Friday, December 05, 2008

Tabloid Friday: O.J. Simpson Is Inexplicably On My Television Again

Hi everybody. As I've said on this blog before, wow, what a difference a day makes. Thursday night we were treated to some quality journalism. Tonight? Not so much. Anderson Cooper begins the broadcast with a little slight of hand: mentioning BREAKING NEWS related to the auto bailout, then quickly tossing it aside for--wait for it--O.J. Simpson! That's right, people; we're leading with the sentencing of The Juice. Congrats 360, you're now Inside Edition.

This is particularly disappointing because they were doing so well! Seriously. I was proud of them for the consistency they had developed with regards to prioritizing stories and now it's like they've fallen off the wagon and I have to take their chip away. I know, I know, ratings rule. Greta had the same coverage tonight and for the life of me I don't know why they don't counter program against her. The kind of people that like the sensational crap are her regular viewers. She's playing to her base and 360 is never going to lure those people away.

The show is, however, shooting itself in the foot when it comes to gaining loyal viewers. If someone tunes in one day and finds good coverage of the economic collapse, and then tunes in the next day to find almost 30 minutes of O.J., it comes off schizophrenic. It's really hard to become a loyal viewer of a show that isn't consistent. I get the need to whore for ratings. I do. But they have a Crime and Punishment segment and this is where O.J. should have been placed. Loyal viewers will wait for it. Besides, it seems like it would be less work to consistently do a smart show, thus building a base of viewers who tune in nightly, than to always be chasing after the story that they think will bring them ratings at that very moment.

Okay, about O.J., I'm boycotting the details, but here's a super-speed recap: we get a clip of him being sentenced with lovely 'woe is me' crying. Then we're joined by Jeffrey Toobin and Lisa Bloom, both really smart people who I wish were here to talk about something other than this waste of skin and air. At least they give us some deserved O.J. dissing, though Jeffrey has a bit of mixed feelings regarding how the prosecution of this trial went down. Lisa disagrees with that and we learn she watched every minute of the thing. Ugh. My condolences.

Oh, we're not done yet, people. Next there's a piece on O.J. from David Mattingly, then, a clip of Fred Goldman, and finally back to Jeffrey and Lisa--all told, about 25 minutes of coverage that would have been better spent on hundreds of other subjects. I mean, I'm glad that dick is finally doing some time, but an FYI in the form of a headline would have sufficed. Then maybe they would have had time to tell us about the new suit against KBR that claims, among other things, that the contractor fed our troops spoiled food and used an open pit instead of a medical incinerator, which resulted in wild dogs roaming around with amputated limbs in their mouths. Just one story that I would deem more important than O.J.

Transitioning now to real news, a half a million jobs were lost last month. Merry Christmas! God, this keeps getting worse and worse. Dana Bash joins us live to tell us that though everything is still vague, Nancy Pelosi is no longer opposing taking funds initially put aside to make environmentally sound cars, and using them to bailout the Big 3. So, that's good? Sounds a little counterproductive. If they had been making environmentally sound cars in the first place, we might not be in this mess.

For discussion of all this, Dana sticks around and we're joined by David Gergen, Marcus Mabry, and Candy Crowley. We learn that Obama is internally discussing the auto bailout with his people, but he's not willing to put his neck out on it quite yet. The Gerg thinks the bailout is inevitable and he may not always be right, but I'm with him on this one. Anderson wonders if it's even possible for us to keep spending all this money and Marcus says it is, but it comes at the cost of high inflation. Excellent.

Then they switch things up and we're shown a photo of Obama speech writer John Favreau getting all handsy with a Hillary Clinton cardboard cutout. Hold up, John Favreau is writing speeches for Obama?! Oh, not that John Favreau. Anyway, the pic came from a friend's Facebook (ah, the double-edged sword that is the Internet) and has since been taken down. All this results in a hilariously long mid-sentence pause from Anderson as he no doubt tries to form a groping-related question that isn't going to get him YouTubed. He settles on the safe, "what do you make of this?"

For her part, Clinton has released a statement, that I must say, is kind of awesome: "Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of John's obvious interest in the State Department and is currently reviewing his application." Bwah! Well played. Anderson makes the very good point that if this had happened during the primaries, it would have been huge. Yep, lipstick on a pig on steroids. The Gerg then gets in a little teasing of our flustered Silver Fox: "I have to say, this is one of the few times I've heard you groping for words." He's getting saucy tonight. I'm still waiting to see his revenge on Anderson enacted for the Jessi Klein embarrassment.

