Thursday, June 26, 2008

World Upside Down Day: When I'd Rather Watch Ben Affleck Than Anderson Cooper

Hi everybody. I'm Bloggy McGrumpy-Pants again. Because tonight 360 brought us about 50 minutes of BREAKING NEWS (continuously breaking the whole time, apparently) that amounted to about two minutes of actual news and 48 minutes of repetitive speculation. Why the marathon crapfest? Because they had an EXCLUSIVE! Actual blurry cell phone pictures from inside the Obama/Clinton meeting. And audio too. Stop the presses! Good Lord. Look, I'm not going to deny them that the story was important, even top story material, but to spend so much time on it was completely ridiculous. Of course, as we well know, it's all about ratings. The only thing that saved the hour was the North Korea report from the always awesome Christiane Amanpour. Obviously nobody made me watch 50 minutes of coverage I didn't want to, but I was waiting for the promised Zimbabwe report from Anderson. I should have known it would get bumped for retardedness. Shame on me for not knowing better by now. There's actually a chance the report aired during the second hour, though I couldn't tell you for sure. I certainly wasn't about to watch the whole thing twice in the hopes that they'd sneak in a new three minute package.

But enough about all that. While 360 spent about 50 minutes on the Obama/Clinton meeting, ABC's Nightline spent about five. They devoted their other 25 minutes to Ben Affleck's reports from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Yes, Ben Affleck. And it was excellent. I didn't even know Ben Affleck was interested in the Congo, but apparently he's been there three times. Tonight he took viewers on a journey to refugee camps filled with people displaced in their own country, talked with warlords, and listened to one young woman who was desperate to share her harrowing story of how she was brutally raped and burned. She survived, her child didn't. All in all I was extremely pleased to see the plight of the Congo people being given such attention by a network news show, with a celebrity to boot. One thing that stood out to me was the absence of noise, both visual and audio. What I mean by that is there were no flashy graphics that take up a third of the screen, loud unnecessary sound effects, or heart-string pulling bump music that we see all the time on cable news. It just was. Just Ben Affleck being real and showing us what it's like there. And I have to say, it felt more raw that way. Less made for TV. Anyway, they have some of the video up on Nightline's website and I urge you to check it out. (That's where I snagged the picture--credit to ABC.) Hopefully after this report a lot more people will be aware of the horrors that the Congolese people have been facing for years. And to give credit where credit is due, I myself wasn't aware of the situation until a certain grey-haired reporter brought it to my attention. Now if only he could stop with all the sensational/speculative coverage . . .


Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

I always thought "breaking news" was coverage of disasters/critical events. I can't believe the fuzzy pictures with yet more panel discussions. I was able to watch some of Ben Affleck report, it was done well by him. AC needs to do something! He needs to watch PBS and get some clues, have new directions. Hey, he needs to read your blog. Anne

2:12 AM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Eliza--It's great that the Congo is finally getting press--but look at Zimbabwe, if that's any indication nothing will change in Congo either. Hate sounding so negative, but just seems that way. Like you I didn't finish watching 360, but I did flip back in the second hour and saw the short piece on Zimbabwe.

Agree with you and Anne--can't believe Obama writing a check to Hillary's campaign is such breaking news!!

Enjoy reading your blog--like your writing style. ~Bonnie

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was so annoyed with 360 last night that I'd forgotten about Christianne Amanpour's North Korean report. The Zimbabwe piece distressing but very good, unfortunately it was aired near the end of the second hour, which is a shame. The time spent showing blurry cell phone photos and audio of Clinton and Obama was ridiculous. Watching 360 has become practically torturous lately. If the producers paid any attention to what long time viewers have been expressing about the show, they'd be pretty concerned. Many people are tuning out because they feel 360 has gone downhill as far as actually covering real news - they would probably argue that the Obama-Clinton meeting is real news, and yes it is, but it was not necessary to spend so much time on it. IMO, 360 needs another retooling and maybe new producers to get it back on track again, but I've said that MANY times before only to be faced with a program that is consistently hit or miss.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say....I can't say covering politics is a bad thing, but there needs to be a balance.

Having said that, I still like watching AC....I hope that he will not lose his long time viewers (including you) because of the recent unbalanced news coverage. I really hope he will leave the studio and get back to the field. Isn't that what 360 and AC are all about? Reporting from the his gotta smell it, taste it (something like that)....this is what keeps me tuned in to 360--watching him report from the field.

7:21 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@anne--I actually wrote a post last year about the overuse of "breaking news."

Heh. Anderson is completely welcome to come read my blog, but somehow I don't think that is going to happen. He claims he doesn't read anything about himself and I have chosen to believe him.

@bonnie--I hear you on that. It's hard to not get cynical about the plight of Africa. We can add Darfur to the list. I wrote an essay back in 2006 about the genocide and still it goes on.

@anonymous 5:53--Yeah, the show has always been inconsistent and waxes and wanes in quality, but I don't know, it feels different this time. I've never seen so many long time loyal viewers turning away. It's sad, really.

@Patty-Covering politics is absolutely not a bad thing. I love politics. But as you say, there needs to be a balance with other stories and the political coverage they do needs to actually be substantive. I won't hold my breath though.

8:26 PM  

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