September 13, 2006 - September 6, 2006
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The Hard News
Journalism is digging for hard news,
right? Digging deep.
Commander Drudge seems to be taking some delight in reporting on
the ratings race sparked by the launch of Katie Couric's CBS Evening News Today
links to a Variety
article that analyzes the latest numbers.
Katie Couric's "Evening News" fell to
third place Monday night, just six nights after she stormed into first
in her debut week at CBS.
Couric's debut... brought in well over 13 million total viewers last
week. While her audience dwindled from there, she finished the week
with a comfortable 3 million-viewer lead over NBC's "Nightly News" and
ABC's "World News."
But on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Couric
resumed a ratings position only slightly better than the one Bob
Schieffer left her with. Her 7.49 million total viewers were slightly
behind ABC's 7.87 million and NBC's 8.27 million.
ratings slump, but he appears to have missed the most shocking part of
the story, buried in the tenth paragraph:
Rival nets pointed out that Couric's
"Evening News" aired the least amount of hard news among the network
newscasts over the course of last week.
According to news analyst Andrew Tyndall, CBS aired 19 minutes of hard
news last week, compared with 46 minutes for ABC and 44 minutes for NBC.
Come again. Couric had 19 minutes
of hard news? That's less than four
minutes per day
and only half
the time viewers are subjected to commercials
in a half-hour
newscast. This means the CBS news audience will, on average, learn
twice as much about floorwax, hemorrhoid remedies, and fast food
alternatives than they will about what happened today in the world. And
Les Moonves expects us to take him seriously as a news executive?
ABC and NBC aren't much better, averaging barely 9 minutes a day each
of hard news, which is just about a minute more than the time allotted
for floorwax and hemorrhoids. For this we have to endure the slick
sanctimony of Brian Williams? If this truly is the financial reality of
network news, shouldn't he discard the Savile Row suits and opt for one
of those porkpie hats with a card reading "Press" stuck in the brim?
And maybe he could also be honest enough to return to those thrilling
days of yesteryear and read the ad copy himself while holding up an
oversized pack of Chesterfields. That would at least be entertaining.
Still, we are bamboozled with columns by media journalists analyzing
whether or not Katie Couric has the starpower to save the genre of
nightly network news broadcasts. The answer is no. No one can save a
format so utterly empty and bankrupt. You can get more hard news than
that between calls on your cell phone.
The options are few and stark. The networks can go burlesque, or they
can turn out the lights and go home, because nobody will be watching.
Changing of the ThongGuard
Air America Radio will announce a major
restructuring on Friday, which is expected to include a bankruptcy
filing, three independent sources have told ThinkProgress.
Air America could remain on the air under the deal, but significant
personnel changes are already in the works. Sources say five Air
America employees were laid off yesterday and were told there would be
no severance without capital infusion or bankruptcy.
The really excellent news is that on the same day, a brand
new radio enterprise
has been announced by Gloria
, who have figured out -- after much objective deliberation
-- that talk radio is generally male, combative, and in need of
the soft woman's touch so long exemplified by these two icons of female
gentility, tact, and grace:
Greenstone Media, a radio company whose
founders include social activist Gloria Steinem and actress Jane Fonda,
has launched an all-women, all-talk network across the United States.
Steinem said the network, which is run by women, aims to provide an
alternative to current radio talk, which she describes as "very
argumentative, quite hostile, and very much male-dominated."
This network "has a different spirit. It has more community. It's more
about information, about humor, about respect for different points of
view and not constant arguing," Steinem told Reuters in an interview.
But Greenstone also hopes to attract male listeners.
This sounds like an opening for a show by Randi
definitely knows how to do the obscene, scatological name-calling that
all men prefer in their political analysis and,who, let's be honest,
may just possibly be in need of employment sometime during the next few
I know I can't wait to feel the warm waves of feminine intelligence
oozing from the radio on a regular basis. I had a tiny taste today on
the Rush Limbaugh show when a cultured, highly educated liberal woman
called Rush to show him the error of his ways in sponsoring the evil
people who are determined to destroy our great nation by warring
against muslim fanatics. It was a joy. She was articulate, forcible
without being loud, and it took her a full 45 seconds to get around to
comparing his powers of perception with his total hearing loss. When it
comes right down to it, everyone must concede that women are just nicer
all around than men.
And their promotional merchandise is always much more exciting too.
