Monday, September 02, 2019

TV: Cable 'news' just got even worse

They are not news programs.  They are talk shows.  At best, they are public affairs programs.  They are not news shows.


The confusion appears to come from all over.  Amy Goodman's DEMOCRACY NOW!, aka the sinkhole all PACIFICA dollars went into, is wrongly called a news program.  It is not.  FREE SPEECH RADIO NEWS, while it was broadcasting, was a news program.  It featured reporting as well as headlines.  All Amy offers is headlines.  Then she does sit-down interviews.  Every now and then -- especially if she has a speaking appearance -- she'll hit the road and pretend that yet another sit down interview (but this one done on location) makes DEMOCRACY NOW! a news program.  It doesn't.

There's nothing wrong with being a talk show.

Just don't try to inflate it into more than it is.

Cable "news" is not news.  CNN used to do breaking news regularly.  Every now and then, it still does.  But mainly, it's just the home of talk shows.  MSNBC has never really tried to be more than a talk show network -- even when they were sending Ashleigh Banfield all around the globe for A REGION IN CONFLICT, she was still basically hosting a talk show.

Last week, a talk show host revealed just how what they do is not about news.

What happened was this, Hedda Hopper 'reported' that MGM production chief Dore Schary was not to be trusted and that the studio could be considered "Metro-Goldwyn-Moscow."  Dore and the studio threatened to sue and Dore also got an apology from Norman Chandler, the publisher of THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.  Hedda was forced to issue a public apology.

Huh?  That's not what happened?  Sure seemed like it to us.

Lawrence O'Donnell went on the air with a single-sourced story that he repeated as valid and as factual.  The story was of course anti-Donald Trump.  MSNBC has destroyed its ratings and reputation as it turned itself into the Captain Ahab of the 21st century.  This voyage, this week, was always the one that was going to take the president down.

The talk show host told his audience that, according to someone he knew who saw Deutsche Bank records, Russian oligarchs were co-signers on Donald Trump's loan applications.

The story imploded immediately.

It never happened.  Legal action was threatened and Lawrence Tweeted that he would be apologizing on his next show.  On that episode, he declared, "Last night on this show, I discussed information that wasn't ready for reporting.  I repeated statements a single source told me about the president's finances and loan documents with Deutshe Bank saying 'if true,' as I discussed the information, was simply not good enough.  I did not go through the rigorous verification and standards process here at MSNBC before repeating what I heard from my source.  Had it gone through that process, I would not have been permitted to report it.  I should not have said it on air or posted it on Twitter.  I was wrong to do so."

David Bauder (AP) explained:

When he initially reported on the supposed co-signing of the loans on Tuesday, O'Donnell said "that would explain, it seems to me, every kind word that Donald Trump has ever said about Russia and Vladimir Putin, if true, and I stress the 'if true' part of this." 
 The episode exhibited a stunning lack of rigor for a news organization. In a letter to Susan Weiner, NBC Universal's general counsel, and Daniel Kummer, the company's senior vice president for litigation, Harder called O'Donnell's statements "false and defamatory, and extremely damaging."

Bauder also observed that the incident "shows the inherent tension in the business model of building programming on news networks that are not necessarily run by journalists."

Lawrence isn't a journalist, he's a gossip maven like Hedda Hopper -- not even an independent gossip columnist like Sheila Graham or Dorothy Kilgallen, but a controlled one like Hedda doing the bidding of the studios (or, in Lawrence's case, the DNC).

At THE WASHINGTON POST, Eric Wemple got to the point:

With his repeated “if true” caveats, O’Donnell was mocking the core idea of journalism — which is to say, the verification of stray tips and rumors. Reporters and TV hosts mess up all the time, broadcasting scoops that turn out to be flimsy or just plain untrue. The mistakes stem from poor execution, misunderstandings, uncooperative subjects, stupidity, groupthink — and any number of other considerations that fall short of warranting disciplinary action. Here, the catastrophe appears to flow from one man’s conclusion that having Russian oligarchs on Trump loan documents is a story that’s too good to check. When we asked an MSNBC spokesperson whether O’Donnell did indeed check with someone in the Trump orbit before his report, we received another decline-to-comment response.
Is such a fellow fit to host an MSNBC program?

