My (Kinda Sorta) National Television Debut

Monday, March 11, 2013
[NOTE: with the nice weekend weather in these parts, I was originally going to take a trip down to the University of Cincinnati campus to report on an evolving controversy with potential national implications involving the open display of female genitalia and First Amendment protections.  Instead, I opted to write about an issue that strikes closer to home--at least for me.]

The Daily Rundown's host Chuck Todd giving his First Read on a very busy Wednesday morning...perhaps it was a little too busy for the MSNBC graphics department

While my blogging has been few and far between during these first few months of 2013, I am still keeping up with what is going on in the world around me (my last post is proof of that continuing awareness) and in domestic political circles, too.  One of my "can't miss" television programs about politics, The Daily Rundown, airs every weekday morning on the MSNBC cable news channel.  If you look through my postings over the past 15 months, I have blogged about it here several times already to offer my congratulations (and criticisms) when warranted.  Unfortunately, this entry falls under the latter category.

A sampling of the dozen or so "tweets" I have sent in to try and win The Daily Rundown's Daily Trivia contest

The graphic above is a display of some of my recent Twitter activity.  The common theme seen in that selection is the "mentions" or "at replies" to host Chuck Todd and the program itself (@chucktodd and @dailyrundown, respectively).  On every show (even when Todd is away), a Daily Trivia contest is held right before the second commercial break to see who will be the first person to correctly answer the politically oriented question of the day.  In order to be considered the winner, both "mentions"/"at replies" must be in the response in order for the answer to be accepted by their staff (according to Todd, this rule has disqualified a few submitters who had the first correct answers in the past).  While some of the questions are pretty easy, others require some additional "brainpower" (or online research) in order to come up with the correct answer in an expedient manner.

To get a better feel for what I'm talking about, here is the question that was asked on February 26th:

Trying to mentally recall recent electoral history just minutes removed from slumber and an hour or so prior to having my first dose of caffeine of the day, I immediately tweeted "Massachusetts" and waited for the answer to be given right before the commercial break midway through the "gaggle" portion of the show (approximately 10 minutes before the top of the hour).  If I was a little more awake (or if I would've done some online research first), I might've changed my answer to Minnesota.  In my haste to be first, I forgot that Massachusetts went for Reagan in 1984 while the "North Star State" voted for its favorite son, Walter Mondale, that same year (and was the only one out of the 50 to do that).  While its current 10-election streak (1976 through 2012) is the longest active streak, that total is exceeded by 11 Southern states that had been solidly Democratic for even longer periods of time during our country's history.  Each had their own streaks of at least 11 consecutive cycles and Georgia, spanning from 1868 through 1960, holds the record at 23.  To get this question correct, you had to remember that the country's political landscape between the end of the Civil War and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was much different than it is today.  During that near century span, Democrats dominated the states of the former Confederacy and those voters switched their party allegiances when African-Americans began receiving federal protections through that act and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Another tricky question was asked on March 1st, in honor of Pope Benedict XVI's first day as pope emeritus:

I didn't submit a guess but it apparently turned out to be a very difficult one to come up with.  While Todd said that many responded with Pope Paul VI (who was the first pope to visit the United States in October 1965), the actual answer was Pope Pius IX.  On August 1st, 1849, he boarded the USS Constitution which was docked just outside of Naples, Italy.  Since a US warship is considered to be sovereign territory of the United States, Pius IX's three-hour stay aboard that craft was technically the first papal visit (and the correct response).

In the interest of full disclosure, my overall submission record is nothing to brag about.  Of those five above, I only got three of them correct (and none of them was the first one submitted).  Now let's advance to this past Wednesday when, to mark the occasion of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's passing, the following trivia question was asked:

Since I am not very familiar with US-Venezuelan history, I opted to utilize one of those "research" tools available to me (and to anyone else with a browser and internet connection).  When I entered this question into the Google search engine window, the first link displayed was for a Wikipedia page that listed all international travel taken by US presidents.  I clicked on it and then typed in "Venezuela" in the browser's "find" window but only got one hit (a photo caption along the side of the page referencing President Kennedy's visit to Caracas in 1961).  I knew that number couldn't be right so I scrolled down the entire page.  It was only then that I noticed that while all of President Obama's overseas trips were listed, the tables of trips taken by our former presidents that were not fully expanded.  Once I did that for all of the 20th and 21st century presidents, I was able to determine that four (Bill Clinton in 1997, George H.W. Bush in 1991, Jimmy Carter in 1978 and Kennedy) was the correct answer.  With the requisite Twitter codes already entered in the text box, I typed in "four" and hit the "Tweet" button to sent it on its way:

Because of all of those additional time-consuming steps, I wasn't feeling too optimistic about my chances for winning.  Like I do every day when I send in a response, I pushed the "record" button the the DVR and went in to the kitchen to have my breakfast and wait about 25-30 minutes for the results.  My wife was already seated when I turned on the television at the end of the table to continue watching the program while I ate.  When I heard the music that precedes their "mid-gaggle" commercial break, I could feel my adrenaline levels rising in anticipation of Todd's announcement.  To my utter amazement, he said that I had won:

When the initial shock wore off, I went back to the living room to review what I had just seen (that's the reason why I recorded it).  Not trying to sound too hypercritical, I was rather disappointed in how that segment was conducted.  While Todd spent the proper amount of time thoroughly answering the question, my "shout out" seemed hamhanded by both the host and the show's graphics department.  His slurring of my Twitter handle (he called me "Journo or Bust") and the lack of an on-screen congratulatory graphic took a lot of the luster away from what was technically my national "debut". I sent this "tweet" to both Todd and the show shortly it ended to let them know about the oversight:

To compare my announcement to what is normally done for the winners, here is a clip of how it was done the next day:

