Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Ghost of Tim Russert...spooking gray matter anew

Mi compradre-ette Professor Tracey at Aunt Jemima's Revenge (a whole lotta revenge out there with Nat's) was tripping over the elevation of neo-cremepuff correspondant/ Mary J Blige fan David Gregory to honcho "Meet the Press" over Gwen Ifill and Lord, many other veteran reporter who don't get suckered into yelling "whoopie" on "The Today Show." Check it out here. Part and parcel of Auntie's editorial was a subsequent post on Luke Russert, son of St. Tim. St. Tim--the man who helped destroy TV news in the last decade. No, it really wasn't Rupert Murdoch/Roger Ailes. It was Luke's daddy. David Gregory's current incarnation is just as much Tim Russert's progeny as Aunt Jemima's target Luke. Her thesis: Luke ranks up there with W as talentless, whiteboy affirmative action product.

That's Tim's baby boy on the left, training in TV investigative reporting at UVA--in a pool. Oh and above that's Luke lending is Buffalo Bills schtick to James Carville's expert sports show...um...James Carville's sports show? Yeah, no typo fanboys & girls. But this is the age of no boundaries. Of revenue streams. Of infotainment. Luke's part of a brand. Like Cherry or Diet Coke. Why mess this up with thinking? Brands obviate thinking. That's why sharp TV reporters like Hoda Kotb are playing second fiddle to Kathy Lee Gifford, or, as contraposition example, Linda Ellerbee opted for obscurity before bulima and tit jobs, or remaining silent to fools telling her she getting too old and fat (do they tell Lou Dobbs...or Russert?), or selling out to The View. Sorry Gwen Ifill. Being black was just the nail in the coffin, not the actual coffin. You think too much. Analyze. Explain. Give context. Iz you touched, sista? That ain't what makes the sponsors happy or drives the producers to spoon-feed pap and blazing headlines, or forces what passes for "anchors" these days to editorialize with inanities as if they're at Bingo night...

Thinking? That's what Luke's daddy found boring and passe when he, a hack in the corkscrew world of Albany smoke-filled rooms and political machines, took the chair once occupied by Lawrence Spivak, John Chancellor et al. Who the f- are they? Not important. That was back when TV journalism meant something. Nothing Twitter worthy...
And Tim gleefully turned the analytical style of these folk built into a circus of cliches, confrontation, posturing--all whilst he hob-nobbed as if an insider himself. Talkin' 'bout Luke's grandad constantly. Talkin' 'bout the Bills. Shilling for himself as celebrity, as brand, and in ethical gray regions--many of the politicos he "engaged" every Sunday morning. The ratings climbed. NBC's hagiography was a forgone conclusion. What's the cheapest means of increasing ratings? Well, rather than enlightening the dullards and bumpkins out there, Luke's daddy conspired to be one of them--dumbing things down for all of us. Luke and the NBC bigshots are scrimmaging with a winning game plan.

And we loved Tim, thus we love Luke, right? Especially when NBC/MSNBC, in the style of Citizen Kane, shoved him down our waiting throats during the 2008 campaign. Made him one of "us," like dad. Massaged and overexposed the brand. No matter. You see, NPR caught hell for criticizing Big Tim, as if they'd danced on his grave, and likewise (but for Aunt Jemima and her boy pal Nat and few others) the dismay over Luke's elevation has been sadly muted. Interestingly, while Tim was alive his presence seemed to unite rightwing harpies like Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter (of all people) with lefty media critics in Slate.com and The American Prospect. Note when Tim moderated the first Democratic Primary debates before his death, this was the one observation that made sense to me, amidst all the congratz on Tim's acumen: "It substitutes the personal anecdote for the policy position, the sound-bite for the substantive answer. It distills the debate into a series of allegedly symbolic, supposedly meaningful moments that can be replayed. "

Another: "Russert knows that the way to the top is to pretend that for all the Georgetown cocktail parties you attend, for all the money you make, for all your heart flutters when the powerful treat you with deference, in truth you may be in Washington but you're not of it. No, deep down you're just a regular guy from the wrong side of the tracks, standing up to the effete swells of the ruling class."

Indeed, Bill Moyers (a thinker) asked Luke's dad if he relied too much on the word of Bush administration officials during our fraudulent march to the Iraq War. Russert, who's not a journalist, recall, answered, "Look, I'm a blue-collar guy from Buffalo. I know who my sources are. I work 'em very hard. It's the mid-level people that tell you the truth." Huh? WTF?

Well, hopefully Luke's got some training, ethics, standards, you query? Wait. He just got out of school. OK, in the spirit of making the news "relatable" to younger folks (like texting, bite-sized) he's branded as the spirit of inexperienced yet energetic youth. I must say even the 20 and 18-somethings (white ones!) I spoke to thought he was a bit dry, dull, smarmy at times, though. But they were tickled he was "one of them." Yes, NBC learned from dad.