On now to Crime and Punishment, which, uh, we already had. It was called the first half of the show. Whatever. In an Erica Hill piece we hear from the brother of that poor boy who was shackled for almost a year. Apparently he was also tortured with a bat and a knife. From what it sounds like, this kid has been abused by people his whole life, starting with his parents. So he was taken from them and given to someone else who abused him. There is something very, very wrong with the system.

The shot tonight is some freaky experiment that involves facial twitching to music. That's all the explanation I've got--just watch it. I knew they got that from Andrew Sullivan before Anderson even mentioned the site. I've found myself reading Sully a lot lately. For a self-described conservative, he sure sounds like a liberal.

It's the end of the week and what does that mean? Floor Crew Friday! Who's manning tonight's webcast? Well, if you know, tell me. Seriously, if they said his name, I never caught it. To rectify this identification problem, AC360 Review is crowning our webcast host "T.B." for teddy bear. In the first webcast, T.B. gets some tips from Erica Hill on how to do this thang and then he moves on to conduct a short interview with Mike, AKA "Angry." And when I say short, I ain't kidding. T.B. has to abort before they even start. Whoops.

Never fear, we go back to Mike in the second webcast and learn that he's got a mighty fun weekend planned of putting up ceiling in his basement. Home Depot is brought up and I thought maybe they were attempting to do that thing where people drop the name of a business and then get free stuff. But then there's Home Depot dissing, which is followed by musings of Home Depot stealing, so um, probably not. This leads to an, oh yeah, hi there Mr. Camera. Stealing? Us? We don't condone that. Then there's some joking about a four-finger discount. Hm, Simpson's shout out?

We also learn that Kevin is off, leaving Bob to pick up the slack. Ooh, a little tension between Bob and our cameraman Tonedog, who proceeds to use his hand to smoosh Bob's head in the frame. Oh boys. He'd never pull that crap with Erica. Anyhoo, T.B. doesn't seem very happy with his webcast performance. Yeah, there was some struggling. But we're not looking for an Oscar performance dudes; just have fun with it and show us how you all roll behind the scenes. But, uh, try not to say anything that'll get you fired.

Finally, I didn't expect to still be blogging about the Miles O'Brien firing, but more information is coming out that you might find of interest. Both Chez Pazienza and Jacki Schechner have done follow up posts on the move. Particularly of note is that Miles' wife left a comment (authenticity confirmed by Jacki and Chez) to Jacki's original post (linked in her follow up post) that gives more detail of how the ousting went down. As I noted before, CNN is spinning the decision as a restructuring and not related to the economy. But all those observing the situation (including myself) seem to think that is crap. Don't be surprised to hear about more layoffs in the future.

After all, look at what's happening to NBC. Besides the countless dedicated nameless professionals, they've also just slashed Don Teague, Bob Faw, Kevin Corke, and Jeannie Ohm. I'm guessing there are some mighty nervous newsrooms at every network these days. And who knows, maybe that panic is why we just got 25 minutes of O.J. Simpson. Also, I'm not sure this is in any way related, but I thought the timing of this story was interesting. It looks like John King might be taking over Wolf Blitzer's Sunday show. The reason given is the Wolfbot's workload (which incidentally is why I call him the Wolfbot). Now, I'm not saying Blitzer should watch his back--The Situation Room is apparently doing well, but his workload has been heavy for years. Why now?

In any regards, I'll be watching to see what unfolds. It feels like big changes might be in the air.


Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

It's been awhile since I've written. I still read your blog, tonight you were so on target regarding AC360 not being very consistent. I read the grusome artice you linked to the KBR suit. It seems to me that it has been several years since 360 has provided any serious coverage of Iraq/Afghanistan wars. Hardly any mention about the plight of the soldiers from unscrupulous contractors in Iraq. I read the links also about Miles O'Brien. It makes me wonder about the direction of this show (not going up but sideways/down).
Anne D.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Pati Mc said...

Hey Eliza,

Wow, Miles' wife is my new hero. Chaz and Jacki already were.

Look, here is the thing. I have een concerned about this for a while now and so I am just going to say it.....The more I read and research the more I feel that Jon Klein is a total moron. What the hell is his game anyway? All flash and no substabce? Does he think that will work? The sad thing is that maybe it will. God, how depressing!

To be honest, I feel that he is using Anderson and it is becoming more and more apparent. He uses his popularity and the moment that goes (which it will if they keep putting out shows like they have been..."Inside Edition" style) he will be gone too. You know what I wish? I wish Anderson would grow a set and walk. Seriously, I do. Let him go to 60 Minutes full time and do some real stories. And not interviewing celebrities. What is he becoming? It makes me sad.

Miles is such a great person and a top drawer reporter. To think that CNN would tell him that he has a "bad attitude"? Oh come on!