Again, Todd thoroughly answered the question, but then when it comes time to announce the winner, a congratulatory graphic with that person's handle appeared on the screen for all his viewers to see: 

While my screen name was audibly mangled, it appeared that someone actually did some research to find out that "dgibber123" was actually Daniella Gibbs Léger, a former Obama White House special assistant and director of message events who currently serves as senior vice president for American values and new communities at the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization.  Ms. Léger is a frequent guest on Todd's show and other cable news programming (coincidentally, she appeared on MSNBC's Jansing & Company the following hour):

As Todd said, everyone is eligible to submit their answers for the Daily Trivia contest and I have no sour grapes about her win or how she was presented.  I can rationalize that Todd and/or one of his producers already knew the owner of that handle (he and Léger follow each other on Twitter).  However, other folks with "cryptic" handles have been properly identified to their real name or to their nom de clavier ("keyboard name").  Finding them is as simple as clicking on their handle in the "tweet" to bring up their profile summary.  For example, here is the winner of the February 18th contest (with his on-screen congratulatory graphic prominently displayed):

Instead of tripping over his unique handle, Todd used his real name (Michael Diamond) during his announcement and the only way he would've known what it was is that if he or a member of his staff went to the provided profile information.  Since MSNBC cuts off their online clips at the point when those announcements are made, I cannot link to that specific one to prove my point but I clearly remember it happening that way.

Here is a screen capture of my own Twitter profile summary:

If he would've called me "Journ Or Bust", "Journalism or Bust" or even "JoB" (the formal name or sounded out phonetically, i.e., "Jay Oh Bee"), it would've been more preferable to what was actually uttered on Wednesday morning.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I have commented about this show on a few occasions in both positive and negative manners.  In January 2012, I offered my congratulations on their second anniversary (and I "tweeted" a similar message on their third this past January):

I have also criticized the show's (and MSNBC's) erroneous Ohio graphics on two separate occasions during the 2012 presidential campaign (and below is a recent "tweet" about them using the outline of South Carolina for a graphic about the government's sequester impact on Ohio):

The obvious outline of South Carolina can be seen behind Ohio sequestration data on this MSNBC on-screen graphic

In the back of my mind, I was hoping that the staff would recognize their slight and perhaps slip my  graphic in on the following day's show (much in the same manner as newspapers print corrections when they get things wrong).  When that didn't happen, I shifted those hopes to Friday but those were quickly dashed when I saw Luke Russert guest-hosting for Todd (and he pretty much gave away the trivia answer when he blurted out "vacuum cleaner" on air to provide the audience a clue about which president was the first one born west of the Mississippi River--it was Herbert Hoover,).

I could make a case for a deliberate personal snub by Todd or his producer.  I cannot recall a single time--prior to Wednesday--when the Daily Trivia winner was not displayed as the question was answered so one can assume that they had their three-slide graphics scheme (the answer, the congratulations, and the soliciting for trivia questions) perfected.  I did lay my criticism on thick late last year with the (mis)placement of Dayton on MSNBC-created maps.  I did that because  I was upset that my adopted hometown was being graphically disparaged and I wanted to let someone--anyone--know about it to help improve the news channel's overall credibility.  I "tweeted" to people and program accounts that I believed would do the right thing and make those quick corrections but their track records can be rated "mixed" at best.  To be fair, Wednesday was a very busy day (the Obama "charm offensive" with Republican politicians, follow-up to his Tuesday interview with Jeb Bush and the Chavez news) and bad weather in the Washington, DC area limited the "gaggle" to a single segment instead of its usual two.  As someone who rigidly adheres to routines, I can personally attest that any change in my planned routine can cause minor "hiccups" in the overall flow.

Even it this oversight was done for spiteful reasons, I still consider myself a loyal fan of Todd and The Daily Rundown.  During my campaign-related events last year, I got to rub elbows with several "regulars" from the show.  I met Politico's Jonathan Martin at the Romney rally in Beavercreek, The Washington Post's Dan Balz at the media sign-in table outside of the Obama campaign's kickoff rally, and The's Perry Bacon Jr. at an Obama event in Cincinnati so, technically, I am within one degree of separation from Todd himself (and I could've met him in person at that Columbus rally last May if my online credentialing request wasn't missent to the volunteer coordinator instead of the press office). 

Like Mike Diamond did above, I was going to use that congratulatory graphic in some fashion either here on my blog or with my Twitter account.  Since it's probably too late to think that this will ever be rectified, I took it upon myself to create my own (borrowing from Ms. Léger's "trophy"):

If I was so inclined, I would've run it through Photoshop to make it look as if it were an authentic photo capture off of the television screen.  My video clip above is proof enough that I won Wednesday's contest so a PowerPoint recreation of what was omitted/forgotten will have to do.  Uunfortunately, based upon my past experience with that specific news channel and their on-air graphics, that level of mediocrity happens to be a standard that MSNBC someday aspires to achieve.


UPDATE (March 15):  on today's program, two members of the NBC Universal graphics department were "selected" to give the show's "Good Morning" video introduction.  Stephanie Hasiotis and Andrew Dobish (hope I got those right considering they were on a graphic posted on that news channel) are out of the New York headquarters and shot the clip inside the "MSNBC graphics control room".  After their clip ended, Todd referred to them as "our friends that we drive crazy in graphics" and, considering what I have posted here on several occasions, they apparently take those misdirected frustrations out on me and other viewers on a regular basis.  Since Ms. Hasiotis lists "social media manager" as one of her current responsibilities (not at her primary employer but for a holiday gift retailer) and Mr. Dobish has his own Twitter account, I will have to start including them both on any future "tweets" about graphics-related issues so that somebody at MSNBC might actually review them.

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