Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"We'll be back on the air when we know anything," Part II

Some quotations from CNN.com's coverage of Barack Obama's inauguration:

"[Ted Kennedy] has been brought to a hospital at this point."

"Of course, we've got dire straits
at this point."

"I've been thinking a lot of this, and if you think about it, this whole weekend is about change. There was the concert ... He was careful not to overemphasize it."

"I thought his daughters were charming."

"It's very, very cold out there."

===================================

And all this over video from crappy camera placements that yielded nothing but long, static shots of a limousine proceeding slowly down a Washington street. Was Obama inside? Who knows?

"At this point"? Portentous, time-filling blather.

"I thought his daughters were charming"? Agreed. And I don't need a TV announcer to tell me that.

"It's very, very cold out there"? Thanks for the insight.

The concert as an example of change? As my old colleague Dave Knadler wrote: "Let me just say this: Stevie Wonder is fat. Bruce Springsteen is not a working man. Samuel Jackson is wearing the same Kangol hat he was born in."

All in all, the most fatuous, vacuous stretch of political television since Chapter I of "We'll be back on the air when we know anything."

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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18 Comments:

Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter the CNN coverage could not be as bad as the BBC whose main reporters Matt Frei and Justin Webb always look as they are looking down their noses at the American people. They do a good impression of General Cornwallis marching towards Yorktown by resembling a rabbit caught in a cars headlights every time they have to leave the Beltway area.

The BBC continue to show pictures of snarling dogs and fire hoses in Little Rock circa 1963 every few minutes. It seems like the Liberal Europeans want to feel superior to Americans and don't want to admit that the USA has moved on.

January 21, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

All in all, the most fatuous, vacuous stretch of political television since Chapter I of "We'll be back on the air when we know anything."

Well, at least someone's saying it ...

January 21, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Uriah, it's interesting you should say that. I was in Northern Ireland during the Republican Convention (U.S. Republican, that is), and I watched a few impressive minutes of BBC Ulster's coverage of the convention.

To be fair, I happened to watching when news was occurring: Sarah Palin's speech. The vacuous CNN commentary (and the portentous time-filling I wrote about in my original post) came about because announcers were forced to fill air time when absolutely nothing was happening. News networks, at least in the U.S., seem scared to stop talking even for a second. I am convinced that this phenomenon is responsible for some of the stupid things that pundits say. They are forced to say something, anything, just to fill air time.

January 21, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, Brian Williams' remark was a great example of unintended comedy. It made the evening's viewing worthwhile.

January 21, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Oh, these reporters!
When Danish television sent the marriage of crown prince Frederik and princess Mary, a bright, female reporter said, "Oh, it is so authentic". I sincerely hope so.

January 21, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

"Of course, we've got dire straits at this point."

I watched the entire concert, the entire inauguration, and even (Gawd help me) some of the ball coverage, and I saw no sign of Mark Knopfler.

They can't even fact check!

Oh, and it's not just anchors who feel the need to babble; baseball announcers not named Vin Scully have the same affliction.

January 21, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Velkommen til Detectives Beyond Borders, Dorte. Television's one advantage over newspapers is its immediacy, so why can't reporters just shut up and let the pictures tell the story?

January 21, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Vin Scully is given to lyrical musing rather than to babbling, but he sometimes mangles titles when he tries to show what a versatile, literary guy he is. "You remember The World of Garp?" he once said. "Well, this is the world of--" The correct title was The World According to Garp. Another time, over a montage of three shots of Fernando Valenzuela, he said, "You remember The Faces of Eve? This is The Faces of Fernando." The correct title here, of course, is The Three Faces of Eve.

This is a small thing, but if you're going to flaunt your erudition, you'd better get it right.

January 21, 2009  
Anonymous Karen C said...

Why oh why oh WHY can't they just shut up and let the pictures tell the story. We were left with the choice of SkyNews, CNN or the BBC all of whom seemed to be working overtime to outdo each other in the naff commentary stakes.

Dorte - you should have been here during that marriage - if they said OUR Princess Mary one more time there were a few Australians who were going to track down the commentary team and slap them :).

January 21, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You know, naff is such a cool word. The festive parts of the inauguration were fine; there was something to look at. For the rest, why not cut to other programming ot to experts in a studio or features about politics or Obama -- anything but this endless "at this point"s.

January 21, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I like watching the half hour BBC selection I get here, but I did find it funny that in a moment of great celebration, there was this constant naysayer attitude from their commentators. They were so doleful, and the subtext was so consistantly 'Yes, he's smart and charismatic of course, but if you're asking if he can do anything at all to improve the current state of affairs, well, if we must be frank, we really don't think so." I haven't exactly been seized by Obamamania myself, though I am happy about the turn of events, but after awhile of this, I was almost a flagwaving Yank again.

My favorite little bit of newsworthy interviewing, though, was when one American reporter on another channel said "We've seen women and children cry, of course, but it's not so often that we see grown men cry." Sticking her microphone in some guy's face,"But you shed a few tears today didn't you, Mr..."

Headline: Grown Man Admits to Shedding Tears at Obama Inauguration!"

Egad.

January 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder if that grown man was Colin Powell, who acknowledged that he was among those men whose eyes teared up.

BBC (and Canadian) newscasts often seem to me more serious than their American counterparts because the newsreaders (a far more becomingly modest term than "anchors") are so much less self-important.

I could not blame anyone for being skeptical about being swept up in all the good will; we live in hard times, and change to me is not a substantive. I don't know what it means. But what would the country and the world be thinking right now if McCain had been elected? "Oh, shit!" probably.

One wonders also whether Republican commentators dismissive of the "We want change" were similarly dismissive back when Ronald Reagan proclaimed "morning in America."

January 22, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Hej Peter.
Tak for din velkomst.
And now I have to ask, do you have Scandinavian roots? Polish ancestors would be my guess, but that does not quite explain ANY knowledge of the Danish language.

January 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have no Scandinavian roots. I owe my knowledge to something much simpler: easy access to a Danish dictionary.

I know some Dutch and a few scraps of German, not to mention my own Germanic native language, so I am always intrigued by resemblances between Danish, Swedish and Norwegian on the hand and languages I know on the other -- intrigued enough to look up the correct words.

I invite anyone who reads this to look at our greeting in the comment above this one. It won't be hard to figure out.

January 22, 2009  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Oh, someone who knows how to use a dictionary! I like that, said the school mam :)
And just like you, I think it is really interesting to pick up phrases of Germanic languages here and there. I know some German from school and I am able to read children´s books in Dutch.

January 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And I can sometimes get the sense of short passages in Swedish or the other North Germanic languages, for instance, an enjoyable experience.

January 22, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

I'm fluent in English and German and I can read and understand Dutch reasonably well-though if I were to speak it I'd probably end up with a lot of "dutchified" English and German words.
Ten years ago I went through Denmark in interrail and I realized that,after a bit of initial struggle,I was able to read the local newspapers without much effort.

January 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

With my French and bits of Italian, I was able to reserve a hotel room in Seville from a unilingual hotel clerk and to figure out that a slogan I saw in Bercelona meant, "Long live low prices!"

January 22, 2009  

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