"If true" has been a pattern for MSNBC as have implosions.  Shane Ryan (PASTE) points out, "Rachel Maddow has done the exact same thing, on a lesser but more persistent scale, and it’s not confined to MSNBC—Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept documented the ten most embarrassing media failures on Trump-Russia."  Journalist Aaron Mate now does a program at THE GRAYZONE entitled PUSH BACK.  On a recent episode, he provided a walk through of the nonsense MSNBC regularly passes off as 'information' and 'news:'

AARON MATÉ: When it comes to the Trump-Russia story, the idea of “a rigorous verification and standards process” at MSNBC is a joke. The bulk of this network’s output for more than two years has been innuendo and conspiracy theories about a non-existent Trump-Russia plot and a massive Russia interference campaign. This also was not the first time that MSNBC has used the ‘if true’ caveat to put something on air. Take the time Lawrence O’Donnell himself speculated that Vladimir Putin orchestrated a chemical weapons attack in Syria to distract the media from his ties to Donald Trump. 

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: If Vladimir Putin, if, if, if Vladimir Putin masterminded the last week in Syria, he has gotten everything he could have asked for…. Go ahead. Do a small chemical attack. Nothing – nothing like the big ones you’ve done in the past. Just big enough to attract media attention so that my friend in the White House will see it on TV. And then Donald Trump can fire some missiles at Syria that will do no real damage, and then the American news media will change the subject from Russian influence in the Trump campaign and the Trump transition and the Trump White House. It’s perfect. 

 AARON MATÉ: By the way that was in April 2017 — more than two years ago. Fast forward to say, July 2018, when MSNBC’s Chris Hayes brought on liberal writer Jonathan Chait to ponder if Donald Trump has been a Russian military intelligence asset since 1987. 

CHRIS HAYES: In a new cover story for New York Magazine, Writer Jonathan Chait argues we have not allowed ourselves to consider the full range of possibilities. Chait lays out what could be considered the worst-case scenario for Trump-Russia collusion, that Donald Trump has been a Russian intelligence asset since 1987. 

 AARON MATÉ: Then there’s Rachel Maddow. I don’t know, take your pick. How about, Putin may use the pee tape and other kompromat to force Trump into withdrawing US troops near Russia. 

RACHEL MADDOW: And here’s the question. Is the new president going to take those troops out? After all the speculation, after all the worry, we are actually about to find out if Russia maybe has something on the new president? We’re about to find out if the new president of our country is going to do what Russia wants once he’s commander-in-chief of the U.S. military starting noon on Friday. What is he going to do with those deployments? 

 AARON MATÉ: Trump didn’t withdraw those troops. How about also, Vladimir Putin got Trump to hire Paul Manafort as his campaign manager. 

RACHEL MADDOW: I mean, take the view from Moscow. If you know a guy who needs a presidential campaign manager, how about our friend Paul? Right? From the Russian’s point of view, who would be the better choice to run Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? From our perspective in the United States, Paul Manafort made no sense. Who’s he? From the Russian perspective, he’d be the obvious choice. 

AARON MATÉ: Speaking of hiring decisions, there was also Vladimir Putin getting Trump to hire Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. 

RACHEL MADDOW: Rex Tillerson – who Donald Trump had never met, had never had anything to do with before, had never laid eyes on before. How did Rex Tillerson get that job? He must have come very highly recommended – by someone. [MSNBC screen shows Putin with Tillerson]. 

AARON MATÉ: By the way, when Trump later fired Rex Tillerson, Maddow blamed that on Putin as well. So you get the picture. Lawrence O’Donnell’s story was not MSNBC’s first glaring error. Before this one, there was just no accountability for them. But the biggest problem here is not that these stories are embarrassing the cable news hosts and pundits who promote them. The Trump- Russia conspiracy theory has degraded journalism, and seriously undermining the actual resistance to Donald Trump.

Aaron's just providing an overview and that's already an indictment.  There is no news on MSNBC.  There are no standards. But talk show hosts think they can get away with pretending to be journalists  "and," as the Shangri-Las once said, "that's called sad."

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