Sunday, February 11, 2007

Perspective, Sensationalism, And A Keith Olbermann Diss

Hi everyone. Hope you had a nice weekend. I sat down all set to type up the review for Friday's show, but honestly I'm just not feeling it. The coverage of Anna Nicole and the astronaut story has left me outraged and extremely disappointed, so I thought for this post we could just discuss 360 and other news in general. I was on Huffington Post today and came across some commentary from Iraq veteran Paul Rieckhoff. A snippet:
The week I got back home from Iraq in 2004, the number one news story in America was Janet Jackson's breast being exposed at the Super Bowl. I was flabbergasted to see that this was what the American media cared about, as my friends were taking mortar rounds and sniper fire in Ramadi and Tikrit. Now, three years later, troops are returning home to see this crap about Smith on TV 24-7.

Anna Nicole Smith died about 24 hours ago. Over the same time period, at least three of our troops and countless Iraqis have died in a war that might turn out to be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our country's history. Even as I write this, all three networks are covering a live press conference by Smith's attorney. I want to put my fist through the TV.

Sometimes I want to put my fist through my tv too. I know some of you believe that while the coverage was overdone, it was okay because Anna Nicole's death was news. But it really wasn't. It was entertainment news. Did it merit a headline? Sure. Maybe even a three minute package? With a two hour news show, sure that would have been okay. However, what we got instead was pretty disgusting given the state of the world and the United States right now. Of course 360 is not the only guilty one here-not even close. All media jumped on Anna's death as if someone had suddenly discovered a cure for cancer. I guess I just had higher standards for 360. One could argue that they weren't as sensational with the story as some other outlets, but that's nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.

So why do I get so upset about this stuff? Because it matters. Because people die. Would we be in the situation we are right now with the war if the press had done its job before the invasion? Would we even be fighting a war right now? And while the nation was transfixed by tales of OJ and Monica Lewinsky, what stories died in the back pages of the nation's top papers? Was there a headline about New Orlean's vulnerable levees that went unnoticed because it wasn't exciting enough to merit further coverage? While we're learning about Anna Nicole something else more important isn't being investigated; problems aren't being brought to light; and in the end we pay for it.

This leads me to Keith Olbermann's recent comments about Anderson. (In full disclosure I should note that I watch both Countdown and 360 every night and have actually been watching Keith for almost a year longer than I've been watching Anderson.) Many of you already know that on Friday night Keith awarded Anderson the silver in his nightly Worst Person in the World segment. Via tvnewser:
Keith Olbermann named Anderson Cooper one of the Worst Person in the World last night. Here's why:

"The silver to TV personality Anderson Cooper, who tells Men's Journal in an interview that he was, in their words, contemplating a move from his CNN post to a traditional anchor position at another network, but, in his words, 'doing 22 minutes of news from a desk in New York is not just for me.'

Well we all knew that from his current New York gig; the first night he has 22 minutes of actual news in there, we should declare it a holiday."

Olbermann added: "By the way, is Anderson Cooper the only person that doesn't know that Anderson Cooper is not actually a TV journalist but just an experiment in mass marketing?"
Okay, yes it was a bit harsh, but some of the reaction from Anderson fans around the internet has been a little extreme in my opinion. First of all, just a couple of weeks ago Keith was defending Anderson from the Paris Hilton slams and it should also be noted that while most of the people given this "award" have done/said some crappy things, the segment is mostly done in fun. As someone who's been watching a while I can tell you that it's clear when Keith is dead serious about one of them and this was not one of those cases. Now all that being said, I actually think there is a little bit of truth to Keith's comments. Please refrain from throwing things until you hear me out. The fact of the matter is that on some nights (especially some recent nights) it is hard to find 22 minutes of quality news on 360.

Now obviously the crack that Anderson isn't a real tv journalist is ridiculous, but really I think that's suppose to be more of a slam against CNN and how they have relentlessly marketed him. I mean you have to admit that sometimes it's a little much and I'm saying this as a fan. Of course Keith isn't really one to throw stones. While the first half of his show is almost always amazingly solid with quality news, the last third to half can get down right fluffy. And Keith has also undergone some marketing himself, though nothing like Anderson. I bring the whole debacle up because I wanted to point out that both hosts/shows have their faults and I don't think this is a situation where suddenly we have to choose. If CNN responds maybe there'll be another cable war, what? The number one thing I will always be focusing on is the news. And right now I am not a happy camper.



Anonymous AnonymousABA said...