Listen, Luke's eulogy of his father was heartfelt, was heartwrenching. But why was it at the National Cathedral? Why was every self-aggrandizing tool from Bill Clinton to W there to pay homage. Folks, you are a sucky reporter if bigshots and politicians come to your funeral to wail. They should come to your funeral to spit on your casket. Otherwise you haven't done your job. But that presupposes your job is to inform, explain, uplift, rather than posture. That's Ed Murrow 101.

Has Luke ever learned about Edward R Murrow and his famous 1957 speech presaging the rise of folk like his dad? Nah. He's thinking revenue streams and new ways to sell to "Millenials" like himself. Hell I'm shocked he wasn't given Meet the Press, quieting the shrieks of his father's ghost when boring ol' Tom Brokaw took over Meet The Press temporarily. NBC has its standards of expertise, we hope. The trouble is, do we?

11 comments:

Lisa said...

Dee-yum! But you (and Prf Tracey) make some good points. We complain about the media but they just reflect our own stupidity and prejudice back to us, in my opinion.

carl said...

Watch it now! You're messing with one of the sacredest of all sacred media cows (and his calf, as I've heard you call him). Who are YOU to do so?! Just shut up and crack a cold one and stop thinking. (smile) We don't want you to ruin things or bring us down with your negativity! Next you'll be wanting to rejuvenate Walter Cronkite and bring Max Robinson back from the dead! You old people just don't get it! (smile)

On the real, I, too weep for Hoda, but she's getting paid, and I suppose that's the name of the game. Print journalists are being laid off and TV correspondants are stand up comics, ditzes or cheesecake. I concur that we are to blame so why do we not admit this?

Anonymous said...

Carville has a show on XM? Jesus.

rikyrah said...

MTP will now be on a week-to-week thing. If I find the topic interesting, I'll tape and suffer through the hideousness that is Gregory.

ch555x said...

Good points! I remember ol' Micheal Moore going on a rant several months back on CNN talking about similar issues concerning media and their dummy audience. You realize that I have not heard anything that critical of the media since then.

In other news, ceo's from the big 3 will be "driving" hybrids back to DC with a panhandling remix of their last hit for bailout money...rofl!!!

Snowman said...

I will rise in defense of Tim Russert and his son for that matter. I do remember Lawrence Spivak and admired him, but he did not distill the news for regular citizens, which Tim provided. Moreover, he acted as a true moderator and a common man's voice, rather than a policy analyst. We have plenty of those already, all with agendas. While I didn't like Tim's being a true pundit and taking on "celebrity status" I understood why NBC creates these people so I indeed agree with the "brand" thing. Nevertheless, I feel Tim was a journalist in the vein of Mark Twain.

Anonymous said...

SoCal 82Tiger Says:

Professor - His a reprise after reading you and AJR rants:

Before you rant too much and lose sleep about young Luke's good fortune & dumb luck to be the son of a journalistic legend... Remember most often the sons & daughters of legends fail to achieve the expected success from where which they came!

Your rant however does motivate me to pose several questions to which you might opine:

1) What are your feelings about the “beautification” of media? Would or could Morrow, Cronkite, and Amanpour… or hell even Walters, Winfrey, or King make it in the emerging future media where physical beauty (regardless of color or gender) seems to trump journalistic skill as a prerequisite towards ensuring a career? Take your pick - One look at the stables of empty headed “beautiful people seen on CBS/NBC/CNN/ & FOX and it’s more than apparent that video not only killed the radio star its killing TV journalists too!!

2) Any thoughts about the “jock-ocracy’ that’s rampant throughout sports journalism? Tune into any sports journalism show and it’s overwhelmed with ex-jocks (or beautiful empty heads) with little or no English language skill not to mention journalism skills – Is that a concern? Interestingly it appears that color is not a barrier for advancement into a sports journalism carrier – The airwaves are replete with scores of all colors of ex-jocks. Since the days long ago of Cosell “calling it the way he saw it”, we are now treated to an endless parade of barely educated ex-jocks stumbling across our radio and TV channels.

As usual you’re thoughts are deliciously provocative thanks for the heads up on AJR...

Linda Ellerbee said...

Obscurity? Not quite. While it's true I did boogie from the broadcast networks, I didn't go far. For the last eighteen years I have produced and hosted "Nick News," a documentary series for kids that airs on Nickelodeon and has won six Emmys (so far), and where how I look doesn't matter. To a kid, anyone over 20 is OLD. So I get to keep o being a journalist without having to try to look like a starlet. Works for me.

Linda Ellerbee

Anonymous said...

SoCal 82Tiger Says:

Re: Linda E

Awesome to hear you're one of the few folks in media who are actually working to bring real education to young people! There’s no shame in NOT selling out and pumping out more empty- headed garbage on people just to make the all mighty dollar!!!

FWIW - Previous posts by Nat reveal that he's a great fan of the old school media education of our youth (i.e. "School House Rock").

Anacaona said...

On Tim R wow, what a take. Good points. I agree his son Luke leaves me flat. Another Cancun Boy mentored through the (choose your side poison) you betcha ranks.

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