Archive for media coverage

Webcams vs. TV news aka Real News vs. Speculative Blather

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objectivity, webcams v news

There's a fascinating article about the recent crisis in Ferguson, Missouri in today's Los Angeles Times... in the Calendar section of all places. It compares and contrasts webcams points of view and TV news coverage of identical events. Per the author of the article, Robert Lloyd, "The news is by necessity, even by definition, exclusionary. But by triple-underlining the most notable or exciting aspects of a story — the "dramatic" elements..." it decides things for the viewer.

In other words, a stationary camera allows the onlooker to scrutinize details and activities beyond the flashy headlines.

TV news runs and reruns the most memorable or sensational clips ad nauseam, while webcams capture reality as it unfolds, impartially, albeit limited by its angle and vantage point. Details become focal points, if the audience is patient enough to notice them.

Sometimes the camera looked up the street and sometimes it looked down, but in either case it sat and looked. [...] Obviously, if you want to understand what's been happening in Ferguson, you need more than a Web stream. But it offers another way of looking at things and, in some ways, a more profound one.

The news is by necessity, even by definition, exclusionary. But by triple-underlining the most notable or exciting aspects of a story — the "dramatic" elements — the media also deform the reality they report upon...

Regular readers know that one of my pet peeves is media coverage, with all the endless speculation and misinformation out there, often just to boost ratings. And don't get me started on empty time-filling convos. Robert Lloyd pointed out a mutual gripe-- mind reading:

TV news cuts things up, cuts away and litters the screen with boxes and text and throws up a wall of speculating talking heads to clot the air with opinion, speculation and mind-reading.

Wolf Blitzer to Jake Tapper, on CNN, outside Brown's funeral: "I'm sure the Brown family is pleased that three officials from the White House have decided to attend this funeral today, right?"

Tapper: "I'm sure they are."

He went on to describe the contrast between Michael Brown's funeral service as depicted in select TV clips vs. observing the ceremony in real time from beginning to end, followed by a constant and objective video feed following mourners to the cemetery, including the surroundings. It can be more enlightening to watch the tedious but unblinking coverage by webcams than dramatic cable news sound bites that interpret developments for us.

As Lloyd put it, webcams continued to record what happened after the funeral: "Life went on." But we'll never see footage of that on TV.

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Dep't. of Gaa! Annoyingly overused phrases in TV news

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cliches, phrases

The so-called "news" media (Hey, remember real news?) can get under one's skin on so many levels. Today, let's just concentrate on their delivery and vocabulary, because one can only take so much pet peevage in one sitting.  Journalists overuse several terms and phrases the way John Boehner overuses tanning beds and taverns. The way Republicans overuse Voter I.D. laws. The way Sunday talk shows overuse John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The way the GOP overuses the filibuster. The way Ferguson cops overuse tear gas. The way Sarah Palin overuses "You betcha!" "also, too," and Facebook.

Below are a few of the annoying phrases that cable news hosts, contributors, and guests insist on using over and over and over again, ad nauseam. And these are just off the top of my head.

And don't even get me started on the weirdly unnatural, singsong delivery and pauses used by most correspondents' in their "packaged" (pre-taped) segments. Or the inability of many hosts to read off their teleprompters. Or the way MSNBC guests and contributors are forced to clasp their hands in front of them like kindergarteners. Or the Oh, come on now! grammatical errors made by seasoned anchors, underscored by the You gotta be kidding me! spelling errors on the news crawl. Or the forced palsy-walsitude and effusive praise among cliquey hosts. Can you imagine Walter Cronkite doing any of that?

heavy sigh

Rant over.

