The News Monday Night: The Bottom Line As News
If you have ever wondered what the nightly news programs look like in a theocracy, you learned it tonight from ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News.
Each of the nightly network news shows covered the selection of the new Pope like a blanket. You’d think this means that there was big news out of the Vatican today, but there was no news at all. That’s because what’s covered on these shows isn’t governed by the events of the day (i.e. the actual news). These broadcasts are guided by budgets, not bulletins. The networks have been planning their reporting on all the Pope and circumstance for weeks. It didn’t really matter what happened elsewhere in the world today; the bottom line had to be satisfied.
CBS with anchor Scott Pelley in Rome is the worst offender, going to the Pope story at the beginning, then again in the middle, and one more time at the end of their program. The first story tells us that the Cardinals are starting their meetings to select the new Pope, something we were told all last week as well. Midway through tonight’s show, CBS has another report, this one by correspondent Manuel Bojorquez, on the growing number of Hispanics in the US Catholic Church. At the end of an all-English interview with a Hispanic churchgoer, Bojorquez asks a question you would expect from an older, whiter and far more politically incorrect reporter: “What Spanish word would you use to describe the Church?” The parishioner says “iglesa rica,” meaning ‘rich church.’ He seems to be referring to the wealth of the Church and the power and stature that brings. But Bojorquez suddenly decides that we need an interpreter and explains that what the interviewee really meant was the Church’s ‘rich’ spirituality and history. Of course, the Hispanic Catholic never used those words until Bojorquez puts them in his mouth and gets the guy to agree.
CBS even ends their broadcast tonight with an interview of three American priests who are among a “select few” who are studying in a prestigious seminary in Rome. Anchor Pelley introduces this by wondering what “challenges” these young priests face. You know, ‘challenges’ like free food, clothing, rent and education in a magnificent building. Not like those other ‘challenges’ around the world today that CBS ignored. Challenges like the ongoing war in Iraq, Kenya’s newly elected president being wanted by the International Criminal Court, austerity sending Portugal into its worst economic downturn since 1975, or how the president of the European Parliament said that the continent is “losing a generation” while saving the banks. Those are challenges that are not worth reporting.
ABC anchor Diane Sawyer is also in Rome, so they also lead with the papal non-news. More than any of the other anchors, Sawyer is cheering for US Cardinal Thomas O’Malley to be the next Pope like she’s at an Olympic event waving a flag. Sawyer asks, “Will an American shake up the outcome?” Well, no, but that won’t stop Sawyer from cheering for Team USA. Like CBS, ABC goes back to all the Pope non-news at the end of their broadcast by describing — or not — what constitutes a miracle within the Church. No, ABC reporter David Wright does not mention politics and Vatican intrigue in the miracle determination process.
Only NBC does not have their anchor in Rome — and only NBC does not open with the non-news on the new Pope. Instead, NBC Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell tries to scare us. Mrs. Alan Greenspan loves giving frightening news of global threats to America. Tonight it’s that North Korea has ended the 60-year armistice with South Korea. That does sound serious … that is, if you didn’t know that this is NOT the first time this has happened. Hell, it’s not the first time it’s happened in the 21st century or in the last four years! In 2009, North Korea said its military would no longer recognize their Korea War ceasefire — the war never officially ended — because South Korea had joined a US-led anti-nuclear weapons proliferation program.
In other words, the news started tonight with two networks reporting non-news, and the other exaggerating a story.
CBS follows their opening Pope non-news story with a return to YESTERDAY’S “60 Minutes.” All of the nightly news shows plug other network programming on a regular basis. But promoting YESTERDAY’S “60 Minutes”? Couldn’t they just run an ad for TiVo instead?
At least CBS is advertising a news show that does investigative journalism (at times). NBC promoted this morning’s ‘Today Show’ by showing a clip of an interview with actress Valerie Harper, who has terminal cancer.
Each of the networks eventually, at some point during their broadcast, get to the latest ‘green-on-blue’ killings in Afghanistan, where Afghan security turns their guns on their Western colleagues. ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz tells us that not only did those killings happen, but US troops shot and killed two civilians because they got too close to a convoy. Amazingly, Raddatz shows a clip of a US Army Major smacking a subordinate soldier on the back of the head and punching him in the chest, disciplining him for the shooting. I learned more about the Afghan war from that brief video than I did the last dozen reports I’ve heard from Raddatz. I have a feeling she’ll get a very angry email from her pals at the Pentagon tonight.
All of the networks also report on New York City’s soda story, in which both the drinks and the coverage are oversized.
ATTENTION MAJOR MEDIA OUTLETS: the rest of America doesn’t give a shit about the drink controversy! This is LOCAL news and you are a NATIONAL news outlet. Hell, ABC even has the nerve to put the word ‘World’ in their nightly news program’s title. This big pop coverage also comes off as arrogant. It assumes anyone outside of New York City gives a shit about what happens inside New York City. So networks, please quit acting like small town boosters and start acting like national news outlets.
While both ABC and CBS — which sent their anchors and reporters to Rome — go back to their already budgeted non-news from the Vatican (as previously noted), NBC — whose anchor and reporters are not yet in Rome — ends differently.
NBC has the story of a guy who hooked up his camera to his phone and sends the live images back to people who, for whatever reason, cannot leave their homes. Seniors and the disabled can see live feeds of people exploring the world, traveling to far-off locations and seeing sights they will never have a chance to encounter otherwise.
Ironically, this is while ABC explains how the Church determines what’s a miracle. For those who can experience the world from their homes via these ‘virtual walks,’ this is a true miracle.