Posts Tagged ‘media


endorsement season

After mailing my absentee ballot, some reflection has left me totally confused as to how someone might still be undecided. With such stark differences between the candidates, it’s hard for me to imagine a state of mind that would result in being an undecided voter. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like we need to wait to find out on what side of the bed some undecided Ohioans wake up Nov. 4.

In case there’s an undecided voter out there who is going to choose based on the opinions pages of the NYT, WashPo, New Yorker, etc (I find it unlikely that there are many undecideds in the audiences of these papers) their editors have come out with their (un)surprising endorsements of Barack. But endorsement season doesn’t stop with the elite, liberal, America-hating media. Any loyal HuffPo reader has surely seen endorsements that range from poor attempts at humor to last minute ship jumping.

I don’t want to entirely minimize the importance of endorsements. Obama’s commanding lead (133-44 among print media) around the country should end the “discussion” about the sufficiency of his experience. I’d also be lying to suggest that I haven’t been following the endorsements closely. The last few weeks have seen some really moving, strongly worded statements of support laden with political and historical significance beyond the immediate choice. Colin Powell’s forceful eloquence on Meet The Press should reassure even conservative voters as to Obama’s capacity to keep the nation safe.

I was particularly impressed with his denouncement of the McCain/Palin/Right Wing attacks; I believe his argument was only stengthened by the obvious insanity of his post-endorsement skewering by racist right wing zealots. Though nothing can ever atone for Powell’s infamous argument for war at the UN, he’s using his immense credibility with the American people for a cause this time. It’s a start.

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couric and cafferty

Sarah Palin’s “discussion” with Katie Couric should be shocking for anyone with a brain. The content of the interview itself is of little critical interest – there’s no need for any commentary beyond what’s offered in this week’s New Yorker cover.

Look what I can see!

"Look what I can see!"

What I do find interesting is the way the interview has been handled. CBS News clearly understood the power of what they had in the can and it certainly would have made a splash regardless of how it was released. Recall that ABC aired Palin’s first interview, with Charlie Gibson, in a couple long segments. This produced two real days of new news and youtube clips for horrified voters to distribute via email. CBS apparently took this tactic even farther; each day since the Couric interview, there has been a new question with a frightening “answer” that makes it to the top of political blogs and email inboxes. Every day, the country gets a new dose of Palin’s foolishness. The McCain campaign must be quite frustrated having to fight this viral video in every news cycle.

What worries me is the reception these displays of ignorance. It’s obvious that Palin is stuttering and losing her train of thought (to be generous). But if the viewer is just as ignorant as she, how offensive will her political illiteracy be? It’s a lot easier for a stupid gaffe to make waves than it is for a verbal vacuum to outrage people.

Recently, these ridiculous performances are causing many a commentator to find himself at a loss for coherence (I guess it’s communicable through the video √† la Stephen King’s Cell). I usually find CNN’s Jack Cafferty to be insufferable, but this “impression” was/is needed (the good stuff starts around 1:50):

Now we just need that to come out of Tom Brokaw’s mouth.


who is this woman and why is she working on fox?

When Papa Bear Bill O’Reilly goes insane on air, he’s usually safely entombed in a hermetically sealed pod of conservative ideology. This time, Megyn Kelly was there to kick his ass.

I don’t know how Roger Ailes messed up and hired this real reporter, but i’m sure her days at the network are numbered if she doesn’t respond to the treatment that turned Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, and Bill Hemmer into Sean Hannity’s troop of zombies. (The ability of the network to turn real, professional journalists into conservative shills is really quite impressive).

Maybe she shouldn’t succomb. If she plays her cards right, Kelly might be able to ride a wave of you-tube support right into MSNBC’s studio, where she could replace Chris Matthews’ bloviation.


a newsgasm

I never thought that i would get more pleasure from the content of a Fox News segment than from the anchors themselves. The distribution of praise and criticism on this page so far is pretty strange (FOX 1, NYT -1).


Putting it in perspective

After thinking about coverage of the Palin interview yesterday, i went to this morning to find the second part of the interview (this event was too good to be squashed into one night of television). Instead of finding a link to a video of our potential VP, i was treated to a large (and obviously effective) ad for Wipeout, a new show that does for Spike’s infamous MXC what the Food Network did for the original Iron Chef.

