Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best & Worst Of Anderson Cooper 360 In 2009

UPDATE: Hi guys. Yes, a post on the New Year's Eve show is forthcoming. Was gone all New Year's day and am expecting a busy weekend, so there's a possibility it won't be until late Sunday. But hey, better late than never, right? To make it up to you, I shall promise screencaps. Make sure to check back soon!

Hi everyone. No review tonight. It's listicle time! You all know the drill: At the end of every year, we take a ponder over the past 12 months--whether we want to or not. It's a requirement to get your blog license renewed. Yes, we all have licenses (laminated and everything!). My regular readers might recall that for 2008 I did a couple of indepth posts for both the 'best' and 'worst' categories.

Well, that's not happening this year (sorry!). Technical difficulties and a general apathy towards the show itself has left me with some pretty big gaps in my 2009 blogging. Not to mention the fact that this whole end-of-the-year thing kinda snuck up on me. BUT there's no reason we can't dust off those tried and true bullet points (which haven't seen a good usage since the conventions) to see how far our 360 peeps have come (and haven't come) since last year.

From many viewpoints, 2009 has been a rough one for the 360 kids. Last year there was a period where the show was actually dominating in the demo ratings; this year it seems a small victory when they don't come in dead last. There are a myriad of reasons for this of course, one major one being the current landscape of straight news versus opinion. But there are those of us loyal viewers who could see the trouble brewing back when the ratings were still good. I worried that they wouldn't be able to smoothly transition from their easy-ratings election coverage once the ballots were counted. And that's pretty much what happened.

They began to cover the economic crisis through a political lens (panels, Panels, PANELS!), waiting too late to send Anderson Cooper out into the field (his obvious strength). Meanwhile, I witnessed viewers who had been watching for years jump ship, which propelled me to blog an open letter to the show. The broadcast has blessedly been tweaked since that time, but ratings continued to sink.

And that's where we find ourselves now. The following bullet points are some specifics that stood out to me (in no particular order). Add your own in the comments, if you're so inclined.
  • BREAKING NEWS!!!: There was a time when it didn't matter if it was "breaking" or was even really "news," but 360 was GOING to put up that freakin' graphic at the top of every broadcast whether we liked it or not. Beyond annoying. Not to mention manipulative and Fox-like. But a funny thing I've noticed lately. That graphic? Not so much used anymore. Now maybe some day I'll see that graphic and actually be able to really believe what it says.
  • PLANET IN PERIL: Last year I praised the special. This year it seems to have disappeared (not counting repeated packages). Kinda a bummer. The absence in 2009 is a bit surprising given that they were able to produce the special during a busy election year. Perhaps that's the economy talking. In any regard, irony alert! Remember how Jon Klein justified the firing of Miles O'Brien and the rest of the science team by claiming that coverage would fall under PIP in the future? Yeah...
  • DAVID GERGEN: Oh, what has happened to our Gerg? Don't get me wrong, I still like the guy, but as I've been noting on this blog quite a lot lately, he seems to have morphed into an extreme Villager. I like the no BS analysis; not the latest beltway meme. Come back to us, Gerg. Come back!
  • COVERAGE OF LGBT ISSUES: Continuing from last year, 360 is mostly ahead of the pack when it comes to covering gay rights. Though substantial coverage of the D.C. gay marriage rally was surprisingly absent, their focus on DADT is to be commended.
  • GARY TUCHMAN AND RANDI KAYE: The correspondents never get the glory of the anchor, but these two continue to do awesome work not just this year, but every year. Of note in 2009: the cases of Cameron Todd Willingham and James Arthur Ray.
  • REAL INTERVIEWS: The over abundance of panels was mentioned in both my 'worst' post from 2008, and the open letter I blogged earlier this year. One of the reasons they were so hated was that they seemed to take the place of real interviews. Quite frankly, I found it shocking that a major television anchor was going months at a time without really interviewing anyone. This has since changed, thank God. In 2009 we saw many news makers on the broadcast and even saw Anderson interview the president more than once. Here's hoping 2010 brings even more sit downs.
  • THE WAR NEXT DOOR: What's happening at the Mexico border is important and 360 has kept up the coverage. Good for them.
  • CHICAGO VIOLENCE: That one city is losing so many children to violence is inexcusable. Though I've sometimes felt 360's approach to the story was misguided (way too much focus on the 'stop snitchin' angle), they deserve nothing but praise for their continued coverage of a crisis that so many others are ignoring.
  • MICHAEL WARE: Yes, the Aussie is clearly insane. But from his reporting of the warlords in Afghanistan to the drug cartels in Mexico, Michael Ware is never not awesome.
  • FLUFF/SENSATIONALISM: The Octomom. Jon and Kate Plus Eight. Every frickin' move Sarah Palin makes. BALLOON BOY! And on and on. I swear, this crap will be the death of me. And for a while there, this year seemed to see a surge of it. Let's not repeat.
  • MICHAEL JACKSON: What is there to say, really? Wall-to-wall coverage was understandable on the day he died and the day of his funeral. Most of what we saw in between and since was absolutely deplorable. No, 360 was not in any way alone in cashing in on the ratings (though CNN as a whole seemed to be one of the worst offenders), but I guess I thought they were better than that. I'm not going to lie, respect was lost. Though I eventually made my way back to the show, that's not true for my other CNN viewing. I can't seem to quit 360 (insert Brokeback Mountain joke here), but I did quit everything else I used to watch on the network.
  • AFGHANISTAN TRIP: Last year I lamented the sharp decrease in the coverage of the wars. This year Anderson Cooper spent a week in Afghanistan, a fact that should be noted and commended.
  • ANDERSON COOPER: Our anchor does a fine job, but though it pains me to say it, there's a general feeling that Anderson checked out over a year ago and still hasn't returned. It's hard to describe, really. Yet I've found that I can mention it to any long time viewer and they know exactly what I'm talking about. Being a news anchor, it's inevitable Anderson will be hit with criticism. Read the comments of any media site that mentions him and you'll find the ridiculousness: He's a liberal! He's a conservative! He's not qualified! But this year, I've noticed a new one: He's boring. I don't claim to know the reason behind any of this, and given that I don't know Anderson at all, I'll refrain from making assumptions. I just hope he comes back soon.
  • THE EXTRAS: This year saw the death of some of 360's bells and whistles. I say good riddance to the webcam, which I never watched since it made me feel like a stalker. I miss the webcast a bit though. Aw, who didn't love Floor Crew Friday? As for the blog, it's had its phases hasn't it? Right now I'd categorize my feelings toward it as "meh." It's basically become a news aggregate and while those are nice, you can find them anywhere these days. I liked it better when it was more personal and offered more behind-the-scenes info. It's no longer on my must-read list for the day. Plus there's the fact that they seem to never release comments, which is an excellent way to take away the motivation to leave one, or even read. I guess it goes without saying that Anderson's total non blogging these days kinda sucks. But on a positive note, I'm loving the 360 tweeters. Too bad more don't join them.
I think that about does it. What a year! I hope I didn't forget anything major. Though there's a lot of criticism contained in those bullet points, I obviously wouldn't be watching if the show wasn't of better quality than most of what's out there. I know the 360 kids work hard. Hopefully 2010 will be better for everyone.