Here's a partial list of news biz clichés. Some are irritating because they are meaningless. Some are unbearably stale. Some are painfully trite and/or cloying. Others simply make no sense. And all make me wonder why so many intelligent newscasters and editors rely on such hackneyed and/or poor verbiage. You are invited to pile on in Comments:

  • Take a listen
  • At the end of the day
  • The whole nine yards
  • All politics is local
  • A tempest in a teapot
  • Some say...
  • Game changer
  • Went missing
  • In the days and weeks to come (weeks and months, months and years)...
  • Thank you, my friend
  • On the ground
  • At this point in time
  • Folks
  • I just got off the phone with...
  • Journey
  • Journey
  • Did I mention journey?
  • We need to have a conversation
  • The homeland
  • That being said...
  • We'll leave it there

We'll leave it there.

For a satirical look at MSNBC hosts and their banter, link over to my Preen forward #OhButIKid post of a few months ago.

Now that I've gotten all that out of my system, can we move on to the most annoyingly overused commercials on TV?


frustrated41

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Gov. "Ultrasound" McDonnell probed, media mounts soap opera defense for him

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bob mcdonnell trans vag ultrasound probe

Media coverage of the Gov. Bob "Ultrasound" McDonnell corruption case could take a cue from the following excerpt from USA Today, and an even bigger one from The Rachel Maddow Show below:

RICHMOND, Va. — The key prosecution witness in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, took the stand Wednesday, saying there was no personal relationship between he and the couple.

Jonnie Williams, the wealthy businessman and former chief executive of Star Scientific, said he did not give the two initial checks to the McDonnell family because he thought he and the McDonnells were friends.

"This was a business relationship," he said about why he helped the McDonnell family. "I needed his help."

That's news. Unfortunately, however, that has not been the focus of the so-called "news" media when it comes to this story. Rachel Maddow zeroed right in on the How Do You Solve a Problem Like Media Coverage? issue in the following segment. We owe her our gratitude:

Maddow on "the salaciousness of the headlines":

The headlines are all like this... "Trial reveals governor's wife had 'crush' on CEO"...

The indictment-- the allegations from prosecutors-- those have been out there for months now. But now that we're having the trial... what has stolen the show about the defense is this designed-for-headlines assertion from the defense, that the McDonnell's marriage was broken, Maureen McDonnell had a "childlike crush" on this businessman who the McDonnells are accused of helping in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts...

But the defense strategy in the corruption trial of Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife is apparently going to be [about their marriage]... This is how they're going to try to keep the governor and his wife out of jail.

Bob McDonnell and Maureen McDonnell stand accused of accepting over $160,000 in gifts and cash from this wealthy CEO [Johnnie Williams] in exchange for providing official help from the state for the CEO's company. That's called corruption, right? "Give me something of personal value to me, and in exchange, I'll give you a little something from the government, the government in which I am an official." ...

So that strategy, the "she took everything" defense... is undercut by the fact that Bob McDonnell himself did things himself like ask this guy for a $70,000 loan for his real estate business... But that is their main defense strategy, the claim is basically that "she did it all, she's not a public official, so there's no public corruption. And, there couldn't be a... corrupt conspiracy between the two of them, because there was no "two of them."... It was just her "lovesick stupidity. He's actually kind of the victim here."... That's their legal strategy...

What does not make sense is the media helping them with it... It is being covered purely in a tabloid way... Purely through catty, sexist gossip [her shopping, her "crush"]... That framing is not only sexist and gross, it ignores the fact that Bob McDonnell himself was doing things like setting up meetings for this wealthy donor with top state health officials... They claim they have the evidence to prove it.

But if the Bob McDonnell defense is gonna be to blame it all on the "lovesick, emotionally erratic, Louis Vuitton-loving wife, they are so far doing a masterful job of injecting that storyline into the press and getting the press to mount their defense for them.

The press is bending over backwards to help the McDonnell legal defense... Attention news media! This is an overt strategy and you are helping one side of this legal case by advancing the strategic storyline for them, because you can't resist a tabloid soap opera tale.

