Now This Log

Saturday, 15 September 2001 : "Kurtz on TV; me on TV"

Howard Kurtz: Television's Endless Disaster:
Will the networks please -- please -- stop showing the planes crashing into the World Trade Center as scene-setters for their opening credits? As "bumpers" before commercial breaks? As video wallpaper while talking heads are being interviewed? As a split-screen diversion while Ari Fleischer is briefing reporters?

The sheer repetition trivializes and dehumanizes the tragedy as we watch the fireball again and again, the towers collapsing again and again, the people dying again and again. It's as if the networks kept showing JFK getting shot in 1963 every five minutes. The story is compelling. People are watching. The network bosses don't have to use cheap tricks to convince us that something momentous has happened. We know. We've seen it. We get it.
Television, after having been the best way to get the initial breaking news, has (in the absence of frequent developments) lapsed into its bad habits of cheap montage-making and victim-torturing, with piano and string backgrounds accompanying repeated plane impacts (how many times have those people died now?) and everyone being asked "how does your friend/loved-one being missing make you feel? Do you still have hope? What will it take for you to stop having hope? Can we film you losing your hope?"

It doesn't mean we're able to stop watching, of course. We just change channels more frequently.

CNN's also resumed its habit of cutting away from people giving informative press conferences for no good reason, causing frantic channel-changing until we find the end of the event on another channel (usually MSNBC). Grr.

Among the broadcast networks, ABC has been doing a pretty good job. CBS (or the local affiliate, anyway) is generally not very useful or timely. We don't try the local NBC.

Generally we switch between CNN, MSNBC and ABC with occasional visits to Fox News until we get too much of the BOMB BOMB BOMB NOW NOW NOW and have to change the channel.

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