March 29, 2005

It's Ugly Out There

I've never really watched much television over the past decade plus save the cable news shows. Over the past several years however, at least in the U.S., even the cable news has become barely tolerable. Tonight, back at the hotel I've been living in for several months, I decided to take in CNN's prime time line up from Lou Dobbs through Anderson Cooper through Paula Zahn out of morbid curiosity. Halfway through Paula, I had to change the channel. The saccharine-infused, hyper-mawkish, predictably exploitative fare (the hidden childhood of Terri Schiavo!); the farsical news angles (Michael Schiavo's other woman!); the endless shots of a bikini-clad Terri during better days--it was all so astoundingly bad. Now on Fox, we've got Hannity and Colmes live from Pinellas Park with exhausted looking family members being asked insensitive questions about autopsies and cremation and such (memo to Fox anchors: Terri is still alive guys)--to the sounds of chanting vigil keepers in the background. It's all quite surreal, more so than Jacko's trial even, and I am dumbfounded that this cretinous fare is what boosts the ratings (it does, right?). It's truly lowest common denominator fare--and I guess if it boosts advertising revenues and share prices full speed ahead! Hell, I'd even take the Beeb over this. Needless to say, B.D.'s news consumption going forward (save on overseas trips where CNN International and the like are more tolerable--though they too are in decline) will now come solely from newspapers (NYT, WSJ, FT and WaPo), other Internet new sites and, of course, blogs. Yep, it's ugly out there--and finding refugees and safe harbors is the name of the game.

P.S. I'm not alone! For once I can agree with this blogger!

P.P.S. Yeah, I will be tuning into to Aaron Brown later. Now that's morbid curiosity!

UPDATE: Can I just say that Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, comes off very well in the face of much of the insensitive questioning (yes, Aaron Brown has just asked him about the autopsy thing). He mentions he's dealing in reality, in other words that he knows his sister is likely close to death, but understandably punts on questions like that about autopsies and instead says he is focused on still trying to save his sister's life. An eminently reasonable position under the grim circumstances, of course, and Schindler comes off as smart, frank and genteel. Which is more than can be said for many of the anchors peppering him with aggressive questions.

Posted by Gregory at March 29, 2005 02:19 AM | TrackBack (6)

Cable news networks are incredibly ill-equipped to deal with an issue as complex as the Schiavo case. It's hard to do anything but briefly touch upon the moral, medical, legal, and political issues of this situation between commercial breaks. So, regardless of whether you're watching Fox, CNN, or MSNBC, you'll be seeing the same players saying the same things over and over again, hour after hour, with the stuffed suits ending each hour telling us what a difficult issue this and never attempt to take on any of the difficulties.

Posted by: VD at March 29, 2005 03:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Better you than me. I stay away from the devil box myself.

Posted by: praktike at March 29, 2005 03:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Schiavo coverage has done wonders for The Discovery Channel, TLC, A&E and others because some of us just absolutely will not watch the abuse of this case by cable TV. I have sympathy with the family but I do not have to see the sideshows that have sprung up about it. In my humble opinion, okay, I'm not really humble, the producers think the US is full of gape mouthed robots who are really interested in gore and scandal. I think the Schiavo family encouraged it in the hope it would help their case, it has not. Their is no legal standing in numbers standing out in protest. It is just a sideshow.

Posted by: Ruth H at March 29, 2005 02:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just a program note: Hannity & Colmes isn't a news program. Try Special Report with Brit Hume (the first 35 min) for straight news reporting from Fox. Hume uses the last 25 min to discuss the news with a panel of pundits.

FWIW, I can't watch O'Reilly, either.

Posted by: Scott Crawford at March 29, 2005 03:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to second the recommendation of Special Report with Brit Hume on FOX News. I try to catch it every night when it repeats. Even the three person panel in the last 20 minutes outshines the various "shout" shows on Fox and other networks.

Posted by: VD at March 29, 2005 03:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If you live in Manhattan, subsribe to Time-Warner digital cable and you can get CNN International. It's channel 133.

Posted by: sofia at March 29, 2005 05:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'll third the recommendation of Special Report with Brit Hume. I yell at the tv far, far less when that is on than any other news show. :)

Newsworld International is another network to consider for your news. I often turn there for breaking world news.

Posted by: Keith, Indianapolis at March 29, 2005 05:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Try to make lemonaide out of these lemons, Greg. This could be the best evidence yet that we've finally turned the tide on the WOT. The news "coverage" of the last few weeks reminds me of nothing so much as the Gary Condit/shark attack era back in the summer of '01.

Posted by: wayne at March 29, 2005 05:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

or that we're about to get hit my another mega-attack slamming us back to reality...not that i'd ever wish for this--even if it spared me the empty piffle of cable "news" shows...

Posted by: greg at March 29, 2005 05:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've always said that television (especially cable) news is to journalism what McDonald's is to hamburgers. I also get two hours of international news once a week on a local public access channel. It is an hour of Deutsche-Welle, 30 minutes of French news, and 30 minutes of Russian news (I don't know the names of the exact shows for the latter). I have to say if those shows are indicative of international news, they are in pretty bad shape as well, especially when it comes to reporting about issues in the United States.

I recently saw some expert being interviewed on the French show, supposedly reporting on the opinions of average Americans based on informal interviews in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria.

Posted by: VD at March 29, 2005 06:21 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

the whole lot of it has become unwatchable. most of it is mind-bendingly idiotic. i have turned off the t.v. for news, with the lone exception of c-span and c-span2.

Posted by: dred at March 31, 2005 04:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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