The condescending interactivity of network news

When the networks try to interact with us, the result is too often condescending: They tell us to give them our news images (rather than just linking to us). They put on a ‘Free Speech’ segment but quickly tire of it. Or they read insipid letters from us and act is if they have heard the voice of the people — they haven’t. And they don’t even give us the respect to enter into a dialog. In my latest video experiment, I show you excerpts from the letters Brian Williams read last week on the NBC Nightly News and add my two cents:

  • Mumblix Grumph

    Jeff…great piece, but you still need to work on your audio.

    More volume, less echo.

    Brian Williams’ audio was easy to understand while yours was too quiet and mushy.

    By the way. It is nearly impossible to grab a good looking frame of video to use for a still picture. Maybe try posing like you would for a photograph and use that.

    Notice how I toss out criticism while never having produced anything longer than a 5 sentence blog comment post and having a chance in hell of the commentator ever seeing it.

    You can’t do that with Dinosaur media!

  • Ms. B

    Agreed; no hugging. But how to show appreciation for this clever riposte? In the hallowed journo tradition, shall sip away this gray Sunday to honor Prof. Jarvis pulling a Culkin.

    BTW, much better lighting this go-around. We’ll make a glamour-puss of you yet.

  • Jeff:
    I think you misunderstand the purpose of network news. It’s purpose is to show that ‘all’s right with the world’ (in general) and that the US is the greatest place on earth. The bad things that happen are just minor glitches and shouldn’t inspire people to desire change.

    This is what made the Katrina reports of Williams and Carlson so jarring. For once defenders of the status quo saw for themselves that the national myths were not true. Does anyone really expect that a program on a channel owned by a major corporation would deal honestly with the fundamental distortions in our present plutocratic system? Enron and Abu Ghraib were examples of bad pennies, not of systemic corporate or military problems. The purpose of corporate media is to make money, yes, but more important it is to support the stories that keep people from thinking about changing the status quo.

    A dialog is the last thing these people want. And opening the airwaves or the “blog waves” to the public without an editorial filter unimaginable. Notice that neither the BBC nor the Guardian are part of conventional corporate institutions. One is funded by a tax and the other by a foundation.

    So far we have seen very few corporate funded blogs, but that may change if they become profitable. Even dailyKos censors certain topics (like 9/11 conspiracy nuts). As the man said many years ago – you get to say what you want when you own the printing press.

  • Mitch


    Looking great. You’re almost there with the audio. Go get some foam and put it on the walls or on pieces of cardboard you can place around the room. You deaden that echo and your pieces are gonna look “network” like.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Great stuff, Jeff. Your sarcasm comes through even better than when you write. :)

  • This Williams fellow looks familiar from somewhere, didn’t he have a daytime game show once?

  • Great stuff, Jeff!

    Thanks very much for using, by the way. I hope you enjoyed the experience. Please drop me a line at [email protected] if there’s anything at all we can do to make using a better experience for you.



  • I just want to hear you spit the word “fools” at them.
    Other than that, pretty excellent. I’d love for you to do some commentary like this on British TV.

  • I think there’s a TV show in this. DId you ever see ‘Tarant on TV’ on the BBC?

  • Nice bookcases – are they singles or doubles?

  • williamP


    Get a lapel mic — please!

    Bad audio does not have to be part of this revolution.

  • william:
    what kind? what specs? i’ll ask for a bunch more advice on all this in a post tomorrow.

  • williamP

    Great to hear you’re going to fix this. Unfortunately, I have no specific mic tip for you, as I’m not doing this myself right now. No doubt your upcoming post will yield abundant good advice.

    I’d suggest taking advantage of your media acquaintances to get a little help augmenting your home media setup. Maybe pick up a cheap umbrella/bounce light gizmo at B&H.

    A modest boost in production value should be a real “force multiplier” in citizens’ media. It’s not rocket science — and not expensive — to look and sound pretty much like the big guys. And one more differentiator goes away…

    For the moment, the main thing is you don’t want to sound worse than lonelygirl15 ;-)

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  • David Coltrane Jr

    Great piece. Video looks good, I won’t echo the sound comments.

    I have little hope for corporate news shows, however. They won’t change until viewers either demand real news (something besides “Its the day after Thanksgiving and the stores are crowded!” Sadly, most TV junkies have forgotten how to think for themselves; to question what they are being fed.

    Corporate America is working hard, in sophisticated ways, to maintain that status quo.