It’s the morning after the first night of the Democratic convention. NBC’s Today Show spent ten minutes on that story. They covered possible assassins who want to kill Barack Obama and they briefly covered a teenager in Iraq who turned herself into police with bombs strapped to her vest. But then, the largest portion of their first hour was devoted to a man who believes himself to be a Rockefeller. Every media outlet in the U.S picked up this bizarre tale of a long con, a kidnapped daughter, multiple identities, and a missing couple. But is it really that interesting to listen to a delusional, mentally ill man? Above and beyond all other news of the day? The fake Rockefeller story was worthy of maybe a couple of lines in the news brief – but a fifteen minute feature in their first hour when most people are watching?
It’s enough that most of the nighttime news magazine shows have been heavily focused on mysteries, like who murdered his wife in the Hamptons in 1972, but surely the Today Show might want to devote more time in their first hour to the first black Democratic nominee’s wife’s historic speech, not to mention the appearance of the gravely ill Ted Kennedy?
Meanwhile, The Today Show helpfully told their audience that if they want All Politics All the Time they ought to watch MSNBC. What’s worse, though? No coverage at all, the Today Show’s way, or unbearable coverage of political pundits telling us “what the Obama people need to do” or “what Hillary Clinton needs to accomplish?” I’ve been watching CNN, all nine hours of Day One coverage and it is mostly useless filler.
Isn’t it easier just to browse the Internet where the stories are plentiful and they aren’t driven so much by the bottom line? All that is required of you is to do a little reading. There is simply no comparison between one experience and the other; network and cable news have become unwatchable where important news is concerned. Most of us know this and have known it for years yet we still watch.
That Natalie Morales interview with “Clark Rockefeller” was a major get, it didn’t seem to matter that it was more ramblings from a real life Mr. Ripley. Why was it news? Well, for starters it centered on the privileged white folks in high society. One thing you learn fairly quickly if you regularly watch the nighttime news magazine shows devoted to murder and high crime – rich and white trumps all.
No one would ever say The Today Show stifled its coverage of Day One of the convention because it didn’t involve rich white people (it did), or that Obama won’t get play because he isn’t white; in fact, the opposite accusation is routinely made against the media. But there is some reason the Today Show gave such heavy play to the fake Rockefeller story and not that much to, say, Michelle Obama’s speech in their first hour. There is a reason.
Perhaps, in the end, it is what audiences want most to see and the producers catering to their taste for more and more stories about the foibles of the upper crust. But it isn’t news. Let’s at least call it what it has become: daytime drama.