Wednesday, August 10, 2005

So I haven't been online in a while. Sorry about that.

Monday night I was sick and in bed by 8:00pm. I have no idea what was wrong with me. It may be something is going around the office, but I'm not sure. Anyway, no blogging when I'm asleep.

Tuesday night I was preoccupied, and that brings us to tonight.

Well, not so much preoccupied tonight, and I feel fine (for a guy who ate McDonald's for dinner). I am a bit down, however. My PC at work got the blue screen of death and it's deader than a doornail. Luckily I backed all my docs up to DVDs last week in an unrelated incident. I'm supposed to be getting a new Latitude PC, but it's going to take a while, so in the meantime I'm stuck using a computer which isn't mine. It just happens to be that the laptop I'm using doesn't have a DVD drive. Which means, you guessed it, I can't use my files.

Ugh. It's really depressing.

Watched part of the Peter Jennings 2-hour, commercial-free tribute on ABC tonight, and part of me was wondering when, exactly, ABC started producing this thing. Jennings just died over the weekend. I've worked in video production. Even with several people working simultaneously, I find it enormously surprising that the special wasn't pre-produced to some extent. It's a morbid thought, but one is forced to consider the idea that ABC started working on this documentary the minute Jennings announced he had cancer.

This morning, for various reasons, I didn't go into work until almost 11:00. This meant that I was at home watching Headline News while eating my Cheerios during normal working hours. Now, after the re-vamp of Headline News back around 2000, I sort of quit taking Headline News seriously. I miss the format of Lynne Russell staring into the camera for hours on end and reading AP releases.

So, I can't tell you how irritated and disillusioned I've become with the NEW Headline News. The primetime hours during which I used to watch are now filled with two shows (shows? On Headline News?) One show is Showbiz news, officially throwing CNN in with E! network and Entertainment Tonight and lowering the collective IQ of the country. The other show is Nancy Grace, and the less said about that lunatic, the better.

One wonders what they would do if we had a war on. Wait....

This leaves about 18 hours a day for news. News which is about 30% entertainment news, and mostly reported by spokesmodels with very nice hair.

And this is where I get back to Peter Jennings and why I shall miss him.

This morning Headline News was covering President Bush's signing of the new transportation bill (a bill which I have no opinion of, and could honestly care less), and part of the story centered around a lot of pork added to the bill as riders benefitting local rep's districts, etc... Of course, it was mentioned that there were "critics of the bill", but no party affiliation or names were named. However, it WAS mentioned that "critics of the bill" felt that there was a lot of pork on the bill.

At the conclusion of the story, CNN News Bunny Kathleen Kennedy rolls her eyes and says "there's always critics". And not in a "ha ha, there's always someone out there who doesn't like something" sort of way. It was pretty clear that Ms. Kennedy is just sick and tired of all these people who keep bugging the President.

Dear Kathleen Kennedy:

Your job is to read the teleprompter, look grave when discussing death and smile as we go to commercial. Try not to @#$% it up.


The League

The reason we call journalists "The 4th Estate" isn't because it sounds awesome (because it sort of does), it's because in a world of shady bastards posing as electable do-gooders, we're lucky enough to live in a country where the press got it's groove on by taking pot shots at the shadier dealings of the elected shady bastards. It has long been expected that political decision makers are kept in check not just by the 3 branches of government, but by our belief that citizens (journalists) can peer into a transparent government and question decision making.

I'm a firm believer that journalists are supposed to be making waves and looking for corruption and vice. Despite party affiliations, journalists should be responsible for covering a story in its entirety, including voices of dissent. And they should be able to try to reporty upon the facts without editorial comment. If the facts of what they're trying to report on aren't enough, then the story doesn't stand on it's own.

I'm not sure I mourn just Peter Jennings, but the Edward R. Murrow school of journalism. It's not enough that the major networks are going to continue to slash the budgets of their news agencies in the face of the 24-hour news channel. But the big three knew they weren't just serving one political side of the fence or the other, they made an effort to stick to straight-forward reporting for the entire country.

All journalists are guilty of selecting stories which slant to their point of view. But that shouldn't change the fundamental nature of the journalist's job. Having a point of view is human nature, but it's also why we have editors and editorial boards. And it's also why journalists should try to be twice as hard on politicians with whom they feel they can support.

We're now getting our news from talking heads whose greatest aspiration was NOT to be a journalist, but to be a face on television. With the same pie of money cut into a million slices, journalistic ethics and standards are a liability in the battle for audience share. After all, news and anchors that match and reinforce preconceived notions rather than challenge the common wisdom turn out to be a big draw. Especially when they paint opinion and spin as unvarnished truth.

In any event, the role of an anchor shouldn't be to hear a news story and then dismiss part of the story out of hand because they don't find it convenient. Try not to look like you just rolled out of bed, read your teleprompter and go home. Collect a pay-check every two weeks. Your job is pretty simple.

And before everyone comes down on me like a ton of bricks saying that I wouldn't be saying this if I agreed with Kathleen Kennedy, I most assuredly would. It's the same reason I don't get my news from Al Franken, and I try to get my news from wire reports instead of television to begin with.

I know I'm in the minority, but I'd gladly pay extra for a cable news channel which did nothing but go back to Headline News' original format. Give me Lynne Russell and thirty minutes of the same stories in rotation all night long. I'm up for that.

I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more.

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