Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Clinton For Secretary Of State Obsession Continues, Breach Of Obama's Cell Phone Records, And An Interview With Malcolm Gladwell

Hi everybody. Ooh man, it has been one of those days. My morning began with me sleeping right through my alarm--both alarms. Then somehow one of my appointments turned out to be scheduled two hours earlier than I thought. So of course my whole day ended up being me being late and me not getting enough work done and me, apparently, being very tired. Once most of my drama was over, I thought I'd give myself a break and take a nice short mid evening nap.

Well, it turned out to not be so short, because the next thing I knew, I was waking up and 360 had already started. Just call me "spaz." Anyway, I was able to watch most of the show, but was in no mood to immediately jump in with the note taking. With the help of my memory and the trusty transcript, I'm going to forgo the recapping and just hit on the stuff that stood out to me. And perhaps this weekend I will buy a louder alarm.

The show is continuing to do a good job keeping on all the financial news and I like that they've been putting it in its proper place up top. Remember the days when they actually led with crap like Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith? Granted, we're in a massive crisis right now and just had a historic election, so showcasing that kind of non-news would be demonstrably idiotic, but still, it's been a long time since I've thought their lead story was completely ridiculous. Maybe it's just circumstances or maybe it's general improvement.

I'm beginning to wonder if there's any rhyme or reason in what gets teased and what doesn't. I'm guessing a lot has to do with what subjects they think will get people to stick around, but sometimes it gets ridiculous. For example, tonight Anderson Cooper teased this: "Up next: Is now a time to buy stocks? Hear what Suze Orman is doing -- that and what might happen if Detroit goes under." This tease amounted to what was literally about a three sentence soundbite. The tease was almost as long as what was being teased!

They do this a lot with stories they have in the headlines, which can be really annoying when you're looking forward to an upcoming story, only to find out all you're getting is about 15 seconds of copy and b-roll. Remember when they kept doing that with Hurricane Ike coverage? Grrr. It's occurred to me that if they got rid of half of their teases they'd probably have time for a whole other piece.

Of course, they'll never do that because they want to do everything they can to keep the fingers off the remote. I get that. I also realize that sometimes they're going to tease something that then gets cut or cut down. I just wish they'd at least attempt to only tease stories they're going to spend a fair amount of time covering. Oh, but fer serious? I was happy the Suze Orman thing only turned out to be a little clip. (She's scary!)

When a story has been dominating the news forever, at some point it becomes clear that the news peeps are running out of interesting angles for their coverage. We saw this a lot during the election. Well, tonight Tom Foreman's piece on our financial woes had, "I am out of ideas," written all over it. Okay, I admit that his blog post regarding the ahead metaphoric economic woods kinda worked. (Though his opening line had me thinking Robert Frost and wondering what the road less traveled might be.) But seeing the same concept in package form with the moving shots of the woods was, well, comical. Just give us the facts. Really, it's okay.

"Gobble, gobble -- when we come back." Heh . . . no.

The show tonight was actually an interesting example of "breaking news" gone wrong and "breaking news" done well. My regular readers know that the BREAKING NEWS graphic and identifying a story as such, is one of my favorite things to mock. Over the past few years it has gotten to such levels of ridiculousness that the whole concept of "breaking news" has been rendered utterly meaningless. I actually blogged about this subject a year ago and I think things have only gotten worse since then. I can remember a time when "breaking news" was actually, well, important news and was, um, actually breaking. Now it can be something completely mundane that happened eight hours prior.

Anyway, tonight we were informed that Obama is "on track" to confirm Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, news that Anderson Cooper tells us, "just happened literally during the commercial break." Much speculation from a panel followed. So, to sum up, we still don't know for sure what's going on with Clinton and the position, yet here we are, listening to pundits pretend they know. Completely ridiculous. Tell us about the "on track" part. Fine. That's news, I suppose. But then move on until you have something concrete. My God, they're obsessed.

On the other hand, there was another "breaking news" story that was done quite well. This is what we got from Anderson:
Attorney General Michael Mukasey has collapsed while giving a speech tonight in Washington, D.C. This is file footage of him. We don't yet have the video of the speech he was making, though we do anticipate that.

He was speaking at the Federalist Society dinner at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. We understand he is still on site. EMTs are there. That's, frankly, all the information we have -- Attorney General Michael Mukasey collapsing while giving a speech a short time ago.
And then they moved on. We got a story that was actually literally breaking, it was important (the man is attorney general), we were given all the facts available, and that was that. Why they can't do this all the time, I do not know.

Poor Obama. Not even president yet and already people are snooping in his business. I guess that BlackBerry ban he's about to undergo really is necessary. As pointed out, this latest breach of cell phone records is very similar to the prior breach of his passport information. Probably this kind of stuff happens more than most people know. And, hello, it's not just workers with access that are sneaking peeks into our lives. We already know our government is spying on us.

Anyway, this quote from Anderson stood out to me: "You've got to wonder, if these workers are doing this to incredibly famous people, are anybody's records safe? If Barack Obama's records can be looked into by workers at Verizon, who knows who else has their records being examined?" I wonder if he's wondering about his own records. Unfortunately, I'd probably wager that someone has seen something of his. I'd wager that regarding any celebrity. With the amount of information that's collected on people and the amount of people with access to that information--some of them low wage workers with no big incentive to maintain privacy, I imagine breaches happen left and right.

