Kos posted something the other day about how Wolf Blitzer had screwed something up, which was illustrative of why he "never watch[es] cable news". As someone who watches a lot
of cable news, well, I kind of take exception.
Kos has said he has no interest in gathering news himself. So that makes him and his site kind of a meta-news reporting/news analysis service. And as Paul Begala said on Crossfire Friday:
But there was a recent study that came out that said cable news -- not to flack for our network -- but cable news provides more information to more Americans than any other source, except local TV.
So if we are going to try to do our meta-analyses of the body politic, I don't see how we can leave cable TV out of the mix. And it's not as though the print media (which is all you are left with if you eschew TV and don't do your own news gathering) are free of errors--far from it, as has been exposed here many times.
So I'm going to do a little roundup of some recent TV punditry that I thought was worthy of mention. Some of this is a few days old, so if that bothers you, feel free to skip the rest.
More from Friday's Crossfire:
BEGALA: There is the CNN Election Express, anchored securely just off the waters here at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Well, in an interview, Howard Dean and his wife, Dr. Judy Dean, discussed their TV viewing habits. Mrs. Dean told ABC's "Primetime Thursday" that she had not seen her husband's blowup in Iowa Monday night, because -- quote -- "I don't watch TV that much" -- unquote. And Howard Dean himself volunteered -- quote -- "I never watch the cable television shows."
Great. So voters now have a chance to replace a president who doesn't read the papers with one who doesn't watch cable news. A little free advice, Governor. President Bush has already cornered the market on ignorance. How about staying informed?
NOVAK: You know, Paul, that is a pseudointellectual thing about this fancy, woodsy Vermonters: Oh, well, we never watch television. We're just too good for that.
I watch television all the time. It informs me. It enriches my life. And I'd rather watch television than talk to most of the people I know.
BEGALA: I think they feel the same way, Bob.
But there was a recent study that came out that said cable news -- not to flack for our network -- but cable news provides more information to more Americans than any other source, except local TV. And we're fixing to catch and pass local TV. So if Howard Dean or anybody else wants to know what real Americans are seeing...
We discussed this recently here on Kos. I wasn't the only one who held this opinion, that being an elitist New York Times reader who doesn't watch TV is a dangerous place for a national presidential candidate. After all, if Americans thought Gore was too stuck up...!
I have said before that I think David Brooks, at least in his role as pundit partner to Mark Shields on PBS Newshour (I don't read his NY Times columns), is a truly honest conservative who genuinely shares when he is concerned about Democratic strength or GOP weakness rather than spinning as so many of them do. Here's another good example, IMO, of his candour:
DAVID BROOKS: In a sense. I have gotten more disappointed with [the SOTU speech] as the 24 hours have passed. I came from Iowa where something exciting happen, something unexplained, something new happened. Then I come back to Washington and they are still debating over whether the U.S. acted unilaterally in Iraq, over the Patriot Act, over the weapons of mass destruction. That's so six months ago. I really felt like it's a like debate in a bar that starts at 10 PM and then at 1 AM people get the brilliant idea that if I just repeat the argument the 14th time, this time I'll really persuade them.
JIM LEHRER: Do you agree with Mark that it adds to the division in the country?
DAVID BROOKS: We are a deeply divided country 45-45. I do think nonetheless the Republicans are far more united than the Democrats. If you ask average Democratic voters, not primary voters, average Democratic voters, how they feel about the war, the Patriot Act, preemption doctrine, issue after issue average Democratic voters are split right down the middle. So I think there's a slight advantage for the president going into the race -- at least I thought that until last night when he didn't have a domestic agenda. That gave me a little bit of the willies.
The Newshour also had an interesting piece about the new trend in covering candidates with little digital "guerilla cams" (my appellation, not theirs). If you watch network news in particular (I like Rather on CBS) you will see them use these cameras to catch candidates in more unguarded moments. Some observers worry that their usage will ironically cause candidates to have fewer such moments when the press is around:
TERENCE SMITH: CNN, to cite one example, has expanded election coverage and is selling advertising packages that will reap more than $30 million in additional revenue for the network.
TERENCE SMITH: This year, competition is more feverish than ever. Television is covering more candidates with more reporters and more cameras.
TERENCE SMITH: One new wrinkle in this year's coverage: Small digital cameras that enable one person to shoot and feed video without cumbersome equipment and the cost of a large camera crew.
