Broadcast history lite.

OK, so I’ll admit it: I watched approximately 180 seconds of Katie Couric’s debut newscast. It so happened I had just started dinner — that is, ordered a pizza — and had about five minutes to put my feet up. I was in a room with a TV, there was the remote, and thanks to the momentous publicity blitz, I recalled that I could, at that very moment, watch some “historic” television.

So I did. For three minutes. History just ain’t as thrilling as it used to be.

If my current viewing patterns are any indication, I’ll next watch Katie in 2015. I hope she has a nice career.

Really, though, do you watch network news? How often do you have the magic combination of time and opportunity to sit down and get your news the way Walter Cronkite used to deliver it? For me, the answer is “pretty much never.” I don’t keep a TV in my kitchen, which is where I usually am at 6:30, but I do have a radio there, and have NPR on at that hour. If any glowing screen comes into my kitchen, it’s my laptop, and I guaran-damn-tee you it’s not running network-news video broadband.

I don’t know about you, but I suspect I’m fairly typical. Others are still commuting home from work, having an end-of-day run/yoga session, mixing cocktails or doing anything other than sitting in one place and allowing a handful of network producers to select their day’s information.

So, that said, is there anything that marks newspapers as network news’ dance partner in the fading sunset of a general-interest media universe more than the obsessive attention paid to this titanic non-story? I’m saying…no.

And the Photoshop diet? This just in: Marketing departments preparing photos of marketable celebrities frequently apply digital-retouching techniques to make sure they look as good as possible. Stop the goddamn presses.

UPDATE: J.C. has a timeline demonstrating the content/breaks ratio. (And more thoughts, from a much more informed perspective.)


Jury duty: How I longed for a better experience. But it was pretty much like jury duty everywhere, in that I sat in a sweltering room in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice with 300 other citizens for four hours before we were all turned loose. We watched the standard how-our-court-system-works video, then “Men in Black” for amusement. We were called in groups to courtrooms, only to be told the case was settled or the defendant took a plea or the lawyer decided to extend his Labor Day holiday by 24 hours. Although I never got called. I read the New York Times, then prepped for my afternoon interview, then read Kenneth Turan’s latest collection of movie reviews, which Alan took off the anybody’s pile at work. Is there anything more perishable than a movie review? Not much, and yet I read and read and read, because movie reviews are a) easy to chew; and b) I’d finally seen most of the movies in question. It made me want to see “Mystic River” again, and I decided anew that, in the bout between “Million Dollar Baby” vs. That Moron Michael Medved, it’s a first-round KO.

Kate went back to school yesterday. I have a to-do list the length of my forearm today. Better get to it.

Posted at 8:40 am in Media, Movies |

30 responses to “Broadcast history lite.”

  1. Randy said on September 6, 2006 at 9:37 am

    At least when she was plugging away on the Today show, Katie could bask in the whispers of “will she anchor the news? will she?”

    A year from now, she’ll be just another reader, catering to an ever-shrinking audience, and the “first female anchor” fizz will have gone flat. I also look forward to not seeing her on 60 Minutes.

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  2. brian stouder said on September 6, 2006 at 9:42 am

    well, you’re 180 seconds ahead of me on ‘historic viewing’!

    Perspective is everything, eh? The continuing spectacle of the croc-hunter’s demise got me to wondering – if Elvis could have had his ‘surprise death’ in our mass media environment, would HE have gotten a state funeral?

    Really, Princess Di and JFK Jr were more the creatures of print media (People magazine and the endless other fan-zines) then creatures of television……but what if Rachel Ray (for example) accidently poisons herself to death in a kitchen accident (say, gets a small cut with her Ginsu, while cooking chicken in EVOO)?

    I would “feel” a loss! I bet millions would. Her sad passing would dominate the cable news ‘crawls’, and the Food Network would be draped with animated black (much as Animal Planet is now).

    In effect, tv would give an extended national ‘state funeral’

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  3. nancy said on September 6, 2006 at 10:00 am

    Remember, Brian, Elvis’ funeral, etc., was one of the first huge tabloid-media events, although then they were the real thing (tabloids). Didn’t someone get a box picture of Elvis? That’s the casket picture that was all the rage then — I remember reading Columbia Journalism Review on the subject, and recalling the taunts of paparazzi when celebs ducked them: “That’s OK, we’ll get you when you’re in your box!”

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  4. Nick E. said on September 6, 2006 at 10:06 am

    I’m putting myself on 8 years since I’ve watched network news, and I don’t miss it a bit. I felt that watching it was like getting a pre-chewed hamburger. Print news, NPR and the intarweb have had me covered since then.

    Phillip Lopate has put together a neat collection of movie criticism: American Movie Critics: An Anthology From the Silents Until Now 2006.

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  5. Connie said on September 6, 2006 at 10:07 am

    I can’t remember the last time I watched network news. I surf around the news channels and do watch Keith Olbermann on occasion. I’m more likely to check CNN on the web than on cable, although I have noticed that CNN’s web page rarely has anything new on the weekend.

