Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sunday Shows

There is a controversy over the last couple days because Tom Shales, in the Washington Post, made a shockingly foolish attack on the decision by ABC to hire Chistiane Amanpour to host their Sunday news show. 

My only contribution to this is to point out, again, that the Sunday shows have long since outlived most of their usefulness.  It may be that within the world of broadcast journalism these host jobs are a very big deal in status and (I suppose) money.  For consumers of the news, well, pretty much nobody cares.  Once upon a time, the Sunday shows offered a rare opportunity for relatively long-form interviews with key administration, Congressional, and other political figures.  However, we're about to hit the 30th anniversary of the first CNN broadcast, and Fox News and MSNBC are each over a decade old.  Together, they have hour after hour after hour of interviews with important people, and Wolf Blitzer or even Olbermann or Hannity are just as likely to produce news that gets people talking as are the Sunday shows.  For that matter, I suspect that Jon Stewart has conducted more attention-generating interviews in the last year than all three Sunday shows combined.  That's not because the current hosts of the Sunday shows are bad at what they do; it's because there's just nothing special about them any more for most news consumers. 

The big deal about the Sunday shows, their real remaining actual function, is that for years the shows have been used to float trial balloons.  Any trained monkey could handle that, which makes me think that Amanpour is a poor choice -- not because she couldn't handle it (please!) but because her considerable talents as a real reporter will be largely wasted there.  Beyond that, I have to say that no one should care who hosts the Sunday shows, and that any attempt at "improving" them is a total waste of time. 

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