American news media used to be intellectual and responsibPop Up!le.

Today news is entertainment where a former cheerleader and chirpy morning show host now reads the news from a teleprompter on the CBS Evening News.

The  most pernicious decline in the American news media newsroom, however, is that of MSNBC — the misbegotten stepchild news effort between Microsoft’s MSN web portal (MSN) and NBC (“N”BC) — and the first mistake on the long tumble downward into the chum was to charge Dan Abrams with saving the network:

MSNBC, the also-ran in cable news after 11 years, has tapped its on-air legal-affairs anchor, Dan Abrams, to run the network that averages just 242,000 viewers a day — less than many big-city newscasts. The move was a surprise: Abrams has little management experience, and TV news anchors rarely join executive ranks.

There’s a reason why TV news anchors “rarely join executive ranks” as you will soon discover in the rank news presentation of MSNBC. Let me go on the record to say I love Don Imus on MSNBC in the morning and Keith Olbermann on MSNBC at night. I mourn the loss of the Olbermann show rerun at 9:00am each morning and it stopped rerunning right after Dan Abrams took over the blue pencil of news management.

I completely despise Tucker Carlson for his interruptive, smarmy, pseudo-intellectual style. I cannot bear Rita Cosby’s voice. Joe Scarborough is simply lost in the ether of his own despair. On October 6, 2006 I was forced, for the first time in my life, to write a letter to a television network. I sped my missive off to MSNBC Viewer Services to make the following request:

I am a big MSNBC fan. I am not, however, a fan of your new habit of allowing the control room to interrupt your news anchors with “Breaking News!” and every time I hear those simpering, ill-spoken interruptions I change the channel. I realize you are trying to be neat and different and cutting-edge but the attempt is a failure. You spend big money on paying anchors who know how to communicate — why do you let technical people on the air to ruin the facade of your news authority?

Directors are in the background and not on camera for a reason: They are not entertaining or interesting and they do not have good speech or vocal abilities. Please remove the control room interruptions from all future broadcasts and let the real pros handle breaking news. Thank you.

My letter has gone unanswered and I still change the channel every time the control room interrupts the news mistress. The Pop Up! most pernicious indicator of MSNBC’s decline is the brand new — and utterly completely awful and childish — “Pop Up News” alerts that actually “Pop” up big and blue from the lower left side of your screen to take up a quarter of your viewing area to inform you about some stupid and sanctimonious fact you have no interest in reading. MSNBC obviously thinks your eyes need entertaining and they’re going to pop things and zing things and make sounds, too, while you coo in your couch potato bassinet.

The “Pop Up News” cuteness is the final straw in my moving back to CNN. I didn’t like “Pop Up Videos” on VH1 or “Pop Up Movie Facts” after my Pay-Per-View movies and I certainly have no desire to watch my cable news life be reduced to silly “Pop”ping up in order to grab attention and cultivate continued dismay at the decline of human culture. Dan Abrams should be ashamed of himself. Perhaps there is hope for news junkies as NBC Universal — an overlord MSNBC — plans to make $750 million in cuts:

NEW YORK (AP) – NBC Universal plans to cut US$750 million in operating expenses by the end of 2007 by eliminating employees, cutting back on scripted shows, and slashing its news budget, according to a report Thursday in the Wall Street Journal. The moves come as more and more viewers and advertisers gravitate toward new media, NBC Universal chairman Bob Wright told the newspaper. He said the moves would restore the company to double-digit growth next year. … NBC’s cost-saving plan involves laying off people from the company’s 11 news divisions, including on-air talent.

Let’s hope Dan Abrams is the first to go quickly followed by “Pop Up” news bites and needless control room interruptions!

15 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    I didn’t know that reporters had groupies, but it makes sense since everyone else does.
    Here’s a page dedicated to screen caps of MSNBC’s Alison Stewart.
    I admit that I like watching news shows that feature former cheerleaders and other attractive people. 🙂
    Of course, when “BREAKING NEWS!!!!” happens, I always like flipping to Direct TV’s 102 news mix channel so I can monitor all of the cable news shows’ broadcasts at the same time.

  2. Hi Chris —
    Alison is cute but I don’t find her particularly newsworthy as an anchor. Her 3pm show seems very silly to me at times.
    Alison started on MTV, right? She certainly brings that mentality to MSNBC.
    How does the news mix channel work on Direct TV?

  3. Hi David,
    The interesting thing about MSNBC is that I usually never watch it. I’ve only watched Alison Stewart a couple of times when I’ve been home during the day. I’m on central time, so that show is airing during solid work hours when I’m usually back in the office after lunch.
    The XM channel for MSNBC was never that interesting to me because it didn’t air Imus in the morning. Listening to television on the radio isn’t as good as tuning to the AM all-news channel or even the talk radio stations for getting news. Television is visually oriented so you miss at least half of the information when listening to it. The AM radio folks always do a good job of explaining situations and painting mental pictures during times of “breaking news.”
    The NewsMix channels are pretty cool. If I’m at home during lunch, I’ll flip the TV onto the mix channel and listen to the radio. If breaking news is announced on the radio — the station I listen to promises to break in when news breaks — I like to see which cable channel gets the story first. You can select which channel’s sound will be heard.
    There are also SportsMix and KidsMix channels for the ADD television viewer. It’s the ultimate way to watch TV, but it also drives my wife insane because she can’t understand why I don’t just pick a channel and stay there.
    I have DirecTV as well as ABS-CBN (The Filipino Channel).
    We have a small dish and a larger version hidden out of view on the back of the house for the Philippines programming.
    Before TFC went with DirecTV, it was on a separate system and therefore we needed to second dish. When the channels became available on DirecTV, we just had the installer upgrade our receivers and add a splitter to combine the signals received from the “dish farm.”
    We could have upgraded and gotten a new dish, but since the old dishes were installed properly and the roof hasn’t leaked — knock on wood — we figured it was better to not tempt fate by drilling new holes up there. 🙂
    Plus, the larger dish (I think it’s a 90 centimeter version) will always outperform a smaller dish.
    Writes Sadoun.com about the 90 CM dishes:

    Allows perfect reception of analog, digital and high-definition programs on KU band satellites. Can be used to replace your Dish network or DirecTV single LNBF dishes. It will reduce or eliminate your rain fade signal problem.