THE NEXT conversation we should all be having is why anyone watches either network, except to find out what partisans are saying, which is really true during prime time.
But first, the latest cable drama, which begins with Jeff Zucker “near a deal” to run CNN.
Moving on… Melissa Henneberger talked with military expert and Foreign Policy blogger Tom Ricks after his appearance on the Fox News channel received so much attention.
When I talked to him Tuesday, he said yeah, actually, he had had some other TV invites, but we shouldn’t waste too much time clicking around looking for his next appearance: “MSNBC invited me, but I said, ‘You’re just like Fox, but not as good at it.’ They wrote back and said, ‘Thank you for your candor.’”
In the derriere-kissing capital of the Western world, little could be less orthodox than indifference to the allure of smiling into the camera, earpiece in place. So the sight of someone going full Will McAvoy on air, letting ‘er rip just like on Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” was a mighty refreshing one, and we should hope his plain speaking catches on.
Networks are very thin skinned about these things, but no more so than their talent. Finding this out first hand wasn’t a surprise after my book was published. Copies demanded, with rush delivery requested, the subsequent feedback was amusing, because of the bruising so many took inside the pages, especially MSNBC stars. Joe Scarborough and his team on “Morning Joe” were the exception on MSNBC, staying fair the entire ’08 season.
Telling truth to media power like Ricks recently has done is a rarity. Jon Stewart killed “Crossfire” by doing it, but if you don’t have his power the usual treatment is silence, which if you’re an author means you don’t get the coverage you need to sell your books to a wide audience. Ricks won’t have that trouble, because the furor has done more good for his book than any interview could.
The fiercest media reaction in recent years came when Kitty Kelly’s book on Oprah Winfrey. Kelly was frozen out, with Huffington Post one of the only places giving her book full coverage, because networks were afraid of the backlash from the most powerful woman in television at the time.
The lone network today not creating any copy or flash remains CNN. To say the public needs CNN to get its act together is an understatement, with Jeff Zucker a great choice. Mr. Zucker has the talent, credibility and experience, but what a headache he’ll inherit.
HBO’s “Newsroom” from Aaron Sorkin, with the depiction of Will McAvoy, reminds me of what we’ve lost and is one reason the show means what it does to so many.
As for Ricks going after MSNBC, with the domination of Fox News channel it’s absurd to say MSNBC wasn’t smart to offer the Obama network as some sort of balance to the right wing lunacy. It was good for MSNBC in the short-term, though looking long it’s going to bring challenges.
The inevitable result is people finally seeing what our national media has become, especially on cable. A partisan farce where facts go to die and debate is straggled, with the viewing audience culled to partisans of one side or the other as people don’t so much look for news as their own opinion validated, with the same guests seen over and over again.
This post has been updated.