Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"When Cable News Actually Broadcasts Some News"

Normally it’s just “filler” until the election. 

Let me tell you about an event so deliciously special it remains carefully secured in the Safety Deposit Box of my mind.

Sometimes, I wonder if the cable news community secretly reveres this incendiary confession, or if they are horrified by it, or both, sneaking out a “bootleg” copy of the tape for “subversive viewing”, or at Christmas parties, and then stashing it away, fearing its general promulgation would send the entire cable news operation crashing down around their heads.

It probably wouldn’t.  But why take chances?  You get free clothes and meet attractive commentators.  Too “catty”?  Probably, yeah.)

Okay, here’s the story.  Tell everyone you know.  This deserves widespread distribution.  Unavailable at this venue.

It concerns the late John McLaughlin, host of the longtime, cable political slugfest The McLaughlin Group.  McLaughlin was probably in his late seventies when he said this, giving credence to the saying I am inventing on the spot:

In Senility Veritas.

(Or maybe it was powerful medication?)

(Or maybe he was simply finally “coming clean.”)

Here’s the situation.

Liberals and conservatives are ferociously attacking each other, as was traditional on The McLaughlin Group, screaming, spitting and vituperating, the “debate” ascending to a cacophonic crescendo.  Moderator McLaughlin breaks in to restore order.  Drawing on decades of experience, in his trademark stentorian delivery, John McLaughlin capsulizes the conversation thusly:

“The question is not (concerning the issue under discussion) ‘Is it good for the “Left” or is it good for the “Right”?’  The question is….

“Is it good for our show?

The panelists immediately turn white, for the first time, uncharacteristically speechless.

That’s one example.

More recently, a couple of weeks ago, the intervening period between this and the story I have just related being… maybe fifteen years?… I am guessing here, because I was not aware there would be such an enormous gap before cable news said anything newsworthy again and I neglected to keep track.

Alex Wagner, had a regular hosting gig on MSNBC but now doesn’t – possibly due to a propensity for candid remarks, although the following  “boat rocking” assertion could have equally been “sour grapes” because they canned her; these things can legitimately go in either direction.  (Nah, it was probably just bad ratings.)

It’s some backwater Sunday afternoon cable news program.  Nobody’s watching because there’s football.

The subject at hand is candidate Donald Trump’s latest “shooting himself in foot” – the man has shot himself in the foot so many times, he is now relegated to shooting himself in the calf.  (I’m not sure about that one.)   

This happened a couple of weeks ago, making it four weeks before the election.  The Access Hollywood “They let me do it because I’m a star” video has just emerged and the guest expert political operative on the show – a Republican – has just declared, as a result of this damaging revelation:

“The election is over.”

To which invited commentator Alex Wagner responds,

“Then what are we doing here?”

The show’s host almost swallowed his microphone.  (Unused to hearing the truth on his TV show.)

That’s the second example.  In fifteen years.

It is not news that cable news is a business.

It is news when they acknowledge it on the air.


JED said...

My son is convinced that the 24-hour cable news channels and even our local news stations are actually pleased when reports of hurricanes or huge fires start to arrive. He says they're relieved they won't have to worry about what to talk about for a few days. But they seem so empathetic while they're reporting on it. Surely it can't be true.

One of the sillier things our local news stations do is on the first snow, and any time there is more than a few inches of accumulation, at least five or six reporters MUST sent out to various locations around the area to "report" on the conditions there. The requisites are that a snowball MUST be made (and often thrown at the cameraman) and someone must be interviewed. It's best if the person being interviewed is either wearing something funny or is especially attractive.

And this being New England, there MUST be a picture shown of Tom Brady playing with his kids in the snow. The newscast CANNOT end until that has happened.

Alan said...

A couple of things about cable news:
I’m always amazed that in those few instances when an actual information-laden conversation is happening (often on Joy Reid’s MSNBC slot), it is stopped – often mid-sentence – because they are “running out of time”. It’s 24 hour news! That’s lots of time!
Also, after sitting through what is maybe the millionth time the same story is played/discussed…I find myself wondering, is the only news in the world American News?
When the Brexit vote went so incredibly sideways, I’m sure that there was no regular cable news- watcher who had any idea of what Brexit was.
There’s lots of news in the world…not just in the America.
I’m a big fan of Alex Wagner.