Monday :: Mar 10, 2014

Where's the Progressive "News" Channel?

by Steve

I don’t expect a person to have a lot of sympathy for a media or entertainment figure who complains about our media culture and a lack of privacy. That doesn’t mean the complaints and critiques of someone like Alec Baldwin aren’t legitimate.

Baldwin has a cover story in a recent issue of New York Magazine, wherein he tells his side of the story regarding his recent dust-ups with the media and paparazzi, and lays out some criticisms of the media and specifically MSNBC over his firing from his short-lived Friday night talk program. People can read the story and draw their own conclusions about Baldwin and his views, but I found myself agreeing with his critique of MSNBC, which is that it’s the same stuff, all day long, without any real humor.

My goal was always to take a talk show to the network. I never wanted to be on MSNBC. My contacts at the network said to me, “We don’t have a slot for you on the network right now.” And I told them that was fine. And they said, “Maybe you go on MSNBC for a year and we’ll hone and refine the show?” And I said okay.
I watched MSNBC, prior to working there, very sporadically. Once I had signed a contract with them, I wanted to see more of what they were about. It turned out to be the same shit all day long. The only difference was who was actually pulling off whatever act they had come up with. Morning Joe was boring. Scarborough is neither eloquent nor funny. And merely cranky doesn’t always work well in the morning. Mika B. is the Margaret Dumont of cable news. I liked Chris Jansing a lot. Very straightforward. I like Lawrence O’Donnell, but he’s too smart to be doing that show. Rachel Maddow is Rachel Maddow, the ultimate wonk/dweeb who got a show, polished it, made it her own. She’s talented. The problem with everybody on MSNBC is none of them are funny, although that doesn’t prevent them from trying to be.

On a slightly different tangent than Baldwin, my problem isn't that MSNBC lacks humor, but rather that it fails to effectively deliver the news through a progressive and reality-based context. Humor would be a welcome byproduct, but at its core MSNBC under its boss Phil Griffin wants their demographic, the "Lean Forward" crowd to align with the personality culture they've built around their media stars. MSNBC isn't really trying to deliver the news through a progressive prism, they are simply doing the same "echo chamber" stuff through their stars that Fox is doing through its stars.

If you want proof, ask yourself what went on in the world during the initial weeks of the Chris Christie bridge and Sandy story? If you watched MSNBC, you'd think that the only story in the country was Christie, with only each successive host during the day taking their turn spinning it their way. I expect such echo chamber stuff out of Fox, but Griffin and the gang think that their demographic can eat the same drivel as long as it's peddled through their own media stars through MSNBC's culture of personalities.

I realize that I'm a minority opinion on this, but in my dream world there is a progressive news channel with a reality-based nightly news program sandwiched in between shows with sharp, funny hosts showing us a broad view of the world that we aren't getting on the broadcast networks. There are more than enough things wrong with the GOP and Corporate America for such a network to have plenty of material each day through the center-left media infrastructure without it becoming an echo chamber of repeated stories and hammered narratives. And there should be enough room on a schedule Friday nights and on the weekends for decent and entertaining talk shows like the one Baldwin wanted to do that were better than the prison-and-crime drivel that Griffin peddles to us after 8 PM every Friday.

A little bite and humor in a wider focus can go a long way in attracting an audience, and MSNBC used to know how to do that when it tolerated Keith Olbermann before he proved too labor-intensive for Griffin.

Steve :: 10:24 AM :: Comments (1) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!