BYRON PITTS, CBS News: The great value of these small cameras is that it allows you to take intimate looks at candidates in an environment where everything typically is controlled. Everything is about being on message.
BYRON PITTS: These small cameras have allowed us to catch them in what we think are more human moments, when they're off guard.
TERENCE SMITH: Mini cameras covering Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, for example, caught the Vietnam veteran in a relaxed moment.
CBS EVENING NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The candidate singing along with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame at a Saturday event, when Kerry took a lighthearted, imaginary puff.
TERENCE SMITH: While the Kerry campaign did not formally ask CBS News not to use the video...
BYRON PITTS: They certainly asked, "Are you sure you have to use it because we're not sure we want that image out." It's something he probably wouldn't have done if a major network camera had been there.
TERENCE SMITH: Steve Chaggaris, who shot the video for CBS News, says Kerry has been largely tolerant of the mini-cam intrusions.
STEVE CHAGGARIS: He doesn't like you taking pictures of him eating, so I think that's the only time when we've encountered ... you know, not tension, but, you know, a time where I think that he wants his privacy.
TERENCE SMITH: MSNBC video journalist Becky Diamond says this new kind of coverage suits a new demographic.
BECKY DIAMOND: I think in this generation, the MTV generation, "Survivor," these reality shows, cable needs to compete, and this enables them to do that.
TERENCE SMITH: NBC calls its young video journalists "embeds," as in embedded reporters, just as it did when reporters were placed with military units during the Iraq war.
ELIZABETH WILNER, NBC News political director: Are we talking about credentials?
TERENCE SMITH: NBC News political director Elizabeth Wilner says MSNBC is determined to provide blanket coverage.
ELIZABETH WILNER: The war came to something of a close, and MSNBC looked ahead at the campaign and thought, this is the next big story, and we want to cover it the way we've covered the war, and we want to have as many people out there as we had during the war. We want to give people really a taste and a feel of what this thing is like.
TERENCE SMITH: The less-intrusive mini-cams often provide a candid glimpse of a candidate's personality, or at least his body language.
TERENCE SMITH: But CNN's veteran political correspondent Candy Crowley questions the value of such non-stop television coverage.
CANDY CROWLEY: The candidate's ... real moments are no longer real moments. I mean, if a camera's on you all the time, you don't get real moments. I don't know whether 24/7 gives us much more insight than before.
TERENCE SMITH: CNN and ABC News have outfitted buses as mobile studios. This one was once used by a member of the singing group the Dixie Chicks. Instead of setting up expensive technical operations along the campaign trail, ABC News uses this bus to conduct interviews, take in and feed video, edit and produce stories.
TERENCE SMITH: ABC News political director Mark Halperin says the volume of their coverage on television, radio and the Internet has already increased because of the buses.
MARK HALPERIN: We're doing network work here, we're doing affiliate work here, we're doing ... I'm doing an interview with Japanese TV from the bus. All of that can be done from one place rather than having to rent things and build things and move equipment around one by one.
TERENCE SMITH: Halperin also maintains that the buses, expensive as they are, will be cost-effective.
MARK HALPERIN: Probably by the end of New Hampshire, it will already have saved us money.
TERENCE SMITH: It is also a promotional vehicle for ABC News.
MARK HALPERIN: It is, because people are going to see the buses.
The impact on candidates and campaigns
TERENCE SMITH: Congressman Richard Gephardt has been this way before, campaigning in the 1988 Iowa caucuses.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: ...Caucus for me?
TERENCE SMITH: He says today's media coverage is different.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: It's more intense.
TERENCE SMITH: I noticed inside there an absolute scrum of reporters around you as you were giving a little news conference afterwards.
CAMERAMAN: Let her out. We'll swap out...
TERENCE SMITH: Does it ever get in the way?
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: It is bothersome because you can't even get to the voter to shake their hand and talk to him and ask him to come to the caucus for you, which is what you're out here trying to get him to do.
TERENCE SMITH: Gephardt says the new technology allows even smaller stations to hook up for live broadcasts from almost anywhere, meaning better campaign coverage in Iowa and the nation.
But there may be a chilling effect on the way candidates conduct themselves.
TERENCE SMITH: Do you ever tend of forget that the camera is on you?
REP. DICK GEPHARDT: No. I've kind of gotten to the point where I know that we're probably ... everything's being recorded, and that's just the nature of modern-day politics.