Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Best & Worst Of AC360 In 2010

Hello, kids. I was hoping you would get to read this wrap-up when we were actually in 2010, but at least it's still January, right? Anyway, listicle time! After having a ponder about breaking up my little end-of-year review foray into two separate posts, ultimately I decided to let you digest all the bloggy goodness in one big meal. The 360 kids will find that some morsels go down quite smoothly, others are a bit bitter, and still more are a mixture of both.

In your humble blogger's view, save a few hiccups, this was a banner year for our little show. Oh, sure, in terms of ratings, things are still...not good, but quality? Team 360 has been workin' it! Before I get to that, I would be remiss if I didn't note some 2010 personnel changes that likely contributed to tinkering of the broadcast.

CNN Prez Jon Klein finally bit the big one and found himself no longer employed by the network, while his replacement, Ken Jautz, decided that Senior Executive Producer David Doss would be better used...elsewhere. Fan favorite (I'm just sayin') Charlie Moore took over the role of show head honcho. Also, to be filed under bittersweet sadness, sub-anchor Erica Hill made her exit earlier in the year. Many of us miss her energetic presence, but are thrilled she's experiencing such success.

So there we are! What you will find below is a year of 360 filtered through my critical little blogger brain. There's enthusiastic cookie-giving (with sprinkles!); there's measured criticism; and yeah, there might be an instance (or two) of Keyboard Smash. I tried my best to skim through most of my 2010 archive, but no doubt there was coverage that slipped by. If you think there's something important (good or bad) that I forgot, or you disagree with something I've said, I invite you to make a visit to my very comfy comment section (free drinks!). And with that, we say goodbye to 2010, in no particular order:


This year I sometimes wasn't sure if I was watching CNN or Entertainment Tonight. Faith Hill, Demi Moore, Andre Agassi, Lenny Kravitz...the list went on. It seems like not a week went by that we didn't get an inexplicable celebrity appearance. I'm not a total killjoy when it comes to this issue--even the awesome 60 Minutes profiles entertainers every now and then. But did we really need, say, Jimmy Buffett opining on the oil spill? Sean Penn talking Haiti is legitimate. Trace Adkins pontificating about politics? Not so much. If 360 wants to give us a (rare) fun interview, I can deal with that. Let's just leave the real news talk to the experts, mmkay?


When it came time to succinctly write the mission of this blog (up top, people), there's a possibility I may have been snarking on our 360 friends. Post-Katrina, the show's motto became "Keeping Them Honest." While I cannot deny that honesty-keeping has occurred since that time, for the most it was an exercise in half-assness--usually saying the words more than actually doing the deed. That changed in 2010.

This show is not playing around anymore, yo! The 360 kids will find your untruths and they will hunt you down and smother you with facts! And I could not be more delighted. Do you know how many times I have begged on this blog to get just one friggin' fact-check? Now they are EVERYWHERE. Particularly inducing giddiness are the new rampant Daily Show-style Montages of Accountability. Seriously, dudes, color me impressed with the whole segment.


Though the earthquake was a horrific event, the subsequent reporting brought a passion to the broadcast that frankly I don't think we had seen for quite some time. Team 360 not only gave us excellent coverage initially, they continued to follow up, returning to the country themselves, as well as keeping us up-to-date on developments via Sean Penn. I personally may wish that the story of Haiti occupied more broadcast minutes, but their efforts on this story should be commended. Special kudos to Anderson Cooper, Charlie Moore, Neil Hallsworth, Gary Tuchman, Sanjay Gupta, Danielle Dellorto, Ivan Watson, Karl Penhaul, and Vladimir Duthiers.


This being cable news, I guess ridiculousness is a bit of a given. Let's talk about Tiger Woods! Killer whale! Dating Game Killer! Dun dun dun! Yeah, these kind of stories will be with us forever (annoyingly eating up airtime). But it doesn't mean I can't put them on my listicle!


Hey, you know what would be fun? Let's listen to the arguing of people who make their careers being on the teevee! Wait, did I say fun? What I meant is...that is something I really do not want to see, like, ever. Yet almost every night it seems...there we are. Particularly troubling is the unchecked speculation and flat out wrong information that these panels inject into our discourse, but more on that below. Anderson is fond of saying that no one wants to listen to the opinions of a blow-dried anchor. Guess what! Blow-dried pundit? Same feeling of do not want. Stick to reporting, 360.


With the current ideological positioning of cable news' primetime hours, we hear a lot of talk about partisan anchors. Mentioned less frequently is the very real problem of nonpartisan journalists treating 'balance' and 'objectivity' as one in the same. They are not. A true objective reporter gathers viewpoints from all sides of an issue, and then to the best of their ability, determines what side is most supported by fact. They do not simply present two diametrically opposed perspectives and then "let the viewers decide," as 360 is wont to do. Rarely are all sides equal, and presenting them as so in of itself creates bias, and quite frankly, poor journalism.

To be fair to the 360 kids, they seem to have engaged in false equivalency less often in 2010 (though we did just have a big slip-up involving death panels), instead focusing on more factual reporting (yay!). Even Anderson Cooper--unfortunately a huge perpetrator of the disturbing practice--recently signaled he understands that balancing two unequal sides can have grave ramifications. Here's hoping 2011 brings more context.