Triangulating on Truth
Monday, September 11, 2006
So it's been exactly five years since we all turned on the TV to watch
that second plane strike the second tower and begin the 21st century in
earnest. Where were you at that moment? And what were your immediate
I know there have been a lot of weighty analyses of the fifth
anniversary of 9/11 and its meaning. I heard one Saturday on the radio,
hosted jointly by NPR and the BBC, with listeners from all over the
globe solicited to call in, collect, to offer their own perspectives. Frank
was a guest and seemed impressed enough by the dignity of the
venue that he actually tried to restrain his Bush hatred and affect an
objective point of view. Dorothy
was also on hand as the lone defender of (outmoded) 20th
century traditions like patriotism and national security. Whenever she
made a point the BBC hostess didn't like, a caller was summoned from
the queue to provide an anecdotal rebuttal. The foreign callers were
identified by nation of origin -- France, Britain, etc -- but they were
invariably muslim and offended to the core by the fact that the U.S.
would seek to defend itself against muslim terrorism by scrutinizing
muslims more closely than Indiana housewives. The BBC hostess was
enjoying herself immensely until Rabinowitz had finally had enough and
pummeled the BBC for its venomous anti-American propaganda, which
caused her to lapse into relative silence.
Still, it was interesting to hear the American pundits trying, for
once, to be less partisan and more reflective about the difficulties
America faces in trying to fight a war on terror in the current
international climate. Even if it was all for show, the prospect of
Frank Rich declaring that the policy decisions were extraordinarily
difficult and unavoidably controversial was like the experience of rain
after a long drought, almost palpably life-giving. What would the past
five years have been like, I couldn't help wondering, if debate and
criticism had proceeded atop the civil platform of agreement that the
President was really trying to do his best in a terrible crisis that
almost no one had anticipated? Imagine that everyone had been sober and
serious all along, as if the responsibility were theirs and not someone
else's. Imagine that the opposition to the administration's policies
had been more substantive than personal, focused on alternative
proposals rather than autopsies of irrevocable decisions past. Imagine
that all of us were dealing with today's reality instead of pet
grievances from months or years ago. Isn't it possible that the critics
might have had more impact on events, that the defenders of American
policy might have listened and responded more thoughtfully?
You can decide all these questions for yourselves, but I know I would
have been more open to opposing views if their proponents had not
insisted that doing the right thing required a first step of denouncing
the president as a fool, a liar, an opportunist, and a closet tyrant.
If I put aside the partisan emotions such postulates inspire, I have
enough breathing room to perceive that my own views have changed again
and again over the past five years. On September 11, 2001, I wanted to
nuke Afghanistan, I wanted the world to tremble in fear of American
military might, I wanted to go Roman Empire on the whole smelly,
barbarian world. I wanted bin Laden and everyone he had ever met
vaporized into a radioactive cloud. But Bush did not launch the B-52s
and ICBMs. I was irate when I asked the question a lot of people just
like me were asking at the time, "What is he waitng for? Just go DO it."
But you can't nuke a country of 15 million people because some of its
residents killed 3,000 Americans. I would have recognized that fact if
I had been the one making the decisions in the Oval Office. But I
wasn't. I had the luxury of not being responsible for how the nation
responded to an act of ultimate depravity and viciousness. Indeed, we
have ALL had that luxury. All of us, that is, but the most vilified man
on Planet Earth, the one man who has had to be continuously responsible
for protecting the United States of America throughout each of the
2,628,000 minutes since the first plane crashed into the World Trade
In honor of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, I propose that all Americans
perform two exercises. The first is to compile a list of notable public
examples of the luxury of not being responsible for protecting the
nation. The list should take in the full five year timeframe, and it
should be written down to make it official. I'm offering a sample here,
just to illustrate what I mean, but yours will, of course, be different.
On 9/11/01, a day when four airliners
were hijacked, two of the world's largest buildings lay in smoking
ruins, and U.S. air traffic controllers had to land 4,000 planes in
three hours, network anchorman Peter Jennings sneered at the fact that
the President of the United States didn't return to the nation's
capitol until nightfall.