I suppose this ticks me off so badly because the same thing happened to me. I too worked for a heartless huge company that threw people away with no regard to the years of service and dedication they had put in. I was also told that I had a "bad attitude" when they could come up with no other negative thing to say to about me. My performance was stellar. Ah, Miles, I feel your pain, but in the end, it may be the best thing to happen to us.

It will be very intersting to see what transpires at CNN. I will watch and learn, but I do not expect improvement. I expect Ted Turner's dream to be sold down the river. I would love to know what he would have to say about all of this. It would not be printable! LOL.

Sorry for the rant. Anderson, I still love you, but seriously, wake up, dude!

11:04 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Anne-You're right; it's been much too long since we've had any serious coverage of the wars. As I mentioned in my post about the "Extreme Challenges" special, there were so many things being discussed that 360 had never bothered to cover.

It especially annoyed me on Veteran's Day to see all those posts on the blog, only to know that our troops would all but be forgotten again the next day. And the contracting situation is extremely underreported.

With the election over, I see big trouble coming for the show if they don't get their footing soon.

6:29 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Pati Mc: I have to say, I share your opinion about Jon Klein. I give him credit for getting rid of the dreadful afternoon political shows ("Crossfire" etc.), but all flash and no substance seems to characterize his priorities perfectly.

Overall, I don't think the strategy is working, or will work. Yes, gimmicks like the hologram got them buzz, and I do sympathize with his need to keep the network itself in the news--it is, after all, a business--but did curious viewers stick around? It doesn't look like it.

Also, I find Klein's "embrace" of all this technology highly ironic when you read the network's blogging policy. It's like he's completely brain dead to the reality of the changing social media landscape. Almost all budding young journalists have a presence on the web, yet CNN doesn't want its employees discussing any topic they might cover...ever? Pretty soon they'll have no one left they can hire.

Yes, it's sadly apparent that Klein values Anderson's "star quality" over his ability to do good journalism. As for Anderson walking, not knowing all the pieces of that puzzle, it's hard to comment. I don't know what's up with his contract or if it would even be possible for him to go full time with "60 Minutes."

Plus, despite all its faults, CNN is still viewed as a credible news organization and, for now, still has tremendous resources. Anderson has his own primetime show and a boss that loves him. It's easy for outsiders to say he should walk, but if you had that job, would you? Everyone has to put up with some amount of crap at work--even famous news anchors.

As far as the "Inside Edition" type shows, I'll continue to hammer them for it, but I should point out that it's not new in the least. Over the years we've had OJ, Anna Nicole, Britney, and countless other sensations people have long since forgotten. The big difference now is that Greta is no longer their only worry--MSNBC has found its legs and is threatening to take them over. It'll be mighty embarrassing if they start getting consistently beat by Olbermann and Maddow repeats.

What happened to Miles and the producers is infuriating, but unfortunately it seems it's not out of character for CNN.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Pati Mc said...

Hey Eliza,

Thanks for being my calm voice of reason. I was so fired up when I posted.

Frankly I think the reason this is all getting to me is due to Miles being let go, and also the fact that I am reading "Call Me Ted". I really brings the situation at CNN to te fore when you read why Ted started CNN. It just seems like his dreams are dying ang I find that very disturbing and hard to accept.

To say that I have been an avid CNN viewer is an understatement. Since 1980 I have been glued to it. It was like a trusted and valued friend. It still is, but I am not blind to the problems lately.

I very much agree with what you have said and I appreciate the intelligent discussion and sharing of thoughts on the matter. Of course Jon Klein is not completely wrong, and I agree that he did get rid of the crap that used to be on in the afternoons. I just hope that he learns to forgo the flash and glam, because, as you stated, that may get attention, but if there is no substance behind it, people will walk.

Surely Anderson would not walk away from his job, and I would not expect him too. He certainly is no quitter and his calmer head would prevail (I am an Irish woman, I tend to be a little overly dramatic....LOL).

We wish we knew what was going on, but we don't. I feel that there is a great deal going on from the sound of it. I just hope more of our "friends" are not shown the door. I am still very upset over Miles. Hopefully Anderson will continue to do what he does best, report from the field. Perhaps he cannot due to budgetary issues, and/or the Inaguration coming up. We shall surely see.

At any rate, we must hope for the best. The only thing certain in network news is change. And so it goes.

So now there is your favorite..Breaking F-18 has crashed near Miramar...and here I sit missing Miles. =(

3:40 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

Hasn't Ted criticized CNN since he sold it?

Even in good times, cable news is a ratings-driven constantly evolving beast where people seem to be hired and let go willy nilly. And these are not good times. It should be interesting to see where this goes.

3:58 AM  

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