My Media Weekend

Sunday, August 19, 2012
[NOTE: this article addresses what I experienced last weekend, not the current one. I really have to start focusing on my deadline "issues".]

From top clockwise, the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics, the unveiling of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's vice-presidential nominee, and a promotional graphic for the movie The Campaign

After a week of getting reacquainted with my job and completing the final project for my Intro to Online Journalism course, I had the chance to relax a bit and take in some television and movie watching and get back into my regular routine of sampling the many media sources I have access to.

If you read my previous posting, I was elbow-deep into preparing my final project late Friday evening when word began leaking out about one of the summer's biggest political mysteries.  Ever since former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney secured the Republican presidential nomination in late May, speculation swirled around who he would name as his running mate and, more intriguing to political insiders, when he would make that announcement.  I won't rehash the content of that Storify-aided posting but it was when I was preparing it for publication that the first emails from my news subscription services hit my in-box (I would find out later that others had been speculating on this since shortly after 6PM).  Here is a copy of one of those alerts:

After making a quick update to my posting, I headed off to bed to be ready for the mid-morning announcement.  Upon waking, I switched on my television to MSNBC and settled in for all of the "pre-game" analysis with regular hosts/guests Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Howard Fineman as well as Avik Roy, a healthcare advisor to the Romney campaign (Andrea Mitchell also provided  on-site coverage from Norfolk).  At approximately 9AM, Mitt Romney made the formal--albeit incorrect--introduction of Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan as his VP pick:

I could jump all over the candidate for his historic "gaffe" but I will mention that other notable public figures (President Obama, Chief Justice John Roberts) have made similar mistakes at the microphone at very stressful times.  If you read my Twitter feed during his speech, I thought the person driving the vehicle with the audible reverse alarm was more of an annoyance than the omission of a single--but very important--word.

While the television and still cameras were affixed and provided tight shots on the podium and the candidates themselves, I did not see too many alternate angles of the crowd in attendance to gauge just how many people showed up.  When I attended the Obama rally in Columbus last May, several media outlets pointed out the thousands of empty seats around the upper regions of the Schottenstein Center (you can see them in the photo below taken right before the First Lady Michelle Obama introduced her husband):

I came across one from the Norfolk event posted online taken from a different vantage point:

And here is an aerial view of the Nauticus science center/museum complex to show the area actually occupied by those supporters (courtesy of Google Maps):

It's been my personal experience when I attended these kinds of rallies that some liberties are taken by the respective campaigns to project a much larger occasion for television audiences.  The crowd photograph above is not time-stamped and no discernible personalities can be made out on the stage to help narrow down the specific instant it was taken.  However, Hampton Roads' Daily Press estimated the crowd at several hundred so this does appear to be an accurate portrayal of the actual turnout (in comparison, crowds attending later events in Virginia, North Carolina and Wisconsin over the weekend dwarfed this rally).

The Ryan announcement had me thinking about the one made just four short years ago at a venue very close to my home.  Wright State University's Nutter Center served as the launching pad for the McCain/Palin ticket in the 2008 presidential election and was America's first look at the then-governor of Alaska.  Many Democrats are hoping that this year's race has the same results as that last one did.

After fully digesting the morning's announcement, I decided to take in a movie with the family later that afternoon to celebrate the completion of my class.  Still having politics on the brain, I got buy-in for us to go see The Campaign, the debuting Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis film that supposedly takes a humorous look at the current state of US politics but veered sharply into vulgarity and the traditional summer movie "race to the bottom" formula for attracting audiences before trying to redeem itself with a sappy, schlocky ending.  I assumed this going in but there were times where I really was uncomfortable with what I was hearing and seeing in the context of a congressional election set in North Carolina's fictitious 14th District.

As an interested observer of this country's political processes, this movie might serve as a precautionary tale against the increasingly negative nature of seeking elected office at all levels in the United States and the demagoguing of a governing system that is supposed to represent all of the people instead of very small slivers of society.  Unfortunately, in today's entertainment circles, this must be done with "carpet f-bombing" and other titillating--and somewhat extraneous to the story--details that would make Jimmy Stewart's iconic politician Jefferson Smith blush to death.  I have the same critiques on other offerings on premium cable (The Newsroom, Veep) and the same wish for them to "clean up" their acts to make them more palatable to a wider audience.

