Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Sunday Shows Are Not Broken

Via Sunday-guest obsessive Steve Benen, I see that Jay Rosen thinks that the Sunday shows are "broken," and suggests that a little after-the-broadcast fact checking might help.

I have nothing against fact checking, but it has nothing to do with the success or failure of the Sunday shows.  The main thing to know about the Sunday shows is that no one out in the country watches them.  That's why they're on Sunday mornings!  Normal Americans are busy sleeping in, or eating brunch, or going to church, or starting on weekend errands -- they aren't watching interviews with leading politicians and pundits. 

The Sunday shows have one positive function, which is to facilitate communication between elites.  Specifically, the Sunday shows have traditionally been a good place to float a trial balloon.  The mechanics of trial balloons are inherently a little tricky (how do we know that it's a real trial balloon?), so it helps to have an established protocol.  For fifty years or so, that's what the Sunday shows are for.  As far as I can tell, they're still available for that purpose.

The rest is mostly self-aggrandizement (mostly the journalists, often the guests), and filler.  I do know that parties have at least sometimes used the shows as trial runs for new talent (to see if they can competently deliver the party's talking points to top network types at a safe time when no one is watching).   It's a nice thing that, in a democracy, the rest of the nation can tune in if we're interested, but no one is trying to convert the public on those shows, because the public isn't watching. 

No one should care about the guests on the Sunday shows.  No one should care about how the shows are run.  No one should care about the Sunday shows, period.  They just aren't very important.

1 comment:

  1. This is true, and yet... in absolute terms, the number of millions of people who watch the Sunday shows (combined) is often larger than the number of people who see the top movie of the weekend that day. Not for a huge blockbuster weekend, but many Sundays, more people are staying at home watching political talk during the day than are going out to see the top movie at night. And the top movie is considered very big news.

    The bigger point is correct—the problem is more that the top movie is also not really news, more than that the Sunday shows are.



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