Sunday, December 05, 2004

COUP: Today Show Seizes Control of the New York Times' front page

Short of numerous "___!"s, I don't know how to express my shock, outrage, disappointment over this morning's Times front page. This is news? This is front page news? Carl's e-mailed this morning to say today's front page is "total ___" and I'm going to agree with that.

I've read the main section twice. There are numerous stories that are worthy of attention inside. But let's highlight how bad the front page is. ("How bad is it!") So bad, that it's like the opening segment of Today. Hence the following send up.


MATT: Good morning. Katie's on vacation. Important news, folks, the Supreme Court has issued what some are calling a "harsh rebuke" in three death row appeals. But first, here's Campbell Scott with a report on one of the most important issues of our day. Campbell?

CAMPBELL: Thank you, Matt. Exploding stereotypes it turns out that 'younger Latinos' are shifting to 'smaller families.' Apparently, education and jobs are preventing many, I'm not sure of a number here, from having 12 children. 12 children may be shocking but I spoke with a woman named Rocio and she said she can't imagine having more than 3 children. Now she didn't come from a family with 12 children, Matt. But at least once, she saw a photo at the home of friends' of her parents, she was quite young so the details are sketchy. But in that photo, that she saw once, when she was a child, there was a portrait of a family with 12 children!
"Demographers say the decline is significant because of the size of the Latino population." Back to you.

[Yes, Rocio really does refer to that photo in the article in this morning's Times. She also notes that as a child in Jalisco, Mexico, she was one of seven children.]

MATT: (nods seriously) Shocking. 12 children? (Grinning) I thought the saying was, "Eight is enough!" (Guffaws). Norah O'Donnell now has an exclusive report on the fate of the intelligence bill.

NORAH: Thank you, Matt. NBC has learned that (big smile) our President George W. Bush is fighting hard to save the intell bill. This reporter secluded herself to a secret location where she listened to (big smile) our president speak. Proving how off the cuff and spontaneous and "impassioned" he is, (big smile) our president gave his weekly radio address to the nation and when (big smile) my president speaks, I listen. After listening to the radio address, I called various Republicans who all support (smile) our president and they agree that (smile) our president is doing everything he can. Matt, (big smile) our commander-in-chief is on this!

[Yes, we do get a front page story based upon a radio address.]

MATT: Thank you, Norah. For some truth squading we bring in the Truth Squad, Lisa Myers.

LISA: Squad? Was that a weight crack? (chortles) Seriously, Matt. President Bush is working hard to get this bill passed. (Grimacing) The obstructionists? Democrats who want to harm our soliders as usual. And that's the truth from this squad!

[The same front page story "Norah" "reported on" also gives us anonymous officials. The Democrats crack by "Lisa" doesn't appear. In fact, no Democrat appears. Not a single one. Senator Barbara Boxer, among others, has been very vocal about this bill but apparently she wasn't on someone's rolodex. It's strange to read a piece on Congressional legislation and not find a single Democrat quoted. Is Bush pressuring Republicans in Congress? Who knows. The Times has a tendency to swallow his posturing as truth. Wonder what the Democrats think? Keep wondering because the Times is no help there.]

MATT: Thanks for setting us straight as always, Lisa. And leading us into the next segment. (Pained expression) I think you and the rest of the nation will be very interested in this next story, it's an issue that touches all of our lives. Here is NBC's legal correspondent Dan Abrams. Danno!

DAN: Right back at ya', Matty! (Solemn expression) "To people who have struggled for a lifetime to lose weight, the new drug called rimonabant sounds like a dream come true."

[Footage of thin people emerging from a building]

DAN: "At obesity treatment centers nearly every patient asks for rimonabant -- or Acomplia, as it will be called if its maker, Sanofi-Aventis gets approval to market it in the United States."

MATT: Thanks for giving us the skinny on the fat!

DAN: (Laughing) Stop! Stop! I'm about to lose control of my bladder!

MATT: Now here's NBC correspondent Pete Williams. Pete, tell us about the pressing legal issue you're working on?

PETE: Matt, "Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major Leauge Baseball Players Association, said yesterday that it's executive board planned to discuss steroids when it convened this week as the baseball union and professional sports were reeling from a series of damaging revelations."

[The Times can't get over the idea that this story is THE STORY of our time. I'm not sure if this is the third or fourth front page story on steroids in baseball in the last six days but it must be
LIFE ALTERNING because the Times can't seem to let go of it.]

MATT: Shocking! And very sad. This effects us all. I mean if children can't turn sports players into God, Pete, what will the nation do? Do we have footage? This is the most important thing since Janet Jackson's boob. We don't have footage? Can we get footage? Okay, we will get footage because this story matters more than anything else that could ever happen in the world.
Now, with Katie on vacation, newsreader Ann Curry sits down with Bernard Kerik.

ANN: Commissioner Kerik, you are nominated for the top post of Homeland Security. So I'm going to have to ask you some toughies!

KERIK: "What gets measured gets done."

ANN: (Laughing) True that! Now Mr. Kerik, America's Mayor Rudy Giuliani has said of you, "He was always doing better than even I thought he would."


ANN: Okay, I'm convinced! Back to you, Matt.

[That's about the whole story. None of the 9-11 families objections were noted nor was there any serious exploration of any questions regarding his qualifications or anything else that might have made this biographical sketch worthy of the front page.]

MATT: Hard hitting stuff, Ann. Hard hitting. Andrea Mitchell, you're waiting outside the Supreme Court all this time to tell us about the "harsh rebukes" the Court has issued.

ANDREA: Matt, "three appeals from inmates on death row in Texas" have been heard by the Supreme Court in the past year, "and in each case the prosecutors --"

MATT: (Interrupting) Death row?


MATT: That's all you got? No obesity? No praise for our leader? No trend story about what might happen in 2040? Anything with sports or drugs?

ANDREA: Uh . . .

[Which appears to be the Times' attitude as well. But hey, nice main photo on the front page of five little girls and their ballet teacher. It's not connected to a story on the front page, mind you. But hey, it's light. It's frivilous. It totally fits with this morning's front page when the Times, apparently bored with being a newspaper, decides to crossdress as a tabloid.]

MATT: Okay, we'll be back after these commercials with our usual segment entitled Chris Matthews Screams About Democrats! Keep smiling, America, this is Today!

[All bold words from the Times.]