a blog (sort of) published by CBS News, meant to be part ombudsman, part window on how the news reports are made. CBS News’ version of Public Editor.

Last week, PE published a column: Outside Voices: Gordon Joseloff Suggests CBS News Look To Its Past To Map The Future, where he suggests CBS News should tap its alumni for experience and wisdom about the news business, especially as it moves forward with a new anchor.

Joseloff points out that one of the key traditions of CBS News is the absolute separation between the news and entertainment divisions of the network. He also quoted some still-important sections of the CBS News Standard manual put together by the late Richard Salant in 1976. Here is just one paragraph:

And, finally, this is as good a place as any to remind ourselves that our paramount responsibility at CBS News is to present all significant facts, all significant viewpoints so that this democracy will work in the way it should work—by the individual citizen’s making up his own mind on an informed basis. Our job is to contribute to that process and not to make up for them the minds of those who listen to and watch us. We must always remember that a significant viewpoint does not become less significant just because we personally disagree with it, nor does a significant and relevant fact become less relevant or significant just because we find it unpalatable and wish it weren’t so.”

But take a few minutes and read the entire column—it outlines what news junkies (like me) are looking for.

Joseloff is a veteran CBS correspondent and producer who is currently First Selectman (mayor) of Westport, CT and founder and publisher of (and one of our clients, we’re proud to say). (His bio)

Maybe someone could send a copy of the CBS News Standard manual to the producers and correspondents of Nightline. Or maybe ABC has its own manual, but somebody forget to give it to the new Nightline crew.

Speaking of anchors ... I try to watch Brian Williams on NBC whenever I get a chance. But I noticed a couple of times this week that he talks too slow, way too slow, like he has more time than he has stories. Like he’s trying to educate the stupid. I swear, last time I watched him I felt like I was in that stretched out time, you know, kinda like time is when you’re stoned or you have to listen politely to someone you’d just as soon slap into shutting up. And it’s not like it’s been a slow news week. I don’t know why it suddenly struck me. Maybe I was just tired. Or just anxious to get to Jeopardy (which is over until September, dang it).

posted by lee on 07/29/06 at 11:52 PM
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