Thursday, September 30, 2004

Exactly (... almost).

I've always thought that Charlie Rose had the best format for an interview program but have been chagrined that interviewer/format were not a 'matched set'. To his credit, Charlie who typically asks questions as circuitous as a John Kerry reply, and then interrupts beginning, mid or near-end answer to focus his point add context interject unnecessary drivel, did not do so last night. Perhaps it was because, as his 'follow-ups' often suggest, he is not a particularly adept listener and he was afraid if he didn't pay attention he might miss a bit of his guest's cutting humor.

Jon Stewart was Charlie's guest last night [technically, there was a short, pointless segment of pre-debate commentary with Mark Halperin and James Fallows that followed Jon - but we'll pretend it didn't]. Jon gave credit where credit was due: first, to BushCo for never changing their actions or strategy to produce toxic waste but merely altering their 'marketing' as needed to persuade/appease the masses [I believe he used 'swill as Fresca' for his analogy] and second, to Fox for being a successful and integral part of the conservatives' 30-year effort to control mass media. Charlie asked what the success of these strategies had to say about us [in the media or us as Americans]. Jon rightly steered the focus back to the media's responsibility to present a fact-based context for their 'balanced' coverage using as his example, a mock Swift Boat commentary. You know, the one you saw ad naseum about a month ago ... where _______ [insert Russert, Matthews, Lehrer ...] showed (or quoted from) the Swift Boat ad, followed by pro-Bush and pro-Kerry respondents stating it was "fair game", or "false and unfair", respectively -thank you, next segment.

The interjecting of humor can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. While it softens the blunt edges of harsh criticism making it more palatable for the criticisms' target and supporters, it can also detract from the central point(s) as it meanders around witticism before exiting the stream. Such may have been the case as Jon laid forth his paradigm for the ideal news program, though after several starts with humorous segues [for which I guess we can't really blame Jon, he's a funny guy and that's what funny guys do] many points were made. He even cited the "blogosphere" as an example of how statements put forth on these 'news shows' should be fact-checked and corrected (as necessary) on the spot. Charlie asked if that meant that when Bush came on saying that things were going well in Iraq, he should be called out as lying. Jon responded that would be too harsh and Charlie made some comment about that being the problem [presumably an aim for objectivity] along with the ludicrous claim that it's difficult for one person to have sufficient knowledge/expertise to counter many claims [yeah Charlie, because CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC, PBS ... programs don't have research staff -it's just poor Dan, Wolf, Peter, Tom, Tim, Chris, Jim ... left to their own devices].

Unfortunately, the point was never made that all Jon was talking about, was preparation, something he no doubt does for his show every day. The staff of news and commentary shows know which soundbite of the day they're going to present, they know in advance the topics as well as specific questions to be asked of their guests. Is it so much to ask that they know when someone is blowing smoke out their ass and effectively counter it with factual arguments/questions?

When Bush says he's proud of our progress in Iraq, is it really that difficult to ask for specific examples of that progress? Ask what specifically is going well in Iraq given that the number and severity of attacks has been steadily increasing, less than 5% of the allocated reconstruction budget has been spent in three years and Iraqis are still without clean water and rolling brownouts are the rule rather than the exception? An offer of proof to back statements -is that really too much to ask?


Imagine where we'd be (or wouldn't be) had an offer of proof been demanded before the great Iraqi crusade. On the positive side, the 'l-word' [lazy] and 'i-word' [incompetence] were used in reference media coverage but only as it pertained to perceived liberal bias being the result of the two as opposed to the conservative bias of Fox being a planned, pro-conservative candidate partisan hack job. Okay, I'll stop whining now. I guess the people for whom the threshold of subtlety is that of a Louisville Slugger probably aren't watching Charlie Rose anyway.

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