Monday, May 03, 2010

The Daily Babble: Oil, Water and Media

I was just watching Rachel Maddow reporting from the Gulf, in between peeks at the Boston-Cleveland playoff and going outside to work on my version of the NBA chi-chi shot of the year, the floater, dreaming of the day I get Medicare and can play maybe a pickup game without worrying about getting an injury I can't pay to have treated.

Apart from a pretty useless interview on a fishing boat--probably looked like a good idea when the producers thought of it--it was a reasonably decent look at the situation, with a very strong and articulate commentary from Rachel at the end. But basically she gets big points for being there and focusing on the oil gush story.

There was a failed car bombing attempt--or probably an attempt--in Times Square over the weekend, which was hard to miss if you passed through CNN. With MSNBC running its prisoner weekend shows and the networks doing sports and entertainment, and Fox News doing Fox News, this was not necessarily the most trusted name in news but the only news. And it was totally concentrated on Times Square for hours at a time. Twenty-four people died by official count from storm-related flooding in Tennessee and environs, but CNN's coverage reminded me of the way the networks used to cover a disaster in, say, India--with the same little bit of sensational footage. Because they didn't have correspondents and cameras in that part of India. And this is part and parcel of cable news becoming tabloid TV, either the entire channel that used to be Headline News now covering tawdry celebrity stories and child kidnappings 24/7, or the political tabloid coverage of the other cables.

It's not just that New York City is a big deal, or even that the cable networks are headquartered there. It's that it was the cheapest thing to cover, even though there was no news whatever for most of that time. The correspondents who live there were available, and news divisions spend far less than ever on covering the country let alone the world.

Today was better--the major networks and even CNN are in the Gulf and have at least fresh footage from Nashville, etc. But this is partly why we get such lax and often distorted coverage of real news events with real consequences. I've started reading the Katrina chapters of Rebecca Solnit's book, A Paradise Built in Hell, and so much of the coverage was just plain wrong, and has never been corrected. But more on that another time.

As for the Gulf now, winds and currents apparently are holding back the oil from shore but the amount of oil is growing larger. The inundation is only a matter of time, and also a matter of local efforts to keep it out. It sounds like a Dunkirk-like effort is underway, massing local boats and improvised resources, to hold back the oil. We can only hope it's successful.

Two more TV notes to end this babble is running an ad linking oil dependence to Iran's making money to fund its development of explosives used against U.S. troops, using this to urge the switch to a clean domestic energy economy--it's one of the best ads of its kind I've seen it a long time. Worth paying to see it more. And I heard Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation, on Rachel, and there were a couple of words he pronounced ...well, I knew he was from Pittsburgh. And sure enough... (The tip0ff was Prince William Sound, which in Pittsburghese comes out Prince William Sawnd. Interesting that this was nearly the only clear instance of the Pittsburgh dialect though.)

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