Sep 1 2013

SoundBites September 2013

Meet the Press Release

There is consumer product news tonight. The folks at Hamburger Helper say they’d like to be thought of more as just Helper, since more and more people are eating chicken, and there’s a Helper for that, too. General Mills say they just want to help dinner in America. They say a million homes at night serve some sort of Helper.

—Brian Williams, ostensibly reporting the news (NBC Nightly News, 7/9/13)


It’s a Commercial and a News Report!

NBC’s Today show (7/10/13)—supposedly part of the network’s news division—did a segment on a new floor-cleaning product. Company founder James Dyson—who comes up with “all kinds of cool products,” as anchor Matt Lauer put it—was on hand to explain the details. Co-anchor Savannah Guthrie chimed in to say she was sure it would be “another one of those things where we think, ‘Yes, why did we wait so long for this invention!”‘

Save for the lack of a toll-free number to place an order, it looked more like a paid infomercial than a news segment. But Lauer closed with this: “We don’t do this as a commercial. We do this because there is a cool factor attached to your products. And when other people develop cool products too, we’ll bring those on as well.”

Which would be more frightening: that NBC is secretly selling its news programs to advertisers, or that TV journalists genuinely believe reports like these to be news?


No Laughing Matter

Do U.S. media think the future of the planet is some kind of joke? That’s the impression left by an infographic released by Think Progress (7/1/13). It showed that the Sunday chat shows —supposedly forums for analysis and debate of major issues—didn’t so much as mention Barack Obama’s June 25 Georgetown University speech outlining a new climate change policy. On the other hand, comedians David Letterman and Jay Leno, and Comedy Central’s Daily Show, did find time to cover the news.

Late-night comics also paid more attention than the network nightly newscasts (FAIR Blog, 7/2/13). ABC World News and CBS Evening News each gave the Georgetown speech 19 seconds, while NBC Nightly News blasted away from the pack with a 2-minute-12-second segment, including a soundbite from Obama and even some general indication of what he said. That was the high water mark for broadcast news on what some were calling a “defining” speech on climate change: a segment a minute shorter than the one on Comedy Central’s “fake” newscast.


Friedman’s Imaginary Churchill

“If Churchill Could See Us Now,” lamented Thomas Friedman’s July 17 New York Times column. The topic was Republican immigration policy, and Friedman summoned former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to make his case:

Whenever we go into political drift as a country, optimists often quote Winston Churchill’s line that Americans will always do the right thing, after they’ve “exhausted all other possibilities.” I don’t think that’s true anymore. Churchill never met the Tea Party, and he certainly never met today’s House Republicans, a group so narrow-minded and disinterested in governing—and the necessary compromises that go with it—that they’re ready to kill an immigration bill that is manifestly in the country’s economic, social and strategic interests.

After making his case against the GOP immigration stance, Friedman concluded: “Churchill would be aghast.” Except he probably wouldn’t be. Here’s the London Guardian (8/5/07):

Sir Winston Churchill expressed alarm about an influx of “coloured people” in ’50s Britain…. On 3 February 1954, under the agenda item “Coloured Workers,” Churchill is quoted… “Problems [which] will arise if many coloured people settle here. Are we to saddle our-selves with colour problems in UK? Attracted by Welfare State. Public opinion in UK won’t tolerate it once it gets beyond certain limits.”

If Churchill had met the Tea Party, it sounds like they would have gotten along fine.


 ‘Anybody’ Makes at Least $200K

During a discussion of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory (7/7/13) said this:

I don’t understand exactly how the exchanges are going to work. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of the employer mandate and how that works. But anybody who gets a paycheck in this country understands one thing, that there’s a new line item. And it says Medicare surtax.

It’s revealing that someone with Gregory’s job admits that he doesn’t know much about the new healthcare law. (Was he not paying attention when his guests were talking about it every week for months on end? Or were his interviews just not very informative?)

But the part that he thinks he does know isn’t true. That Additional Medicare Tax is paid by people making over $200,000. So it doesn’t apply to “anybody who gets a paycheck”—it applies to quite wealthy people, in the top 2 percent of household income.

On the next show (7/14/13), Gregory apologized for the error. Maybe he should spend less time at the Chevy Chase Club (Extra!, 6/13) and more time seeing how life is experienced by non-millionaires.


Boy Oh Boy

I was just thrilled. I mean, I can’t believe that we finally after all this waiting know that we have a boy…. My first thought, I have to say, was this is how brilliant a royal Kate is. There are women throughout British royal family history that have panicked not being able to deliver a boy, and here we are, Kate did it first time.

CNN “royal contributor” Victoria Arbiter (7/22/13)