Friday, May 15, 2015

Trying to Be CNN

If you'd like to know, the only important thing that has gone on this week is the tragic derailment of the Amtrak train between New York and Pennsylvania.

I know because I get my news from MSNBC, and the best and brightest on their evening lineup have been filling their entire broadcast with that event.  Either it is the only news worth covering, or MSNBC has changed their format from covering several important and newsworthy events per one hour news show to wall-to-wall coverage of one single event.

I don't intend to seem callous.  The derailment is important news, and not just for the tragic deaths.  The day after the accident Congress, not to be "derailed" by reality, cut funding for Amtrak.  You can't make this stuff up.  And, to be fair, MSNBC covered the budget cut.  But you can only get away with calling their coverage of one event over the course of one hour, much less several hours running, "breaking news" for so long.  Jon Stewart has had many hours of fun (not consecutively however) mocking CNN for doing exactly that.

I'm not sure when this nonsense began, but after the shooting in Ferguson, Chris Hayes was out there night after night interviewing people on the street.  He did the same thing after the shooting in North Charleston and ditto in Baltimore.  He tends to get excited over these admittedly horrendous events, and it seemed at times that he was actually enflaming the crowd.  A newsworthy event, but it stopped being news after the first fifteen minutes of each broadcast.

Anyway, I had assumed this was because of the importance of the gun issue, and the point was in fact that police violence toward African Americans was a constant presence in America, one we had been ignoring throughout our history.

But two nights after the Amtrak crash, there was Chris Hayes, interviewing, well, anyone that was there.

I've gotten to the point where I can tell in minutes whether MSNBC has got their teeth into a news story that is going to go 24/7, and of course, after a short time, it is no longer news.  And then I wonder, what about all the other important things that are going on in the country?  Do people really want to hear from every single person on the street, and how many times can you re-air somebody-or-other's official statement, and how many different ways can you analyze it?  Larry Wilmore interviewed gang members in a Baltimore diner and was able to be more relevant and newsworthy in eight minutes than MSNBC had been throughout their whole coverage.

During those entire weeks of wasted airtime, I hunger for other news.  For that matter, I also get impatient when Rachel Maddow takes twenty minutes repeating the same comment over and over to make one important point.  If she only said the same thing once or twice, her program would be fifteen minutes long.  But boy would it be powerful.  Or, she could cover that many more stories.

I hate that MSNBC has dulled their news reporting, made it as trite as that of CNN.  Their repetitions and redundancies, their hundreds of on-the-street interviews, have watered down the important headlines and analyses that I had come to expect from them.  While we heard over and over and over again that the engineer on the Amtrak train was in the hospital and had amnesia for the crash, Congress was voting on important budget matters, attempting once again to prohibit the right of women to seek abortions, fighting over Obama's fast-track trade deal, and who only knows what else, because it wasn't being covered on MSNBC.

This is what I would like.  I would like, in the first segment on each show, an update on any major event.  And then I would like to hear what else is going on in the country and in the world.  If you asked, you might find that I am not the only one that after the first few minutes of the same reprocessed news about the important event turns off the TV or walks out of the room.

So please, MSNBC, take a look at what you're doing.  Would YOU watch your show night after night to see the same piece of information presented over and over again?  Really, you are far, far better than that.

Thank you, and good night.

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