Nancy Franklin On Television in the current New Yorker:
Everyone, it seems, is a media hound and a media watchdog and a media attack dog. It’s not just industry insiders who can tell you who’s up and who’s down—anyone you stop in the street will have a reasonably informed opinion about how much longer Katie Couric is going to last at CBS News, how Fox News is doing this week, whether Keith Olbermann is fair, whether Larry King is leaving at the right time or way too late, and can tell you the relative ratings of each of the cable news networks.
And while I’d be interested to hear what the man “you stop in the street” in New York, the Joe the Media Watchdog, thinks of CNN hiring ex-governor Eliot Spitzer as a co-host for its 8pm slot (a thrust of Franklin’s piece), it’s the industry experts to whom Franklin turns for input. Writes Franklin:
Reese Schonfeld has spent his career in the news business, first at U.P.I. and then, fatefully, with Ted Turner, with whom he founded CNN; he’s now writing about television and investing in Internet startups. Schonfeld plainly doesn’t think the [Eliot] Spitzer-[Kathleen] Parker show is a good idea. I reached him at home in New York recently (he was watching BBC World News when I called), and he said, “I don’t get it. I can’t think of any reason to put that show on the air.” His assessment of Spitzer, who, he pointed out, has been a lawyer and a politician for his entire career and has no news experience, is that, “at best, he’ll be another shouter.”
Robert Thompson, the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, at Syracuse University, says that he finds CNN’s new lineup “really quite mystifying.”… He says he would like to see an 8 P.M. show that followed the lead of Jon Stewart and, to some extent, Keith Olbermann and CNN’s own Anderson Cooper: watching the competition and, on a daily basis, examining, in a reportorial mode, “ ‘O.K., what did Glenn Beck claim about colonial history, and is that really true?’ That’s something that CNN could really sink their teeth into, and it’s in the spirit of the identity they’ve tried to keep in spite of the fact that they think they can’t keep it.”
Would you watch a CNN show that “watch[ed] the competition,” that examined, on a daily basis, “in a reportorial mode,” “what Glenn Beck claim[ed] about colonial history” and the like? Do we need a(nother) show like that?Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.