    We’ve replaced Jon Benet Ramsey with Steve Irwin. I was sorry to hear the news, but come on, hours and hours of cable news attention?

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  6. Dorothy said on September 6, 2006 at 10:47 am

    Well I must be an oddball because I still like to have the news on when I get home from work, and that includes Brian Williams at 6:30. I get home around 5:40, change clothes, walk the dog, and then head to the kitchen. We listen more than we watch, but on occasion we’ll carry our plates into the family room to watch. I know I’m partial to NBC because of Tom Brokaw and his connection (in a way) to my family. (My dad was in his second WWII book and he talked on the phone with Tommy B a couple of times. My mom gave me his autographed picture when my dad died last year.)

    I too am totally bemused by the Irwin hoopla. It’s sad that the man died, especially the way he did. But is it really necessary to have so many headlines about it? I’ve been following a story out of Cincinnati that is just heartbreaking. It’s sickening enough to read about it on my own. In a way I’m amazed the national media is not in a frenzy over it. Even before I knew the little boy was dead, I thought it reminded me of the Susan Smith story.

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  7. Danny said on September 6, 2006 at 11:04 am

    My news comes from the internet and whatever radio I happen to catch in my daily commute. When I get home, the TV rarely comes on as I am usually on my bike or in a pool. I sometimes like to view commentary from FNC while making dinner and lunches for the next day, but I can’t remember the last time I tuned to network or local news. It is just unwatchable. I rather swim with pissed off stingrays.

    Thankfully, I’ve missed the TV news’ banal coverage of Steve Irwin’s death. Animal Planet has had some tasteful salutes to him. I do not think there will be a state funeral. His father said that he does not think Steve would have wanted this, that he would have wanted to be rememebered as “a regular bloke.”

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  8. mary said on September 6, 2006 at 11:04 am

    I’ve got NPR on in the car from my office to my son’s school to whatever errands I do on the way home, so I’m pretty much newsed up by the time I hit the kitchen at 6:30. I’ll either have the classical station on or a cd while I cook, and at 7 I will wander back and forth from the kitchen to the living room to attempt to beat my kids at Jeopardy. We eat when Alex Trebek leaves, making sure to get the TV turned off before I see much of Wheel of Fortune, because I find Pat Sajak annoying. Last week they did reruns of shows taped in New Orleans, pre-Katrina, with some lame-ass announcement at the beginning that the reruns were a salute to the spirit of the people of New Orleans. Then they edited from the tape the announcer saying where they were taping. Think it was the now infamous convention center?

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  9. Connie said on September 6, 2006 at 11:58 am

    Truly a heartbreaking story Dorothy. My good friend Art used to work for child services in Cincinnati, before we met him in southern Indiana. He told me once that he was the guy who got to decide whether to take away your child, and that it was the most horrible job anyone could imagine, and that he will have nightmares about the things he saw for the rest of his life. He left that job to work with schizophrenic men and said it was a wonderful job in comparison.

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  10. John said on September 6, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    I saw “Mystic River” last month (Netflix) and was shocked to discover what an incredibly good movie it was. Maybe the best new drama that I have seen in years.

    No network news for me anymore. The internet and cable news killed it for me. But I am still a loyal local newspaper subscriber and reader.

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  11. TSO said on September 6, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. The press crowned a new pope yesterday, or at least a bishop with a chance to become pope (if she can consistently lead in the ratings). Never has so much been made of so little since…well, the Valerie Plame scandal.


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  12. Danny said on September 6, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    Hmmmm, I very much disliked “Mystic River.” Formulaic, overwrought, uselessly and unrealisticly sad is how I categorized it. Also thinly disguised Oscar vehicle for Sean Penn.

    Hollywood had to make up to Penn for not giving him the Oscar a year ealier for “I Am Sam.” He really deserved it for that, but that year they were making up to Denzel Washington for passing over him multiple times for much more deserving efforts by giving him an Oscar for some sub par movie (some black/white cop drama…”Training Day?”…puhleez).

    But I disliked “Million Dollar Baby” too. Different reason. Female boxers do not suspend my disbelief.

    A recent movie I liked was “The Illusionist.”

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  13. Dave said on September 6, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    The story in Cincinnati is unbelievably awful, people having children that they can’t or won’t take care of, thereby having them taken away from them, putting them in foster care with people of suspect character. What those Carrolls’ did to that little boy is worse than worse and if it hadn’t been for his and/or her live-in girlfriend (I’m still not sure), they’d probably still be looking for Marcus.

    I travel to Cincinnati all the time with my job and so I’ve been well exposed to this awful story.

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  14. mary said on September 6, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    People do unspeakable things to those who are least able to fend for themselves. It’s hard to think of anything worse.

