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MAINSTREAM EPIPHANY OR OBFUSCATION?

 


By Geoff Metcalf

December 8, 2004

NewsWithViews.com

Frank Rich, in the New York Times recently commented on the ‘repositioning’ of network news anchors in a piece entitled “The NASCAR Nightly News: Anchorman Get Your Gun.”

Rich writes, “…when TV news organizations start repositioning themselves to pander to NASCAR dads and ‘moral values’ voters, it's a problem for everyone.” It is that yin-yang thing that the mainstream has crafted into a sonic wedgie …the inability to create a synthesis of Ozzie and Harriet and Ozzie and Sharon without pandering to the excesses of each.

Actually, when news organizations pander to audiences, they are doing what they are supposed to do: build and maintain audience. As I have repeatedly noted, ‘audience,’ not the on air personalities or programming, is the ‘product’ that broadcasters sell.

NBC’s new anchor Brian Williams, said, “The New York-Washington axis can be a journalist's worst enemy…,” and indicated he will spend his nights in the field in "Dayton and Toledo and Cincinnati and Denver and the middle of Kansas." Regardless of motive, that is still a good thing. “Flyover” country has been ignored by the elitist urbanites for too long.

The death of Yassar Arafat apparently signaled that ‘Peace in the Mideast’ was now more possible. The hypocrisy of those defenders of the indefensible is epic. That the icon-like founder of the Palestinian movement for statehood is acknowledged (albeit silently) as having been the primary impediment to a Palestinian resolution is a classic oxymoron.

Likewise the departure of 2/3 of the network news anchors seems to begrudgingly imply that a substantive sea change is possible at the mainstream media big three. It is a change that previously the networks denied was necessary.

I have frequently observed that there is ample empirical evidence that the mainstream has been loath to admit: Most Americans do not subscribe to the gospel according to the left OR the right.

Notwithstanding all the itching and moaning about Red and Blue states or counties, the overwhelming majority of Americans still refuse to be pigeonholed into polar opposites.

America is not Red or Blue, Black or White…but a kaleidoscope of shadings.

Rich is correct when he notes, “TV remains by far the most prevalent source of news for Americans. We need honest information to help us navigate, not bunkum skewed to flatter one segment of the country, whatever that segment might be.” He seems diffident to acknowledge ‘honest information’ is not exclusive to the left wing elite in Manhattan and D.C.

In 1980, the three networks had some 75 percent of the people who were watching anything during the dinner hour watching one of the network shows. Three out of four viewers were watching ABC, CBS or NBC News in 1980. Today, it's down to just over 40 percent.

Prior to the release of his best selling book “Bias” I did a long interview with Bernie Goldberg and we discussed the ‘liberal bias’ of the networks. Bernie noted then, “What we call liberal bias is a cultural bias. The cultural bias is that these guys overwhelmingly live in Manhattan and Washington, D.C.” The media elite also socializes with most of the people they are covering and they don't think they have liberal views. They think they have middle-of-the-road views. They are WRONG! Which really points a fine point on the Metcalf bromide of “Some people just don’t want to be confused with facts that contradict their preconceived opinions or prejudices.” I asked Goldberg a staple question - I have asked this of Jack Germond, Bob Novak, Dave Barry, Reed Irvine, John Stossel, Matt Drudge, Bill O'Reilly, even Reed Hundt (Clinton's former FCC commissioner): The networks have more resources; they have more money, more equipment, more technology, yet they have been “hemorrhaging audience." When are they going to acknowledge that all they have to do is provide the audience what they want and what they are not getting in the mainstream now?

Everyone I have asked that question, including Goldberg, said, “No way! It ain’t gonna happen.”

Well, early indications seem to suggest it could be about to happen. I have been saying for years that if any one of the big three put up an on-air product that was equal or superior to Fox, they would crush Fox. Once upon a time NBC’s Williams appeared to be the classic network NYC/DC urbanite draped in Armani and backlighted as a set piece…before the 2004 epiphany.

He may not be a real ‘flyover country NASCAR dad’…but you damnbetcha he will play one on TV. And is not going to be the Lone Ranger.

Film at eleven…

© 2004 Geoff Metcalf - All Rights Reserved

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"Geoff Metcalf is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host for TALK AMERICA and a veteran media performer. He has had an eclectic professional background covering a wide spectrum of radio, television, magazine, and newspapers. A former Green Beret and retired Army officer he is in great demand as a speaker. Visit Geoff's Web Site: www.geoffmetcalf.com. While you're at it - pick up a copy of Geoff's latest book!  E-mail: geoff@geoffmetcalf.com


 

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I have frequently observed that there is ample empirical evidence that the mainstream has been loath to admit: Most Americans do not subscribe to the gospel according to the left OR the right.