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Mike Baker on Homeless Soccer, aka The Clip That Hooked Me on Red Eye

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I discovered Red Eye, late night on Fox News and watched it now and then, but it was this clip that made Red Eye a daily watch for the wife and I. When you see it, you’ll understand why.

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One Reason I Love Fox News “Red Eye” at 3am

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This is making the rounds because “Attack of the Show” featured it. I’ve been wanting exactly this clip, plus the “Homeless soccer fat chicks” comment for some time. I’ll have to settle for just the one, for now.

Katie Couric – Still Useless After All These Years

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After taking a poorly rated newscast that was a dim shadow of its former self, and installing a new anchor that offered little but a cute face, CBS has solidified its last-place position in the evening news. Worse yet, since Katie Couric took the helm, CBS’s evening newscast has fallen further behind, with no end in sight for the drop. Now, a change in producers is underway with Rick Kaplan taking over as producer.
My mother-in-law watches Couric regularly, to which I remark, “So you’re the one.” Face it. Nobody wants Katie Couric in the anchor chair except CBS, and they aren’t going to stay loyal for long. Ratings are key in the TV industry. The two most important timeslots for ratings are the 8-10 prime-time and the news. In local TV, the nightly news is the gravy-train for advertising revenue. On the network level, much is the same. More can be charged for advertising during the evening news, because the viewers that are watching are watching intently. That only goes so far, though, as you actually have to have loyal viewership in order to continue charging those high rates.
Katie Couric, a true star in the fluffy morning-show format, simply isn’t seen as a trustable source for the news by a vast majority of America, and for good reason. Cute sells beer and cellphones, not information. When the information given reeks of bias, and offers little in the way of quality, people will turn elsewhere for it. Right now, the news industry is suffering from abandonment. The public is turning to the Internet, where they can read more about any given story, and select the stories they’re interested in reading. Cable news, though not available in every home, is chipping away more and more at the audience of the broadcast networks. With CBS focusing more on style than substance, it’s no wonder viewers are going away.
Couric’s term at CBS began with high ratings, as viewers came in droves to see what was new. They quickly discovered that the newness had to do with style and quality. For everything CBS gained in style, they lost as much in quality, and it showed. Kaplan’s job should be to bring in the quality, but his track record in this area is spotty, at best.
I’m still waiting for Fox to bring the Fox Report with Shepherd Smith to its affliliates, and steal away a major chunk of the news audience from all three broadcast networks. It wouldn’t be hard, and they could do it with little investment. Smith offers better substance, better style, and a more engaging news-hour than any of the major three networks are offering. What’s more, he does it with less bias in the news than any of the other major networks, broadcast or cable.
Hey, CBS. Want to get better ratings in your news? Fire Couric, and hire a real newsman for the job. Like it or not, viewers don’t want a woman giving them the news, unless it is a woman who can be trusted to tell the news “the way it is.” That’s why Connie Chung failed, and it’s why Couric is failing.
Like it or not, that’s the way it is.

Thoughts on the Thanksgiving Parade “News”

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Being Thanksgiving weekend, the news was a bit slow in US politics. The big story seemed to be that Matt and Katie failed to report the news that the M&Ms balloon was involved in an accident that resulted in two injuries. The big question of the weekend was whether Matt and Katie, as representatives of the “news” division of NBC, should have broken away from coverage and told the story of the accident.
Lot of folks believe that they SHOULD have broken away for the news. The general argument is that as members of the “news” team, they had a responsibility to cover this as news. I disagree. My main argument is that Matt and Katie are NOT members of the “news” team at NBC. The NBC Today show isn’t really a news show at all. It is merely entertainment posing as news. If it were news, then the focus would be on the news of the day. Today focuses on many things, with the news serving as a sidebar. That NBC has the Today Show falling in the News Division is a mistake on the part of the NBC organization.
With that in mind, NBC was right to NOT cover the balloon accident news as news during the broadcast of the parade. The real culprit here is that the modern network news mentality has moved far away from telling the news. Today’s network news is a product, sold to a news-consuming audience that craves lightweight coverage. Knowing their market, the big-three networks now focus on fluff, activism, and scare tactics for the flagship broadcasts. The morning shows, aimed at the housewife and retiree crowd, have been dumbed down to not only what the networks believe those audiences can handle, but what the ratings say will sell.
Ratings are a major problem with the network news. Focusing on ratings means taking the focus away from telling the news of the day accurately. To do their jobs properly, they’d have to ignore the ratings. That isn’t going to happen.
As for the parade broadcast, I didn’t watch it. If I had, I wouldn’t have been watching to see breaking news about accidents and injury. I’d have been watching to see actresses lip-syncing christmas tunes as they passed in front of the NBC booth. It’s that simple.
Instead, I was watching “Greg the Bunny” on IFC.

Debunking the Anti-American Media Lies

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Whenever a Republican is in office, and military action is called for, we get a true idea of who in our society is the most anti-American. You can tell who they are, because they’ll start spouting anything they hear that could possibly make America look bad, and harm us in our military action. One of the “old standards” of this anti-American group has been criticism of the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities. I’m sure you’re familiar with the complaints. They say the detainees are innocent. They say they’re tortured. They’ve even tried to say that our guys have tried to flush the unholy book of Islam down the toilet. If these accusations were true, they’d be pretty bad. Unfortunately, they just don’t seem to be true. That doesn’t stop the enemies of America, though, home or abroad. They’ll still spout the lies.
You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Rusty Humphries provides some truth, though, along with pictures.
Personally, I love the photo of the very same “squatty potty” that the Koran was flushed down. Whatta hoot!

