Monday, December 15, 2008

Newsy Musings: Graphics, Promotion, and Layoffs --Oh My!

Hi everybody. Tonight I had a visitor who was unaware I have a date with Anderson Cooper every weeknight. In other words, no review. I missed a lot of the show. What I did get to see seemed pretty meh, so I'm not all that torn up about it. Although, I probably would have had some fun with the Bush "shoe attack" coverage. I know there are serious implications behind the incident, but I'm sorry, I'm still laughing.

From my brief viewing of CNN today, it looks like the red BREAKING NEWS graphic might finally be gone...only to be replaced with a yellow BREAKING NEWS graphic. Oh, well, that's much better. Yes, it seems CNN has a new look. They're bleeding reporters left and right, but apparently that's okay if your graphics look snazzy. For me, it's not a matter of liking or not liking the new screen; its about learning to tolerate the clutter. It took me forever to learn to completely ignore the crawl. Now I have to train myself all over again with ths "flipper" thingee. Grrr.

You know, I don't understand CNN. Like, at all. I've been trying to figure out who they want their viewer to be and I just don't know. Are they trying to grab the casual channel flipper when they can or are they wanting to build a loyal base who considers their shows appointment viewing? Obviously any network is going to take anybody they can get, but CNN seems to be shooting themselves in the foot a lot. Case in point, I caught a few minutes of the second hour of 360 tonight. We all know that this hour is usually taped and almost a complete repeat of the hour preceding.

Thing is, I say "we" know this because I'm betting almost everyone reading this post is an appointment viewer. If that's what they're going for, fine. But if they're wanting to pick up new viewers flipping around, the fact that they air the second hour with no "previously taped" bug is a problem. And somewhat dishonest. People don't look for the absence of a live bug when watching news--they just assume it's live. Sure, seeing that the news is taped could drive people away, but consider this: Anderson is telling them to do things that no longer apply. Join others on the live blog, he says. Watch Erica Hill's webcast, he says. Well, all that is over in the second hour. Selling people a bill of goods is no way to gain new loyal viewers.

Switching to the subject of promotion, oh my God, if I see one more Campbell Brown Internet ad I think I'm going to scream. She's everywhere! Oversaturate much? They better watch it before there's a backlash. I seem to remember something similar with Anderson back in the day, though I don't think that was even this bad.

I see there's been some talk about Planet in Peril's bad ratings. After reading a few reviews and reader comments, including the Washington Post Blog that linked to my own post on the special, I'm beginning to wonder if they might have completely blown it in terms of promotion. A lot of the comments I've read have been hostile to Anderson and have brushed the documentary off as shallowness. Anyone who actually watched knows that's not true, but what was consistently hammered on whenever PIP was brought up? Anderson swimming with sharks. Would the casual viewer who was just interested in seeing that cute guy from Regis and Kelly swim with sharks, necessarily sit through watching sharks have their fins sliced off? Maybe. Maybe not.

I just wonder what would have happened if their promotion was a little more well-rounded. Maybe more of the serious viewers would have tuned in--those who actually want to learn about what's happening to the earth. It just seems like CNN is always all over the place. They try to be everything to everyone and in the end continue to get crushed by Fox News. Though I loath that network, I have to give one thing to them: they know who they are and they know who their viewers are. MSNBC is on the same road. CNN has no identity. It doesn't have to be about a political point of view. They could be the network that is about good journalism.
Instead, they consistently copy Fox News, a strategy that is a guaranteed failure.

Layoff Watch: Another two bite the dust. Linda Stouffer and Rusty Dornin. Merry Christmas, from CNN.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you regarding the 2nd hour of 360. If it was live, I would stay with it, however, I leave after the first hour knowing it is a rerun. I do think the reference to blog and webcam needs to be eliminated - why not the 2nd hour live?

As far as PIP - I liked it but not as much as #1. The people I told to watch it didn't because it was rather graphic and not pleasant to watch. I know it wasn't suppose to be pleasant - however, I spent most of my time turning away at some of the shots. I don't think it was as interesting or audience grabbing as the first. I don't think it was promotion - I just think it was hard to watch.

As far as the comments I've read about Anderson - let them say what they want - I think he is a cutie and I love watching him!

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

I didn't see the promotions for PIP so I was unaware that they focused on AC diving with the sharks rather than on PIP as an expose of serious issues. I agree that the promotion would have misled certain viewers.

Now that I no longer live in the United States, the US media's hunger for ratings strikes me as severely misplaced for a news show. That wasn't the case in the 1960s and '70s, when TV news programs ran footage of the Vietnam War to inform viewers. Some viewers turned off the news to avoid seeing the shooting and dead bodies but that didn't stop the networks from following the stories that they thought were important.

I hope CNN does a third installment of PIP.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Oh --

On another weird note (I'm looking at Anon's comment that Anderson is cute): I said the same thing to my husband the other night watching PIP ("Look at him. He looks kind of cute. Like a bunny"), and I think my husband took the comment to mean that I am attracted to AC (which isn't true, since I know his sexual orientation).

Anyway, my husband got his hair cut today and, unbeknownst to me, he said to the stylist, "Cut my hair like that guy on CNN." So the stylist gave him an extremely short Anderson Cooper cut, and I almost howled, he looks so shorn.

I wish my husband had consulted with me first. I wanted him to have his hair cut like the new James Bond guy, not like Anderson. Oh well....

8:00 PM  
Blogger Pati Mc said...

@ Anon 12:34pm - love your last paragraph and I agree!

@ Barbara - that is a very cute story about your husband and his haircut.

Really appreciate your perspective as a foreign correspondent; I am with you on the ratings deal. I can only imagine your frustration at getting your stories aired/published. Please know that there are those of us out here who appreciate what you do to tell the important, difficult stories that no one seems to be interested in. I, for one, am very interested. Here's hoping for "real" news. Keep fighting the good fight.

@ Eliza - JMHO, but I like the new graphics and find them much less distracting that the previous ones. I am digging the flipper, at least it does not beg for my attention like the crawl did.

Your comment about the 2nd hour and the non-applicable-Anderson-cooments made me yell "right on" to an empty room. In the past, I'd thought about sending an instant feedback to that effect. It makes him look stupid. He can stay a few moments at the desk after the first hour and at least do the proper commentary for them to plug in where needed. Jeez, it is hardly rocket science folks, he already does them anyhow.

Makes no sense to me either.

9:13 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@anonymous-I never watch the second hour either. Unfortunately, I'm doubting it will ever be live again. It didn't work out before.

Interesting point about the graphicness of PIP. Although really, much of Anderson's best reporting has been on subjects hard to watch--Congo, Niger, Katrina.

@Barbara-Yes, pretty much every promo interview he did centered on the shark dive. Your preaching to the choir in regards to the inappropriateness of news as a business. But it is what it is, I suppose.

I think I heard it mentioned that they would be doing PIP3. They'd better. After all, CNN just fired their entire science team, claiming they're going to streamline that coverage into the PIP franchise. All BS, of course.

I love your story about your husband's haircut. It's funny you called Anderson a bunny. I hear him get compared to easily-startled animals all the time. Something about that Cooper.

@Pati-I'd rather there be no graphics, but I guess the flipper is better than the crawl.

The whole "not live" thing has been an issue for years. Makes you think they don't particularly respect their viewers.

2:07 AM  

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