Oh, I agree. The comments were off the cuff with a slight dig at CNN, not at Anderson personally. When I'm in NYC, I can't get over the all Anderson, all the tine. It's actually difficult to miss seeing his face. The billboards enmasse are sheer overkill. If you ignore the existence of the CNN logo on a tiny portion of the advertisement, Anderson would appear to be the flavor of the month, beefcake style. The network has pimped him out in gross excess. Marketing is one thing. Shoving full body shots of him all over Manhattan is more than bizarre. No other journalist gets so much face space, leaving Anderson up for ridicule.

1:08 AM  
Anonymous jr said...

I was in NYC last November and I did not see one billboard of Anderson other than the lighted CNN board outside Time Warner Center which really advertised all CNN hosts and programs. It was my first trip there and I was all over that town! However, I have to admit that the CNN store did have a lot of AC360 stuff which I thought was interesting since I didn't see much Lou Dobbs, Wolf Blitzer, Paul Zahn, etc. stuff.

I truly believe that the AC360 team debates over what to cover and how long to cover it. I'm sure it has to do with ratings and what the other cable and network channels are covering also. Do I think we need 45 minutes of Anna Nicole every night? Not really, however, I admit that I am intriqued with finding out what she died of and who the father of the baby is. That should equate to a fairly quickie segment though.

I, personally, like some lighter news sprinkled through some hard news segments, especially if it's a 2 hour show.

A bit off topic, but did anyone watch 60 minutes tonight? The story on the 21 year who died in a Michigan prison was shocking! Now that is a story that I would like AC360 to "Keep em honest" on.

I also enjoyed the segment on Obama because it helped me understand him better and what he sees for the country. I thought it was a very good and informative interview.

The last interview was a segment on Norah Jones, singer who was a newcomer that won 8 Grammys four years talk about fluffy and Katie Couric was the one who interviewed her!

In summary, even 60 minutes is going the celebrity route! I think this is the trend with news programs and I admit...I enjoyed it. It was a nice mix.

Well, that's my two cents worth...

1:38 AM  
Blogger midnite6367 said...

Criticizing the content of 360 is one thing, but Keith's comments that Anderson was not a "real journalist" were unfair. Of course 360 could use some improvement, but Keith should've let it go at that.

2:07 AM  
Anonymous ivy said...

@eliza -- there was an interestig discussion on inside cable news about this. I think it was ok to cover Anne Nicole on the day she died, but on the days after that it's inexcusable. But guess what, AC360 beat greta in demo ratings thursday and the numbers were very high. Since news are made to be a money making machine they will show what people want. If they got peoples attention they should switch to serious stuff right away.

4:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, very often I want to put my fist through the TV as well, I generally settle for yelling at my TV.

The more I get into the news I’m actually a little bit disgusted because, to me at least, it seems to be less and less about getting the news, and the real news, the facts, to the people and more about the ratings and proving that your better then the other guy. And I think that’s wrong. I mean look at this recent dispute between FOX News and Anderson/CNN. I can’t even begin to express how completely ridiculous it is. Anderson (and it wasn’t even just Anderson) called them out for their lies, and that’s all he did, and I think it was totally justified. If FOX News ever caught CNN or MSNBC, or any other network in a lie I’d invite them to call them out on it too. But to retaliate with name-calling and childish ads is beyond ridiculous. And I’m not just saying this because it was FOX News that did it. If Bill O’Reilly were to ever catch CNN, MSNBC, or even Anderson in a lie and he called them out on it, power to him. And if either one of them responded the same way as FOX News did, I’d say it would be just as stupid, and I really really can’t stand Mr. O’Reilly.

As for the comments on Countdown, of course I think Keith’s crack saying that Anderson isn’t an actual TV journalist is complete crap. And I think that it very well could be, as you said, more of a crack at CNN’s crazy promoting of Anderson. It does seem weird that he’d bash FOX News for attacking Anderson and then go do the same thing. As for the rest of Keith’s comment there was definitely some truth to it. Let me pre-face any criticism of Anderson and 360 with this, looking at Anderson’s early career its easy to see that he’s earned his way. I totally admire the fact that he went out there, without a job and almost completely by himself, and just reported what he saw as an attempt to make it as a journalist. He’s been to so many different countries to tell the stories there, and often putting his own life in danger to do so, and he still does. And as I said before I really admire that about Anderson. That being said, he definitely isn’t perfect and Keith’s other comment about there not being 22 minutes of news on 360, isn’t entirely off base. Sure most nights it is an exaggeration to say that out of the two hours there isn’t even 22 minutes of news. But you know what? Some nights it’s not, especially very recently. As much respect as I have for the field reporting that I’ve seen, and heard about, Anderson doing, I have to say that I’m very often frustrated with what I see on 360.