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  15. Dorothy said on September 6, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    I read awful stories about terrible foster parents and the things they do, and I’m so torn – I wonder if I could become a foster parent myself? I’ve had my two kids, I’m only 49 and I think I could be very good at it. But I don’t know if I could handle even just hearing the history of the kids, knowing how bad it was for them. It just rips my heart out. It’s something that haunts me and I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it better. I’m too much of a Pollyanna for my own good.

    Well on an entirely different subject – you guys brought up movies. Has anyone seen “Little Miss Sunshine” yet? We did and LOVED it! Can’t wait to buy it when it’s out on DVD!

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  16. nancy said on September 6, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    I regret to say the story in Cincinnati is not unique. We have a similar one unfolding here, as a matter of fact.

    And not to change gears too abruptly, but the thing about “Million Dollar Baby” that I didn’t get from any of the reviews — and which made it easy for me to suspend disbelief on any number of questions — was the fable-like nature of the story. I didn’t get the sense I was watching a story rooted in contemporary reality, but in sort of a Twilight-Zoney parallel world. It was set in Los Angeles but seemed to be more like Anytown, USA, a place where women’s boxing is a big deal and a man can walk in and out of a nursing home without tripping any alarms or drawing notice of any kind. That’s why I found the squawking of the “debate over euthanasia” part of it so stupid — that’s not what the story was about. It was about love, and what we do for love, and how we make and break connections in a hostile world.

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  17. ellent said on September 6, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Dorothy, have you looked into CASA (advocates for kids involved in the child welfare system)? It might be a way to test the waters.

    I volunteered at a daycare for abused children for a couple of years. What some people do to children is unforgivable. There’s a special circle in hell for abusers.

    Network TV news seems to be only for people of a certain age. The commercials are the giveaway: Depends, hemorrhoid cream, Viagra.

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  18. Jean said on September 6, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    And back to your original question …. the only time I watch Brian Williams etc. is if I’m pinned to the bed by illness.

    Thank God for radio–we’re all NPR, all the time around here. With a little KBOO thrown in now and then.

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  19. brian stouder said on September 6, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    So now – another digression – how come some folks DO get to be anonymous at FWOb, while others cannot be?

    More to the point, some of us are eagerly awaiting an (undoubtedly sly) NN.C take (or two) on the Mitchmeister’s oddly dynamic realm

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  20. mary said on September 6, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    Did you ever wonder who Jeopardy was aimed at judging from the commercials? Head-on? Weird brands of shampoos and foot creams that don’t advertise anywhere else? Eggland’s Best? I’ve never figured it out.

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  21. nancy said on September 6, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    Head-on! Apply directly to the forehead!

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  22. ellent said on September 6, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    The answer is: My dad. He is a never-miss Jeopardy, World News, Wheel of Fortune viewer. Especially since he retired. At least he still eats dinner AFTER the Wheel, not before.

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  23. mary said on September 6, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    I just hope the Head-on people don’t start making hemorrhoid medication.

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  24. MGolden said on September 6, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    This is late but I was out of town again. The SF Chron has an excellent review of The Wire. The review is excellent in the sense that it’s thoughtful and very well done, not in the sense that it was very favorable, although it was that.

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  25. Dorothy said on September 6, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    I actually saw the Head On commercial one day, and the very next day Brian Williams did a story about it on Nightly News! My husband finally saw the goofy commercial the other day and neither of us can stop making fun of it, making up our own words to the same cadence of the announcer. (similar in tone to what Mary hinted at above)

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  26. basset said on September 6, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    Local and network news are both really hard for me to watch. The BBC is still the gold standard for broadcast news – I was hugely impressed the other day when I flipped through the Beeb’s dance-music channel on satellite and ran across a newscast aimed right square between their target demo’s teenage eyes. Young topics (the lead was the nationwide release of high school proficiency-exam scores), young announcers, young language… but intelligent, well-spoken and without the slightest hint of condescension, none of this “news for the young” stuff we get on our air. It ran at, I think, about ten till noon Central on Sirius – which would be, what, just before six pm in England?

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  27. Bob said on September 7, 2006 at 9:58 am

    My television has been sitting in the corner, unplugged, for so long that I’m not sure it would even work if I were to try to turn it on. The last time I tried to watch something on TV, I found it so annoying that I turned it off after about five minutes.

    The local PBS station is on most of the time, except for the times when they broadcast another bravado rant by that cracker in the White House. Then, I tune out the BS and put on some CDs.

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  28. Danny said on September 7, 2006 at 10:06 am

    The local PBS station is on most of the time, except for the times when they broadcast another bravado rant by that cracker in the White House.

    Cracker? Bob, you should turn on the news more often. Clinton is no longer president. LOL!

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  29. Dorothy said on September 7, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Maybe he meant “crack pot.”

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  30. Danny said on September 7, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    Maybe he meant “crack pot.�?

    No, Dorothy. Hillary is not yet president. 😉

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