The Iron Chef transition from funny dubbing to the American “Kitchen Stadium” worked out pretty well. We’ll have to see if the MXC concept is still as funny once we actually know what the announcers are saying. I guess that’s why they decided to make it really American: the announcers (one of whom is from ESPN) spend much of the show making fun of the fat people who fall off of some bouncy rubber surface, slam their faces into a wall, and fall into a pool of mud. It’s kind of like a cross between The Biggest Loser and a beer commercial.

After this, I went downstairs to make some breakfast and was listening to NPR, for what I thought would be a refreshing dose of sanity. Instead, I was clued into the expert opinion on Sarah Palin’s performance. Apparently she didn’t make any big gaffes. There was even a discussion about whether the Bush Doctrine question was fair.

I expect that from a News Corp property, but NPR? Dismayed and confused I finished my cinnamon bun and retreated upstairs to bury myself in Althusser and some more of the sweeper.


Fairness or a failure of responsibility?

It could be that I’ve started to perceive the world solely in the bold, red headlines of HuffPo, but I certainly didn’t think the story from Sarah Palin’s ABC interview was that she thinks she’s “ready.” But apparently, The Times’ Jim Rutenberg felt that was pretty crucial, since he spends his first four paragraphs recounting Sarah’s declaration of fitness. Though we hear a bit about her Bush Doctrine “stumble” 200 words in, it’s not until nearly two-thirds of the way through the piece that Rutenberg shares the embarrassing play-by-play.

When I learned about the notorious buried lede, it seemed like a style mistake. But after reading about what the Internet is doing to our brains, this seems like an egregious abdication of responsibility by Rutenberg to orient the story around such a trite part of the interview. The Bush Doctrine is not an obscure piece of foreign policy jargon. Our dear leader’s vacuous statement of purpose has caused untold damage to the world; this is from the new york post, not the journal of foreign affairs. In my reading, Palin’s lack of awareness is bigger than her saber rattling towards Russia, her full-throated support for israel right-or-wrong, and her belief that the Iraq war is a mission from god.

So how do we evaluate The Times’ coverage? I frequently find that The Times’ efforts to balance their coverage devolve into fruitless attempts to lose the designation as a liberal rag. Instead of ideologically evening the ship, Times coverage and news judgement often go too far. Short of a Murdoch purchase, there is little The Times can do to win Bill O’Reilly’s heart. More than ever, the recent spate of outright lies from the McCain camp demand an active, responsible, vigorous fourth estate. The abdication of responsibility from the mainstream media allows this to continue with coverage bland enough to earn headlines like “Campaigns Trade Barbs Over Obama Lipstick Comment.” This isn’t fact checking, it’s score keeping.

MSNBC is in the midst of another struggle for “balance” and ethics in a changing media landscape. No one is sure how to maintain both standards and audiences, how to keep pressure on discourse without facing a boycott, how to serve the public interest while remembering the state of media ownership. I can’t throw my full support behind Olbermann – because a distinction between editorial commentary and news is still important at any news organization – but I can’t help but be grabbed by the audacity of his Special Comments. After years of seething anger belonging to the conservatives in a time when the right has been exposed as thoroughly wrong, Olbermann’s commentary is a televised moment of poitical jouissance. Palin’s stage-managed poise reflects her experience as the second runner-up at the 1984 Miss Alaska Pageant and is a strong, spectacular defense against Charlie Gibson’s energetic examination. The performance makes it difficult to remember that she’s shanking the responses to entry-level foreign policy questions. For the television viewer, this recital of authenticity was a powerful simulacrum that thoroughly veiled her thin biographical experience; proximity to Russia and one intercontinental voyage (in 2007). Youtube and cable news will concentrate¬† the Nixon/Kennedy debate effect, except this time no one’s listening on the radio.

This is why it so important for The Times to shape up. It’s fortunate that McCain played the Nixon to Palin’s Kennedy on The View today. But without a strong, candid voice in print, our only hope might be for the Matthews-Olbermann team to get mad as hell. If they don’t, people are just going to keep taking it.

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