I do understand that not everybody wants to have wall-to-wall hard news all the time, and I think that is totally understandable. Seeing how 360 is a two-hour program I would think it would be quite easy to include both. A couple minutes of coverage on something like ANS’s death, and subsequent custody battles, etc. Some snark on a recent celebrity feud, like he did with The Donald and Rosie O’D, that’s fine. I even understand that maybe the whole point is to try and bring a different variety of stories. I’d say one of my favorite things about 360 is the fact that they will report on stories, that while they are not hard news per say are still interesting and actually worth being covered (i.e. the piece on the gorilla’s in the Congo) but I really feel that they should start focusing more on hard news and less on fluff news. And I’m definitely not saying that 360 should drop the special reports that they do, as that is one of the bonuses, in my opinion, of the show. But there is a difference between a special report and an hour of coverage devoted to one celebrity dying. And quite honestly I don’t think it would be entirely all that bad to cover more hard news. Look at how much reaction his interview with Michael Ware apparently got. And that whole hour was discussing the Iraq War.

So there, that’s my two cents worth. Actually, that was quite long… maybe it’s of my 10 cents worth.

4:03 AM  
Anonymous ivy said...

Now I'll have a long rant about KO's comments, sorry. -) Ac fans reaction was too much. And I agree overpromotion does more damage to AC then good. I wouldn't have a problem if KO ridiculed 360 with all the latest fluff. Even not so latest. AC&co need a kick in the butt. What Keith said seemed like an swipe at cnn in general, but it was very much a personal attack on Anderson. Keith is a master of words.

KO's attack was based not on AC's show, but what Anderson said about rejecting a job offer and it's reasons. 360 had over 22 minutes of news often, let's not talk about "the first night". He expressed disbelief in Anderson's words about an offer from a network. Asking if Anderson is the only one who doesn't know he's not a tv journalist is also implying Andesron is delusional.

KO could simply say AC was a marketing experiment without saying he's not a journalist. It's no different from what Fox said. Even "Olbermann Watch" blog picked up on that. I disagree that KO defended AC 2 weeks ago. He bashed fox but he didn't say a word in Anderson's defence.

It's almost becoming fashionable to choose AC for attacks, when Fox did it there was plenty of attention to that, and fox, why not to go that route, that's easy. Anderson is a such great target.

Also don't forget KO's salary negotiotions.

4:32 AM  
Anonymous ivy said...

oh I said I would have a problem if keith critisized current 360 --I mean I would NOT have a problem -)

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

I AGREE TOO. Definitely with your take on it. Mass marketing? Um, yeah. Over-exposed? Certainly. CNN screaming "emo-anchor" all over the place? YES. Like anonymousaba said: they've pimped the boy out.

I feel sort of- no, strike that- very sorry, for poor Anderson. He is a serious man, with a serious goal, and seriously cares. But you top that with WHO he is, HOW he looks, and his sense of HUMOR (which keeps showing itself)... and you've got people focusing on other things than what Anderson himself is actually about. It's not fair to Anderson and what he wants to do with himself. Suggestion? Chop 360 in half and it's not because I don't like it, it's because the second hour is repeats. Then, CUT THE DAMN FLUFF. Let Anderson do what he does best, not this stupid crap that makes him look like an idiot.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous ivy said...

@sharla -- what's interesting, I've read some people on blogs say that they would watch 360 if it would be just one hour, they have no patience for a 2-hour news show. I like 2 hours but they should separate them contentwise, imho. It's sad that most attention is paid not to AC's work but to tings that have nothing to do with it.

Did you read the article in Men's Journal, it's on freakspeakers.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

@ivy- O.M.G.

That's all I can say to FreakSpeakers. You know, it made me momentarily shallow and all. But the best one? The commentary on the "Anderson up for Auction" post. Not expecting mouth to mouth resuscitation after fainting? Bummer. (oops, I'm being shallow again)

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that it's ok to be shallow sometimes, I mean look at my Ware comments...
Anyway, it pisses me off too, to think about all the things that the news media should be covering, and Iraq is just one of them. Then the cynic in me is reminded that the bottom line in news is the almighty dollar. They have to have ratings to entice ad revenue- we just get lucky every now and again and a piece of real news falls into our laps.
I don't even watch it anymore, to tell the truth, and I used to be a big news junkie. But the day I saw Tomkat's baby's pics on 360 was the day I quit. (Natalie Holloway alsmost pushed me over the edge, but I perservered)
I'm sure KO's comments were meant as a little off-the-cuff, but I have to agree (in an off-the-cuff way, that is) at least with the 22 minutes of news comment.
I'm happy to get 360 updates here, at least Eliza cuts through all the crap!