Don't forget to watch Anderson Cooper ring in the New Year with Kathy Griffin. Will there be another Youtubeable incident? Fingers crossed! I hope to have a post up on Friday. Until then, happy new year!

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Anonymous Presley007 said...

Um, HELLO!? No Jack Gray love!? I know he isn't "on air" but still, he has 1 MILLION followers! Sadly, the new TV season has me hooked like a fat kid on cake. When I flip over to AC360, it's always SOMEONE ELSE! Not my beloved Boo.
At least when I tried to watch.
But many kudos for the CNN staffers that play on Twitter with us, it's nice to get a tweet back. *side eyes Anderson*
Happy New Year everyone!

4:04 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

I mentioned the tweeters! I was trying not to play favorites. ;) But you're right, the million followers deserved a special mention. My bad. In my defense, this blog has been filled with Jack Gray love all year. I even linked him! Now that's love, baby.

Your boo has been on plenty. He's just actually using all his vacation this year, apparently. But he'll be back in all his giggling glory tonight, so tune in!

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've done a great job of highlighting what I loved and hated about 360 this year. Another thing that bugs me is when they promo reports that they don't end up airing, this happens far too often and is annoying. Anderson's apparent lack of interest in the show has to be one of it's biggest problems and yet there were times when it seemed he was really into what he was doing and that's hard to watch because you know it's a fleeting, rare thing for him these days. I'm hoping if the program's not cancelled that AC will get fired up a little and stay that way, but it doesn't seem likely.

5:19 PM  
Blogger eliza said...

@anonymous: Good point about promo-ing reports. I really hate that we'll get endless filler crap, yet good reporting/interviews get dumped. We never did see the Roxana Saberi interview. And I know they bumped some New Orleans footage that was subsequently never aired. It's annoying.

On a related note that's not specific to this year, the teases are out of control. When you spend more time teasing a headline than actually reporting the story, that's a problem. IMO "360 Bulletin" stories should never be teased in the first place.

Plus, some of the teases are just stupid. We're living in an era of Twitter and instantaneous access to information. People already know the generalities of stories when they sit down to watch 360. Teasing us with the basics just makes them look stupid.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about the teases and how senseless it is to relegate more important stories to the 360 Bulletin and instead spend an inordinate amount of time on Balloon Boy and Tiger Woods. 360 also has a tendency to NOT promote reports--sometimes they stick stories in the second hour without even mentioning them during the live show and you end up hearing that you missed something interesting after the fact. Frustrating. I'm STILL wondering what happened with the Roxana Siberi interview--they never even bothered to explain.

I also think they should air more LIVE interviews with AC, the 'selective' editing on the pre-taped interviews don't always give the viewers the real story.

7:00 PM  
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6:14 AM  

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