Wednesday, December 21, 2011

ABC, CBS and NBC placed on academic probation

If they lived by a grading system, all three commercial broadcast networks would be spending the holidays explaining to their parents how they landed on academic probation and why they wasted so much money this past semester and have so little to show for it.


They got the gossip.

Democrats have talking points, Republicans have talking points. Will the payroll tax get a waiver or not?

That's what the politicians want the focus on. Real media would begin exploring seriously what these tax holidays mean for Social Security. As opposed to waiting for this to continue for multiple years and then suddenly 'discovering' that it harms Social Security.

But, by all means, let's take a serious issue and reduce it to political football of the moment and figure out who is ahead and who is behind. And having offered nothing but spin and conjecture -- which plenty of politicians are willing to provide on the record -- really take it home by offering 'insider and unsourced' gossip. ABC World News, on a campus of slackers, you still managed to stand out as George Stephanopoulos continued filling in as anchor on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and America continued to ask: Why?

Rebecca takes on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley and the anchor's bizarre attempts at speaking and connecting. But to that, I will add, Pelley, no one loves a braggart.

If you're doing a correction, you're doing it because you made a mistake. Not because you're so wonderful or special or amazing. Translation, when offering a correction, remember that the correction is what matters, not informing everyone how you do corrections. Viewers watching see you do a correction, they don't need you to waste time pointing out how you do a correction when you make a mistake. It's a bit like an attractive person insisting on telling you how attractive they are. No one wants to hear that and you come off vain.

Another thing to remember: The United States did not wake up in bed with North Korea. It's amazing to listen to the evening newscasts obsess over the fact that it took two days for the US to know that North Korea's leader had died. Repeating: The United States did not and does not wake up each morning smelling North Korea's breath. The obsessive nature of this topic really appears to be shock on the part of American broadcasters that they are not, in fact, know it alls despite forever presenting as though they were.

Just as glorifying yourself for doing a correction just makes you look like a vain blowhard, you don't come off well filing your government-sponsored stories of "They cry in North Korea, but they don't really mean it!" The three commercial networks were actually topped on this but we'll come back to that.

When doing international stories -- pay attention, Scott Pelley -- your time on camera smiling and angling your head is of less value to viewers than actual information, both in setting up what happened and why it took place. So the women protesting in Egypt yesterday? It was not a moment for you to waste time trying to look cuddly, but to actually inform. Ayman Mohyeldin turned in an actual report on Nightly News with Brian Williams. It probably would have been the best report of the three if all three had bothered to report on it (that hunch is based on the lousy work that dominated ABC and CBS news last night).

But none of them really report. They just send a crew out for footage. It's really amazing how there is never any investigative reporting. That's true of NPR as well. If the networks or NPR do investigative reporting, it's always paired with someone (ProPublica, etc.). But they've got a ton of money to waste sending a crew out to get the reporting standing in front of snow and pretending this is amazing work.

And if they're CBS, you start to note that these are male reporters. Is Norah the only female correspondent CBS has these days? And to flip from CBS to ABC is a shock akin to switching from one of CBS crime-dramas to the CW. What is the average age of Scott Pelley's correspondents? If you leave out Norah (or just focus on Scott's men), it may be 62. If those years were supposed to result in wisdom, something must have gotten lost over the air waves.

Apparently their take home exams got lost. That would explain how they thought they could ignore what's going on in Iraq right now while boring us with "calling all angels" and a story about how tabloids get scoops. Here's a thought, learn how network news can get some scoops.

Here's another, when you're introducing a segment with "Finally a story that's had us smiling all day," it's probably not really news. If it does qualify as news, it probably doesn't really qualify as news worthy of the evening news. That hint goes out to George who continues to struggle with journalism.

And that's probably news to him but so much is news to him.

For example, that David Wright segment was a howler. "They don't," Wright insisted of North Korea as he tossed back to George, "celebrate Christmas there, they worship their leaders." As does the US which is part of the reason that George immediately moved to an Iraq 'report.' Footage of Barack in the US with a flag. And, no, George didn't use that time to talk about what was going on in Iraq -- what had been going on in Iraq since at least Friday.

And it wasn't just worship that kept the reality about Iraq off the airwaves, it was also money. CBS News or CBS 'News,' for example, made the financial decision that they had put so much money into their rah-rah EVERYONE COMES HOME coverage that when things went wack-job in Iraq on Friday, they didn't want to risk their previously planned budget by including some reality. Way to go, CBS 'News.' It may or may not also explain ABC and NBC's lack of coverage. I don't know. Rebecca found out through a friend about CBS and told me and I confirmed it with two friends at CBS News and one CBS suit. How very sad.

While three received very poor marks, they'll no doubt spend the holiday insisting to their parents that The NewsHour blew the curve for everyone.

Yes, the PBS program discovered the Iraq news yesterday. Describing the "political turmoil," Judy Woodruff noted (link is text, audio and video), "An arrest warrant was issued for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges that he had run death squads during the sectarian bloodbath of 2006 and 2007. As proof, the purported confession of a man named Ahmed was broadcast. He said Hashemi spoke to him through an intermediary." The segment provides translations of remarks by Tareq al-Hashemi and more. The second segment on this story (again, text, audio and video) found Judy exploring the events with former Ambassador Feisal Istrabadi and Abbas Kadhim. Excerpt:

FEISAL ISTRABADI: Well, let me start with the proposition that what Iraq needs is a strong leader. With all respect to my very good friend, I think that what we need are rulers in Iraq who are dedicated to the principles of constitutional democracy. Their strength lies not in the elimination or in the harassment of political adversaries, but, on the contrary, in encouraging constitutional discourse. What has been happening in Iraq in the last 24 hours cannot be seen in isolation. For the past 12 months, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to appoint a permanent minister of defense. That was supposed to be one of the portfolios that went to the Iraqiya coalition. They have nominated six people for that position. Each one of them has been rejected. He has appointed a member of his own coalition, the prime minister's own coalition, as acting minister of defense. He is acting as minister of the interior. And one of his cronies is acting minister of state for national security. He has cashiered career officers and appointed cronies to senior officer positions in the armed and security forces in Iraq. In other words, the prime minister has under his control as we speak all the instrumentalities of state security in Iraq. I'll remind your viewers that, in the early 1970s, this is precisely how Saddam Hussein came to power at the time. What we -- I think Iraqis, with our history, we have to be overly cautious when we see similar actions occur as have occurred in our relatively recent past. Strength in the new Iraq must be through constitutional democracy, and not through harassment and intimidation.

PBS completed the assignment ABC, CBS and NBC hoped wasn't due. Academic probation is not academic suspension (though it can lead to that). Hopefully, the new year will find the three struggling students working to improve their grades. And, hopefully, PBS won't carry anymore Angus Walker reports. If your point is that the death of Kim Jung-Il has turned into a spectacle, maybe you shouldn't be talking about it day after day and maybe you shouldn't be using your Robin Leach Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous delivery to do your report. (I'm sure Angus thought it was irony.) (He thought wrong.)

The following community sites updated last night and this morning:

And Rebecca's "smelly scott pelley and the sucky cbs evening news."

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