As newly anointed chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard
Dean told a radio audience he considered theories that the President of
the United States had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks
Congressman John Conyers, who would chair the committee responsible for
drawing up articles of impeachment if the Democrats win a House
majority in the 2006 elections, presided over a mock trial of the
President in which he tolerated "evidence" that 9/11 was planned and
executed by Jews.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, this week
denounced the President of the United States for deliberately lying and
misleading the nation into the war in Iraq despite the fact that he
himself had described Saddam Hussein as an "imminent threat" to the
United States (which the President never did), citing intelligence
indicating that Saddam was possibly only months away from nuclear
weapons (which the President never did).
Former Vice President Al Gore stormed at a partisan crowd that the
President of the United States "betrayed us" and subsequently undertook
a promotional tour for a book and movie arguing that the greatest
current threat to the United States of America is a theoretical climate
condition demonstrated by mathematical models in a "science" that has
yet to produce a single mathematical model capable of predicting what
the climate will do next week.
A former President of of the United States, this week
, demanded that a
national television network withdraw a miniseries implying that his
administration failed to take the threat posed by al Qaida seriously
enough to kill or capture its leader when it had the chance, despite this record
Further, his political allies -- supposedly devoted to the
inviolability of he First Amendment under all circumstances, including
the rawest pornography -- backed up his demand by implying that the
network could lose its license to broadcast if the miniseries was aired
on national television.
The Senate Minority Leader boasted on network television that his party
had "killed the Patriot Act," which permits the federal government
expanded powers to investigate terrorist threats, and subsequently
claimed -- also on network television -- that America is "less safe"
from terrorist attack because of the President's lackadaisical attitude
about national security.
The country's major opposition party has continuously derided and
scorned the policies of Defense Department Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
in particular his determination to invade and reorganize Iraq with too
few troops, and this week
published a document calling for his immediate dismissal, a document
which also contained as its one military proposal a demand to increase
funding for special operations forces; that is, the smallest and most
specialized military forces there are.
The mainstream media, led by the prestigious New York Times
, have perpetuated a
three-year (unfounded, as it turns out) assault on the President of the
United States and his staff for exposing an "undercover" CIA operative
in retribution for a diplomatic leak by a former ambassador that was
itself a lie, arguing that the leak of a CIA operative's identity was
tantamount to treason while, at the same time, publishing details of
classified intelligence operations which were both legal and effective
on the basis that the public's right to know trumps ALL questions of
The country's major opposition party has refused to publicly and
officially condemn the absurd position taken by approximately 33
percent of Americans (some overlap with the 33 percent of Americans who
are registered Democrats?) who believe -- in defiance of the
voluminously documented evidence to the contrary -- that the 9/11
attack was either planned by the President of the United States or
permitted to happen despite complete, detailed knowledge of the plot in
Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. As I said, everyone can draw
up his own list. There are absurdities on every side, and I'm sure that
those who are so disposed can find laughable examples that suit their
own political biases. My overriding point is that all of our positions,
causes, pet peeves, and raging hatreds are luxuries. Only one of the
300 million people who live in America wake up every day to a briefing
from the nation's intelligence agencies about what threats might become
reailty today. That's a fact. The man's name is George W. Bush.
I'm NOT saying this makes him immune from criticism. In fact, the exact
opposite is true. Forget all the invective about his cowardice or
shirking of military duty when he was a twenty-something. Five years of
such briefings would be enough to give most of us Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder. It's probably the case that the President of the United
been damaged by
what he's been through. It's the most obvious explanation conceivable
for why the White House seems so slow to respond to the daily
firestorms the mass media engender. My guess is, not too many of us
would want to be living inside George W. Bush's head right now. It's
too much. For anyone. He needs
advice and constructive criticism and thoughtful opposition. But who --
and I'm including all of you in this -- is served by characterizing the
advice, criticism, and opposition as the obvious response to a criminal
But that's right. You, me, all of us, we're so much smarter than the
oil monkey who's been getting the daily briefings for five years. That
brings me to the second exercise. Make a list -- and write IT
down too -- of the extreme positions you
have taken personally over the past five years, beginning with
9/11. What are the worst things you have thought? What are the
wildest positions you have espoused in your times of greatest personal
weakness, disgust, anger, fatigue, despair? Measure them against the
imaginary state in which you
are responsible, day after day after day after day after day... Define
loneliness. Could you bear it?
Now. That done, how would you really go about discussing your
differences with the President of the United States? If you answer this
question truthfully, I'm sure he'd be prepared to listen.
Thanks to Glenn
and to all the commenters who have been so kind.