Along with most of you I watched True Detective from begining to end and I began to think about Cable as a medium and
not just a deliverer of content. It struck me as I basked in the glow of HBO’S current success just how badly Cable News
has failed on its promise to deliver news in a manner that the Networks could not.
As a news provider,cable has become a carny charnel house filled too often with predictable hacks,talking points masquerading as both policy and debate and the continuing bastardization of information. In fact Cable and Cable News proper has,done more to reduce knowledge to factoid and words to place holders than one could have ever reasonably imagined. They have made a business out of not allowing a complete idea or sentence to be expressed.
Regardless of brand loyalty-and make no mistake;FOX ,CNN AND MSNBC are more brand today than news networks. They have each in their own way become a Caricature of the other while also becoming mirror images. On each Network there are maybe one or two who still seem to think that cable news has a responsibility to inform rather than inflame, to posit as opposed to postulate-Anderson Cooper,Shep Smith,Steve Kornacki ,Chris Hayes and the doyen of hip nerd Rachel Maddow-but as a whole if you take the entire menu it is pretty much the same just with different lines.
It is ironic that the one thing you would think that cable would excel at would be the ability to cover in depth the issues of the day that matter but just as their Broadcast Network counterparts they are equally and in some cases more so enslaved to ratings and advertisers. I am old enough to remember the dawn of CNN and the promise that news was no longer going to be dependent upon the whims and desires of corporate advertisers...and early on it was almost that way. I will not deny that Cable News has the ability to cover breaking stories faster and quicker-CNN still excels at that -but no sooner do they arrive and it becomes a daylong,sometimes night long meme-tragedy as cheap programming that you can sell time on(cf. Virginia Tech Shooting)to name but one. The longer any of the networks cover a story it slowly becomes melded to their particular alignment(CF MSNBC and Bridge gate) and so loses whatever value it once had as news and instead becomes just another feature until the next terrible,big,tragic,sexy story pops up.
As a political newshound and newshound in general it is nauseating to watch the dayside of these networks now. And it is almost as bad on the nightside. Not to single out MSNBC, but isn’t it hypocritical at worst and unseemly at best that The Rev. Al Sharpton who hosts a political show on the network was allowed to also host and give a speech at the rally in Florida recently against the Stand Your Ground Law.
I seem to recall strident criticism against Fox for allowing both Palin and Huckabee to appear on air and be spokespeople for their respective movements. And surely if it had been O’Reily who had done such a thing MSNBC would not have allowed the nation to sleep.
Where Cable began as an always on warehouse for sports, movies and obscure niche programming it delivered within that simple framework, but was still no match for the programming that the Broadcast Networks could offer and then 1st and Ten happened and HBO began to wade into waters that belonged to The Networks and did it better.
Soon to follow were Six Feet Under,The Sopranos, Carnival and so on.
In little time it became clear that Cable could do and would do what the Networks would not-produce adult programming for adults. For years now Networks have found themselves chasing a market dominated by HBO and Showtime. And it is here that cable has delivered on its promise to bring to the viewer what they could not get from Network Television. Freed from the need to placate advertisers and because it is a subscription they are free to ignore those who decry the end of all civilization when drama and comedy are done with an eye towards quality and not a middlebrow mentality.
You may not have cared for some of those shows but you can’t deny that they were well done and knew who their audience was.
It is both ironic and shameful then that Cable news has not been able to deliver similarly.
If you think that I am wrong or protest too much let me ask you a question: After what seems like 2 weeks straight-do you have any better idea what happened to flight 370? CNN has draped itself to this story and if you like hours of repeated speculation mixed with iffy leads that in a broad sense could be considered ‘News’ than CNN has a Blue Light Special that you will love.
CNN’S coverage of flight 370 was a classic example of a networks needs being put above the people most directly affected. Those families were put through a lurid emotional wringer for the sole purpose of CNN wanting seem vital. They have turned the phrase breaking news into a tawdry punchline.
Can you imagine Cronkite or Rather or Jennings actually discussing in serious tones if a black hole might have been responsible for that flights disappearance and not being pulled off the air.
Between the inability to step back and let a story develop and the fear that unless there is conflict you won’t watch-what point do any of the 3 Cable News Networks really serve?
Don’t think too hard just watch as MSNBC serves up Morning’ Joe as Joe Scarborough’s free presidential platform same as Fox does for Huckabee and when your head begins to hurt and you feel like your balance is on the wan go read FlipBoard-it’s better for you.
Update May 2014
In what feels like an old episode of Saturday Night Live flight “370 is still missing”,
somewhere Garrett Morris is smirking.
CNN has stopped for now its Joan Crawford style droning over the Malaysian Airlines disaster. They visit it sometimes well after dark,but no longer is it a centerpiece.
The latest-hair on fire throw up your hands-new thing would be Boko Haram and the fate of the missing Nigerian girls...sadly that story hasn't had the same staying power as it is already been moved back to the end of the que.
If there is no honest broker that can be counted on to deliver news as news then should we be surprised that so many Americans are uninformed. Should we shocked that there really are people who believe that cavemen and dinosaurs lived together,
that homosexuality is a recruitment policy and that a center right black man masquerading as a left of center Democrat elected as President is really a commie-socialist sleeper agent.
As entities like ALEC and Citizens United stage their coups not on a national level, but on a state level you would think that the rollback of democracy would constitute breaking news-maybe a black hole can explain it all.