You're being played! You're being played... by covering this as a tabloid story about a marriage, and not a crime blotter story about a corrupt governor.

bob mcdonnell probe johnnie williams

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Shape up, MSNBC

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what you know info news animated gifthe more you know msnbc bergdahl

MSNBC and I are old friends. Many Team MSNBCers and I follow each other on the Twitter Machine, and I spend more time watching MSNBC than just about any other channel or cable news outlet on the Tee Vee Machine. I pretty much have to, because getting my televised news [sic] elsewhere is too frustrating. I always had such high hopes for them. But now, some of the weekday daytime shows are becoming so hard to watch that I find myself muting the sound or just turning off my TV.

Not that there isn't a lot to like about MSNBC, but since Comcast took over (coincidence?), much of what I see drives me to stabbing myself in the eye with a sharp remote, banging my head on the nearest wall, or simply screaming at my poor Samsung.

The more trivial issues involve typos. They really need an editor to edit the editors. Whoever writes the MSNBC ticker that crawls across our screens, along with their chyron-master, needs stronger glasses. Or a better education. Anyone else catch all the spelling errors and typos? "Eric Holders"? Really?

And speaking of the news crawl, why oh why did they go back to starting it at "Top Stories" after every interruption, both commercial and within a segment itself? For awhile it picked up where it left off, but no longer. Just as we get to "Politics" or "Health," back it goes to "Top Stories," mid-headline. How many times do we need to see the same five "Top Stories"? And don't get me started on those alarmist headlines that are maddeningly vague, suggesting without any specifics that there is some killer virus or new war that will imminently affect us all. A few more words of explanation would serve everyone well.

But the more serious problems involve reporting. The other morning on one show, an immigration expert was reporting that the number of Central American migrants arriving here had slowed noticeably. Not an hour later, in the next show, Luke Russert came right out and stated that there was no abatement at all in the number being met at the border. They were pouring in at the same rate as ever, he said. But today, again, it was reported that the numbers had dropped.

If MSNBC can't keep their own reporting straight, if the information reaching their viewers is that inconsistent, then their credibility suffers. And if their credibility suffers, then so does that of liberals, because MSNBC has the reputation-- deserved or not-- of being a liberal network.

Which brings me to their programming (I won't get into that whole forcing me to "go to prison" thing). I DVR their prime time shows religiously. But daytime leaves something to be desired (weekend mornings excepted). Luckily, Morning Joe is on too early for us West Coasters, but some of Andrea Mitchell's interviews/guests make me wish that show was on too early for us, too. While Mitchell is a respected and informative news veteran and manages to break news that's worth breaking, her show tends to feature the same old Beltway types with the same old Obama and/or Dem policy critics and the same old faulty speculation that have frequently misled viewers for years.

Not to say Mitchell also hasn't stood up for some progressive causes, but generally, I want to bathe after listening to all too many of her interviews with the same ol' same ol' DC journalists.

And don't even get me started on Ronan Farrow. With all due respect, Mr. F, you may be very smart, and for all I know you may be very nice, but you're d-u-l-l. I couldn't even tell you whether he's on the same page as us lefties, because I can't make it through the first two minutes of his show.

Since I know I'll be hearing from my anti-Tweety pals, allow me a few words about Chris Matthews, and then I'll shut up about the shows, because this post is becoming endless (if you want a snarkier take on MSNBC, please read MSNBC: Preen forward #OhButIKid). I actually admire Matthews, his grasp of history, and all that experience and historical perspective he brings to the show. But I prefer watching him on "Real Time with Bill Maher" where he's more lay-back, cracks up a lot, engages with humor, enjoys himself, all with his own special Tweety stamp. Yes, I realize he's a only a guest and it's a comedy show. On his daily show, I enjoy his "Let Me Finish" rants, where his more liberal side most often makes an appearance. He can be kind of a hoot. But he can also drive a lot of us a little crazy. 'Nuff said.

My point, if there is one, is: If MSNBC would truly commit to being a truly liberal cable news channel, then it would not only be the only one around, it would also be more consistent and less infuriating to an audience who expects it to be destination viewing for progressives . Lean forward, MSNBC, not backward. And wake up your editors.

Note: Edited.

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