Posts Tagged ‘CBS’

The Curse of the Mainstream Media

‘Democrats have their own SuperPAC, it’s called the mainstream media.’- Senator Marco Rubio  (October 28, 2015 Republican Presidential Candidate Debate)


Anyone who’s ever worked at one of the broadcast television networks knows that their staffs are composed of a hodgepodge of political (and a-political) opinions.  The only agenda is to be relevant and interesting to the 18-49 year old American adults who advertisers yearn to reach. There’s also the news division’s quest, which they take very seriously, for journalistic integrity.

Here’s something to consider. By definition, doesn’t’ “mainstream media” mean that it resonates with the majority of people; the actual mainstream?

Of course, the reason that “mainstream media” is such a tempting target for these politicians and for demagogic radio and TV personalities is that the audiences to whom they are pandering tend to be fringe groups; outsiders who perceive themselves as special, unique and superior to the majority of their fellow citizens. Therefore, media who represent the values and attitudes of those in the mainstream must, somehow, be tainted.

And who, actually, are the “mainstream media”? Are they just the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks and their cable news subsidiaries? Is Fox News a member of the “mainstream media”? What about Facebook and Twitter? One could argue, given their vast audiences and news dissemination services that they also belong in the category of “mainstream media”.

So, the next time you hear someone attack the mainstream media, it might be worth asking yourself exactly which fringe group that person is trying to impress.

Sunday Morning

CBS Sunday Morning has been one of my few “appointment viewing” TV shows since it debuted with Charles Kuralt in 1978. It seemed to me that what Kuralt and producer Shad Northshield had created was essentially the secular equivalent of a religious service complete with sermon, homily, music, and moment of reflection for a nation which was increasingly foregoing organized religious services. It was also very much radio on TV with a lot of effort put into creating sound which enhanced to impact of the visuals.

It’s been apparent for a long time that the current producers of the show don’t share this vision. They don’t seem to grasp what marketers would call the show’s “brand ideal” and the purpose that the program serves as a part of many viewers’ lives. Instead, it’s treated as just another morning news/infotainment vehicle for the sales department. Consequently, we get a bumper stating “This moment of nature is brought to you by Prodaxa…” leading into some usually very abbreviated nature footage which is immediately followed by a pharmaceutical industry spot targeted at the 60+ crowd. (Note to sales: It’s not about demographics. It’s about psychographics. “Hangover” star, Bradley Cooper said he was thrilled to be interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning because he had grown up watching the show and I have Millennial friends who are avid fans of the show.)

OK. Here’s what prompted this outburst.

Today, CBS Sunday Morning presented its annual end of the year “Hail And Farewell To Those We Lost” tribute to folks who’d died during the past year. I come from a broadcasting background, so I can appreciate the editing decisions which are part of this compilation process. I also understand that the network is interested in making the show relevant and interesting to a younger 35-49 year old female audience. So, I the programming guy part of me can understand why the producers would choose to spotlight a pop icon like Whitney Houston but essentially (forgive this choice of words, but it seems appropriate) bury important historical figures like WWII hero/ Senator/ Presidential candidate, George McGovern and Gulf War hero, General Norman Schwarzkopf in a brief three-way montage with WWII hero/Senator Daniel Inouye in the piece as historical footnotes.

McGovern’s presidential bid was a colossal failure in 1972 but I would contend that it politically galvanized Baby Boomers, helped legitimize the anti-Vietnam War, and contributed to the downfall of Richard Nixon’s presidency. Whitney Houston was talented artist with incredible promise who lost her way and experienced a tragic decline. Hers is a heartbreaking story but I’d contend that McGovern’s was more significant.

I was also annoyed as the final strains of Etta James’ version of “At Last” provided an underscore for the end of the segment. Ideally, the music would have reached its end, there would have been a few poignant moments of silence with the appropriate CBS Sunday Morning logo bumper, and then programming would have resumed. Instead, there was a quick fade of the music before its end into an inappropriately upbeat bumper teasing the use of pink in today’s world. It reminded me of some of the ”train wreck” moments I’ve heard in radio when a somber news bulletin about some tragic event is immediately followed by a DJ who was obviously not listening and who jauntily launches into some inappropriate song or, worse, an inane contest.

Again, I can appreciate the pressures and time constraints that the producers and staff are under at CBS Sunday morning. It’s not my intention to be a cantankerous old fogey and bitch just for the sake of complaining and venting some unrelated frustration at an easy target.

Call me a starry-eyed idealist but I really believe that radio , TV, and movies are more about art than about commerce. My goal here is to contribute to the conversation about content.