Like other Hollywood releases in recent years, The Campaign incorporates real-world news outlets and journalists into their on-screen story.  MSNBC (Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O'Donnell, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist) and CNN (Wolf Blitzer, Piers Morgan) make cameo appearances to track the latest "Oh no he didn't!" over-the-top moments as they happen by both caricature candidates (HBO's Bill Maher also has a short spot from his Real Time with Bill Maher program mixed into the cable news flow).  To provide a scant amount of ideological parity, Dennis Miller, the former Saturday Night Live performer who now hosts his own libertarian-slanted radio show and is a frequent contributor on The O'Reilly Factor, is given a 15-second piece (which features just him and no chyrons, "bugs", or other media identification in the shot).  I posted an item earlier this year about the lack of conservative media outlets in movies and this "snippet" does little to address the vast underpresence by cable news' most watched channel.

Sunday morning started with my weekly ritual of watching Fox News Sunday and reading The Dayton Daily News and The New York Times.  Here are the front pages of Ohio's "Big 5" newspapers (The Cincinnati Enquirer, The (Cleveland) Sunday Plain Dealer, The Columbus Dispatch, The Toledo Blade,  and the DDN) and their coverage of the Ryan announcement (courtesy of the Newseum):

The Dayton paper used the Norfolk event to kick off its "Election 2012 Team Coverage"  with four full pages of political reporting on the current presidential race.  On page A8, I noticed another "Jana-gram", a note from the editor in chief to the DDN's readers, announcing this "countdown" to the November general election.  I am providing it below for review:

While I applaud Collier's attempt at trying to stay above the deepening negative fray and providing "balanced coverage", such an initiative is as quixotic as Alonso Quijano's tilting at "hulking giants" documented over 500 years ago in the timeless Cervantes novel.  With newspaper readership steadily declining over the past 10 to 20 years, and due to the consolidation of competing publications in many major American cities, the once-feared influence of the editorial page has almost been neutered in favor of "balance" and is seen as merely a required concession not to offend subscribers.  Back in 2008, the DDN endorsed Barack Obama's bid for the presidency; however, when I tried to access that endorsement on their website, I'm greeted with "this page cannot be found", as if simply taking the page down removes that action from our collective memories.  Newspaper editorial boards have been one of this nation's last bastions of integrity concerning the American electoral process and reviewing a publication's endorsement of a candidate indicates that trained journalists have completed a thorough vetting to assist readers in making up their own minds.  I'm just hoping that I don't see something like this on the editorial page in early November:

We have provided you unprecedented, in-depth coverage of the issues, the candidates and the campaigns; however, we respectfully decline to endorse anyone so as not to offend anyone because it might cause our recent rising circulations figures to decrease.  You're on your own this time around...good luck!

P.S.  Make sure to buy our paper on November 7th to see how well you actually did.

Over two weeks of nearly wall-to-wall Olympic coverage came to a merciful end on Sunday evening
My weekend "media-palooza" concluded with watching the closing ceremonies for the 2012 London Summer Olympics.  Due to my rapid-fire school assignments, a short vacation, and working during television's primetime hours, I had very few opportunities to view NBC's coverage on its broadcast channel as well as its cable offerings (Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, NBC Sports Network, Telemundo, plus a variety of on-demand venues) and online streaming sites.  I did catch parts of the opening ceremonies and made the effort to watch the concluding events live (I had to record the last hour in order to watch HBO's The Newsroom at 10PM). 

Popularity (and pretty skimpy outfits) helped determine NBC's primetime coverage

I've read some online critiques of their programming and perhaps I really didn't miss much.  Like almost every other aspect of our daily lives, it seems that advertising, ratings and polls seem to influence what is shown than trying to provide a balanced sampling of the many diverse events that comprise the Olympics.  Basketball and women's gymnastics got the lion's share of coverage on the primetime broadcasts along with the "eye candy" that dominates both men's and women's swimming races and the ladies' beach volleyball games.  Obscure events, like the dressage competition that involved Mitt Romney's wife in the role of co-owner of a horse, had more attention in political circles than on NBC's multiple Olympic outlets.  According to a network press release, the 2012 games were the "most watched event in U.S. television history", attracting nearly 220 million viewers as estimated by The Nielsen Company.  I'm guessing that they are glad I watched because if I had not, and modifying a quote from Taxi's Reverend Jim Ignatowski, there would've only been 219,399,999 people...lucky thing for them I did!

No comments:

Post a Comment