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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Talking Head: Control Thyself

What does it say about me that I watched the entirety of the the vice presidential debate but only caught the last 1/4 of the presidential debate? It probably says that I am in the majority. The vice presidential debate had miraculous ratings. Nearly 50% of America's television watching audience saw Sarah Palin and Joe Biden's Thurday Chat Over Tea. But the Presidential debate last night drew significantly less. But in fairness, my roommate brought a used $100 TV that decided to enter it death throes right before the debate yesterday evening.

So, I can't offer you my in-depth analysis regarding the content of the debate itself (and why would you want to hear it), but as a hopeful future member of the media I can offer some of my views on John Q. Media's analysis of said debate. And as for those views, I have spent about ten to fifteen minutes scouring my vocabulary trying to find a more eloquent way to say: WTF?, but I haven't been able to find one. 

NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, FOXNEWS, MSNBC, CNN, BBCAmerica: each and every one said the exact same thing following the debate. And that thing was "nothing". They said nothing, at least nothing worth noting. Trust me, I listened to every single one. I felt guilty for ignoring my duty as an American citizen in not watching a presidential debate so I made sure I took in as much information from each and every media outlet I could think of. I gave my girlfriend's remote a workout as I hopped from Channel 7 to 5 to 6 to 8 to 9 to 56 to 58 to 13. I started on NBC, where immediately following Tom Brokaw's tele-prompter issues, the disembodied voice of the Peacock's "political analyst" began to chirp that nothing much of note happened in the debate and that both candidates acquitted themselves equally adequately and made the same number of mistakes. Okay, that's enough from NBC.

I then turned to FOX, whose "political analyst" said  virtually the same thing. FOXNEWS had a diverse panel of 3 old white dudes and a young white woman who all agreed: Barack and John both did equally bad and good. ABC's "political analyst" seemingly had to fight back encroaching sleep while reporting that both had done alright. CNN said the same. ABC said the same. Everyone said the SAME thing. The only network that gets even partial credit from me is MSNBC, whom as little as ten minutes after the debate had a woman from a fact check organization who tested the veracity of every supposedly factual statement both candidates said. Congratulations, MSNBC, you avoid the verbal buzz-saw of righteous indignation this time, but not the other networks.

At first I thought this was a by-product of the immediacy of the TV media world. The second week of the quarter, we had a guest speaker in my Journalism 101 class. He was an African professor in the E.W Scripps J-School and a former CNN reporter named Yusuf Kalyango. Mr. Kalyango stressed that the need for IMMEDIATE analysis in the telemedia world without the time to add perspective dilutes and cheapens the analysis of an event. I thought that was simply what happened with our media friends last night. The program demanded that they offer analysis and perspective immediately following the debate, which is just not possible.

So my incomprehensible rage subsided and I laid myself down to sweet dreams of puppy dogs and rainbows. Then I woke up today and read this on MSN (if you can't tell by now, is my news life-force): A low-voltage encounter for presidential rivals. The article ultimately became more pertinent as it went along, speaking of many important issues that both candidates dodged but the beginning seemed downright disappointed that neither candidate attacked each other.

Is that what "political analysts" have become? If a debate doesn't become the ultimate showdown of good vs. evil in a verbal shootout, it isn't worth watching? If a candidate doesn't raise his or her voice, there is subsequently nothing to report? I want to know what the candidates said, I want to know their thinking behind it. And I want to know if what they plan is plausible and reasonable. I don't want the analysis of a presidential debate to be: "don't worry about it, America, it was boring. You didn't miss anything."

It is frustrating and disappointing but more than anything: confusing. Major corporations pay these men and women for analysis and for well thought out perspective. How can every single "political analyst" for every single network all simultaneously agree that nothing really worth reporting happened during the second presidential debate?

Why don't talking heads talk anymore?

1 comment:

Woozie said...

I don't want the analysis of a presidential debate to be: "don't worry about it, America, it was boring. You didn't miss anything."

Welcome to America, you must be new here.