To be honest, I never thought all that much of our anchor's interviewing skills (of the accountability variety). Sure, he had wowed me a few times, but I could count those instances on my hands. Worse still, there was a long period in 2008 when he simply wasn't interviewing any news-makers at all. The bookings began to improve in 2009. Then came 2010. Can I just say, holy crap? Because the Silver Fox was on fire! Slaying birthers, helping get bullies fired, calling out congresscritters with questionable ethics.

Anderson Cooper sees your bullshit and he is having none of it! Though our anchor deserves a major pat on the back for sky-rocketing from 'mediocrity' to 'kick-ass' regarding his questioning skills (seriously man, good job), I suspect there have been some rock star staffers behind him providing irreplaceable research. A few of the Silver Fox's interviews have been nothing short of beautiful. Kudos all around.


Though some of 360's reporting on the Sherrod fiasco was quite good, instances of excellence were marred by false equivalency and kowtowing to right-wing extremists. This culminated in our anchor making one of the most eye roll-worthy statements I've ever heard on the teevee that came from someone I respect.

During a bizarre apology for not challenging one of Sherrod's assertions, Anderson said the following: "I don't want anyone on my show to get away with saying things that cannot be supported by facts." Obviously this made my jaw drop because that very infraction occurs almost constantly during those panels of which I previously blogged so lovingly. In fairness, the 360 kids have on rare occasion done a fact-check on one of their pontificators, but for the most part, untruths continually go by without note.


This listicle topic is almost a continuation of where we just left, and it is perhaps the one that has me most flummoxed. After watching this show seriously up their game when it comes to living up to their mission of keeping people honest, it is beyond disappointing to watch them stain that credibility by continually inviting on Andrew Breitbart blogger Dana Loesch. And I love how they neglect to mention his name when introducing her. I suppose that might make Anderson Cooper look like a bit of a hypocrite.

After all, our anchor didn't speak very highly of Breitbart's brand of "journalism" (which is also favored by Loesch) during the Sherrod debacle. Not to mention Loesch's Breitbart-like penchant for attacking people (my recent favorite is probably when she called Eric Boehlert a "Soros buttboy"--classy!), while our anchor makes calls for civility.

I understand why the show invites her on: she's young, conservative, and attractive. But she's also a bully, has a severe aversion to facts, and is not only a supporter and editor for the discredited Andrew Breitbart, she's also a promoter of the work of James O'Keefe, a man who once attempted to sexually humiliate a former CNNer. This is the guest 360 wants to lend their credibility? Surely there are better individuals in the supposedly vast Tea Party that could provide their perspective. If the show is fully informed of everything I have just posted, I can only assume this is just a game to them, and they do not respect their viewers as much as I would have hoped.


Compared to 2008, coverage of the 2010 midterms was a regular fact extravaganza. Much improvement. Unfortunately, the 360 kids became hypnotized by some shininess and spent way too much time covering certain races--races that weren't even close, while not even touching on others. Also, the Sarah Palin obsession remains ridiculous.


There's not much to say here other than to commend 360 for being at the forefront of covering this horrible story.


Though the dedication to this story should be applauded, at some point the 360 kids' coverage fell into a rut. Not only did we seem to hear more from political punditry (hello Ragin' Cajun!) than regular people, the show's reliance on Billy Nungesser ultimately resulted in slanted coverage. This is not to say there was no reporting--the packages were often quite good. It should also be noted that the show tried their darndest to accountability-keep, a surely frustrating endeavor, given how hard it was for them to book related guests. Plus what the heck happened to "Culprits of the Catastrophe"? Perhaps I missed some segments, but it seems like it just petered out pretty quickly. Finally, given how much effort the 360 kids put into the story initially, I would have expected more of a follow up.


I know I already gave these two some love regarding Haiti coverage, but I think their awesomeness requires special kudos. Was there any story this year that Gary Tuchman didn't cover? Haiti, Chile, all over the United States--the man seemed to be everywhere, continually providing us with only the best on-the-ground reporting. Truly the hardest working correspondent around.

As for our Dr. Gupta, I'm beginning to suspect that he may in fact be Superman...or perhaps a robot. He's a journalist! He's a neurosurgeon! He's a triathlete! Seriously! Not only that, he's quickly become my favorite AC360 sub-anchor, as well as a phenomenal field correspondent. Here's hoping we see a lot of Sanjay and Gary in 2011.


Sure, their taste in baseball teams may be questionable, and their obsession with Jersey Shore disturbing, but for the most part, the staffers on the Twitter add informative and interactive fun to the AC360 viewing experience. I considered being service-y and linking them individually for the purposes of this listicle, but then I remembered I'm really lazy. So instead, check out my not-quite-current AC360 Twitter list. Oh, also? Charlie Moore, I'm still waiting for you to join. I mean, what's a girl gotta do?!

Labels: , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice round-up, Eliza. It almost sort of kind of makes me want to think about considering watching 360 again :D

3:28 AM  
Blogger EmmKay said...

Awesome roundup! 2010 really was a crazy year. Their Haiti coverage was life-changing for me, and I commend the team for sticking with it.

I whole-heartedly agree about Gary Tuchman and Sanjay Gupta. It's kind of crazy that Gupta is regulated to crack-of-dawn weekends. At least repeat the show in the afternoon. He's a gem.

Thanks again for the wrap-up. Looking forward to where 2011 takes AC360.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Lauren--NY said...

This is an outstanding wrap-up. Well done as always, my dear! xoxo

11:46 PM  
Anonymous Poker Hand said...

It is excellent idea. It is ready to support you.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Comedy Hypnotist said...

true, 2010 was a really weird year, it was over so quickly for me!

8:23 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from