Bob Novak Calls Carville for What He IS

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So, the blogosphere is active today. Bob Novak reacted to a statement by James Carville by calling is Bull*twinkies*. After doing so, he calmly stood up, removed his microphone, and exited stage left. Over in the “reality-based” side of the blogosphere (and they call it that with a straight face) they’re saying he “stormed off” or “went nuts,” which is nothing like the truth.
The most beautiful thing about the whole story to me? Bob Novak publicly called James Carville on his vocal output. Was Carville spouting BS? Of course he was. Everything he says is BS. One has to wonder whether Carville really believes that what he says is true, or if he’s just a professional BS artist.
I’ve made up MY mind on that one.

Virginia Postrel on Journalistic Bias

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Over at Dynamist Blog, Virginia Postrel lays out a very good explanation of why the media sometimes gets things wrong.

“Much–though by no means all–journalistic bias lies in reporters’ assessments of what’s likely to be true. Those assessments are based in part on experience with sources and in part on how the reporter understands the world. What do you believe about political motivations? What do you believe about the way the economy works? What do you believe about the likely behavior of U.S. soldiers in combat, or of business executives, or of the clergy, or of Republicans, or of Jews? What do you believe about human nature in general? About political institutions? About the corrupting influence of money? About the power of ideology? About the relative importance of genetics versus culture, nature versus nurture? About the prevalence or sustainability of discrimination? About the influence of violence on TV? About the effectiveness of conspiracies?”

As a fellow of the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership, I had access to a fantastic six months of training in the nuts and bolts of politics. One of the most important nuggets of information I gained in the process was in a discussion of the media. A reporter from the News and Observer out of Raleigh, NC spoke to the class. This reporter laid out the number one criterion for deciding what stories to cover.

“We want the story that is important to our next-door neighbor.”

This is a good thing to remember. Reporters and editors have to decide what to report based on a lot of things, but if the story doesn’t appeal to the guy next door, then who WILL it appeal to? Newspapers are out to make money, and they do that directly, and indirectly, through readership. If the guy next door has the perception that his job may be in danger, then employment issues are what needs to be covered. If the guy next door is a retiree, then Social Security may be the story of the day.
The bottom line? A reporter’s perception of his audience is very important in his choice of what to cover, and how to cover it. He perceives this audience by the people he talks to every day. Those people are his co-workers, his friends, his neighbors, and his other associates. Any bias in his reporting may come not only from his own point of view, but also from the points of view of those around him.
If you talk to a reporter, why not tell him what stories would be important to you, instead of how his bias screwed up what could have been a good story?

Newsweek’s Bogus Koran Story

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Newsweek reported, as many of you know, that interrogators destroyed a Koran as an interrogation method, eventually flushing it. As a result, riots have been taking place across the muslim world. At least 17 are dead and many more wounded. Now, Newsweek has come out and said that they can’t verify that the story was correct.
This morning, Jonothan Alter was on Imus in the Morning. Asked about the sources for the story, Alter stated that a single unnamed source was used for the story. The story was then read to a Pentagon source who did not “wave us off” publication.
Want to know the state of the major media? Journalistic standards have now been reduced to single-sourcing with anonymity. As a second source, the story may be presented to a second person, and as long as they are not personally privvy to information that contradicts the story, it can run.
If, for instance, I was told by a person I do not wish to name that Al Gore was a flaming homosexual who frequented gay bars and had unprotected sex in bath houses, I could write a story for Newsweek about it. Newsweek could then take the story to a minor functionary of the Democratic Party. If that person then said, “I’ve never seen him at the bath house, but I can’t prove it isn’t true,” then Newsweek could run the story under the same standards they followed for their Koran story.
That doesn’t mean the Al Gore story would be true.
This is why journalism students are taught, or at least once were taught, that dual-sourcing is the standard for their profession. Once upon a time, an unnamed source would have to be named to the editor, and possibly another named source be added to the requirements before the story could run.
This is, simply, worse ethics than those followed by certain black-and-white supermarket tabloids. The entire Newsweek organization should be shamed.

Internet News a Future History

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I found this last night, just before American Idol, and saved it to post this morning. This movie gives a quick overview of the major turning points of getting the news on the Internet from the inception of the World Wide Web to a decade in the future. Turn up your speakers and give it a look. These sort of speculative future history things aren’t necessarily my thing, but this one follows a line that I’d like to see us go down. Food for thought.

Network News? Who Needs Them?

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People often complain of bias in the media or other problems. Viewership is down among the big-three network newscasts. Dan Rather is stepping down amid controversy over his handling of a fraudulent story and evidence. There are lots of reasons to question the major network newscasts. I’ve long since stopped watching them at all. I’d like to explain why you should stop too.

Walter Cronkite was considered “the most trusted man in America.” His calm demeanor and effective communication skills allowed generations of newswatchers to see a high quality newscast each evening. I remember being sad when I watched him sign off of his last newscast. Even at my young age, I recognized the end of an era when I saw one.

I just didn’t know what era was ending.

More: Read the rest of this entry…

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