I'm not just talking about phone companies. We live in a world of databases. There are companies that have information on you that you probably don't even know about. Even when it comes to your medical records, sure, you can probably count on the professionals to be discreet. But most people don't think about all the clerks and temps and other people only making a couple bucks above minimum wage who are the people that do the majority of the handling of your very personal medical information. Breaches of celebrity's info are not uncommon.

I see 360's obsession with Sarah Palin continues. But then again, how could they not play this clip? I'm beginning to think the woman isn't even real, but a walking and talking definition of irony.

I really enjoyed the interview with Malcolm Gladwell and in fact wish it had been longer because I feel like he didn't quite get to flesh out his thesis enough. It's nice to see 360 mixing it up. I actually have "Tipping Point," but haven't read it yet. Now I want to get "Outliers." It's great to see someone finally pointing out the fallacy of the self-made man/woman. I hate to turn this political, but one of the reasons I get so annoyed with people bemoaning the rich being asked to pay more taxes is because they didn't get there on their own, you know?

The argument is that people shouldn't be punished for working hard and achieving success, but I'm sorry, no man is an island. Someone with a successful business who came from nothing no doubt took advantage of some of society's resources along the way--public transportation, student grants, low interest loans, and so on. Sometimes you need more than just hard work. This from Malcolm sums it up: "what I really want people to do is start thinking about how can we, as a society, build institutions that provide opportunities to work hard."

I'm not so sure I buy into the 10,000 hour rule though. It's no doubt true in some cases, but haven't there been actors who gained the biggest accolades of their careers right off the bat? And haven't there been authors who've seen their first book climb the best seller list? Wait, actually I can point to one--he's anchoring the show!

The shot tonight was . . . oh my. 360 played us a little of Beyonce's latest single called "Single Ladies," and then we got some clips of scantily and leotard-clad fellas taking on the moves of Ms. Knowles. It was, uh, disturbing. I haven't really kept up with Beyonce since back when she was being all bootylicious with Destiny's Child and I have to say, I was so not ready for this jelly. That came from Second shout out to them in a week's time. Yeah, I noticed.

Anyhoo, they played a clip of the recent Saturday Night Live sketch with Beyonce and Justin Timberlake too. Anderson kinda joked that maybe we'll see the floor crew getting in on the action in the future. Uh, no. No offense to the hotness of the floor crew, but I do not want to see that. I don't know any guy that can rock a leotard. Also? Oh my God, did I really just watch a half naked man shaking his groove thing on CNN?

Well, that's about it, but I wanted to give my regular readers and any other news junkies out there a head's up about a new series called the IFC Media Project on, duh, IFC. I missed the first episode, but I think it repeats this weekend. The series looks pretty cool, so check it out if you have time.

Finally, an AC360 Review recommendation for you. Right now I'm reading, "I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story" by Michael Hastings. So far, it's really good. I've often found that I get a better understanding of the war from journalists' own personal reflections, than I do from their reporting. Pick it up if you're so inclined.


Blogger Pati Mc said...

First of all, I have to agree on your ire at the mis-use of the Breaking News banner. It drives me completely insane.

Like me, you may remember when we used to see that on the screen; it made one's blood run cold and your heart race. You KNEW that is was something truly bad. Well, no more. Now thanks to CNN, when I see that, I don't even pay attention. It has totally become the media "crying wolf" (and I am not talking Blitzer here!). Sad. And really not a good thing. What will get our attention when something truly disasterous occurs? Perish the thought!

Appreciate the heads up on the book Eliza. These types of books are my favorite and I so agree that they have helped me to undestand the ME better than anything.

May I be so bold as to highly recommend a few more?:

War Journal. My Five Years In Iraq by Richard Engel

The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

Breathing The Fire by Kimberly Dozier

Breaking News by Martin Fletcher

All of these people are either Print or TV Journalists. These are some of th best reads I have found, ever. Enjoy!

12:02 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

The BREAKING NEWS is out of control! Yeah, pretty much everything you said was in the blog post that I linked to. I can remember when my heart used to drop when I saw a "breaking news" graphic, but now I barely glance at it.

Thanks for the book recommendations. I actually have Richard Engel's, but his is pretty meaty (at least the beginning), so it's taking me a while to get through. The Fletcher one is also on my "to read" list.

I remember reading a summary of the Dozier book and not being sure it was for me. Maybe I'll give it a shot. I've never heard of "The Forever War."

3:52 AM  
Blogger Pati Mc said...

Yeah, Richard Engle's was a difficult read, albeit insightful.

Kimberly's will make you cry and is also tough in spots, but the sptos are few and it is so worthwhile. I have a female cusin serving in Iraq, it made it tough for me to discover the realities over there, but she is a medic, so I gained a lot of insight into waht she deals with. I understand it is not for everybody.

The Forever War is awesome. Dexter Filkins writes for the NY Times & the Times Magazine. He is really very much on the par of Michael Ware.

Anyhow, that is my two cents. I read way too much. Matter of fact I am off to the local B&N to fetch Ted Turner's new book and also "Outliers". I have coupons that are burning a hole in my wallet. LOL.

11:41 AM  

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