4:04 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@anonymous-I remember at one point every website I clicked on had an ad of Anderson's picture. It was both funny and annoying.

@jr-That's weird you didn't see any billboards. My NY friends say they're all over.

I'm not saying don't do light news too, but the way they go about it is totally inconsistent. If they want to do celebrity stuff that's fine, but they need to make it its own little segment or something, so we know what to expect. And it needs to be short. My big problem is they alway go too far with a story and take up gobs of time speculating. Tell me Anna Nicole Smith died. Tell me what you know...and then STOP. They always have to go on and on with "experts" who bring no news whatsoever.

I actually did catch that 60 Minutes piece on the prison story. That was messed up. The whole prison system needs a lot more light shed on it. I remember reading a short piece from Matt Taibi in Rolling Stone about the prison industrial complex, but that's been about it.

@midnight-yeah it was unfair, but I don't think he really meant it.

@ivy-yes, part of it is our fault too. That's why if I was a Nielsen house you guys wouldn't be getting any reviews for the sensational crap because my tv would be off. ;)

@supergeek-very good 10 cents. I agreed with most everything you said.

@ivy-But you know what? I am actually wondering what Anderson was talking about because the only slot open was CBS and surely they didn't offer it to him before Katie. I mean, if they did, go Anderson! So anyway I think the question is valid, Keith just put it in a really mean way.

@sharla-Sometimes I think the show would be better as an hour too. Actually it was only an hour in its previous format.

@anne-Money has always been an issue in corporate news, but there used to be people that would make sure the news came out on top. Have you seen "Good Night and Good Luck"? Murrow had to do celebrity interviews in order to get to take risks with the news. There's always a trade off, but back then news and entertainment were separate. They're completely blurred now.

I'm happy to get 360 updates here, at least Eliza cuts through all the crap!

Hee. AC360 Review: cutting through the crap since September 2006. ;)

5:58 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

I thought I'd let you guys know that my friend just talked to Herbert Gettridge! She told him that he's got a gift card coming from "constant 360 viewers" and he replied, "bless your sweet heart." Aw! Thanks to everyone who donated.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Christiane said...

@sharla, well sometimes I don't think we have to take ourselves so seriously... I can be such a hardcore geek that I wouldn't even dare to read my own posts, or simply die of pure boredom!

THANKS for letting us know about the donation. He is such an inspiration. Is more help needed? I'm dying to see him with his "old lady" again.

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Sharla Dawn said...

*squee!* That is so awesome. I can't wait to meet his Ol' Lady!!

6:16 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Well I'm obviously going to have to start reading this blog at work, because by the time I get here it's all pretty much been said!!

Eliza, I flipped right out on Saturday afternoon. I was watching the CNN: SIU 'The Town That Fought Back', and 'Breaking News' flashes across the screen with about ten minutes to go. I get that nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach expecting something awful out of Iraq or Iran, you know, something newsworthy?
When they started talking about Anna Nicole, I thought I was going to put my remote right through the screen. I was so mad - and you know what it was? Something about the baby & the lawyer are the only one's that are allowed in this home in the Bahamas.

Seriously, that couldn't have waiting a few more minutes? Seriously?

I get so frustrated, I just want the news. Not the gossip, tabloid crap. I want to be educated, not entertained. Okay, that's not totally true...I'm all for entertainment, but sometimes I think that 'line-drawers' need to be hired, so real news doesn't fall to the floor while we beat diaper wearing astronauts & celebrity deaths to...death.

7:06 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@stacey-They used 'Breaking News' for Anna Nicole?!!! I weep for our country.

8:36 PM  
Anonymous ivy said...

ok, I'm watching JR --same Anna Nicole coverage. I guess we'll find out tomorrow where Anderson is going.

10:46 PM  
Anonymous jr said...

@Eliza: Can you share with us what the total amount collected for Herbert was? I would love one day to see a picture of Herbert and his lady!!! (can't say old...just not right). Thanks.

Any guesses on where AC is on special assignment?

My guess is Africa...I think he got a special invite from the Nigerian government to report on the Niger Delta since there is so much controversy surrounding AC360's coverage of J. Koinange's report.

11:59 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@jr-Herbert will be receiving a gift card for $640. Woo!

12:35 AM  
Anonymous ivy said...

jr --could be Africa, could be North Korea, could be whatever else -) doubt he's travelling within US and doubt it's ME. But you never know with him.

12:40 AM  

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