Your Cable News, America: Chuck Todd & CNN Producer Square Off on Twitter Over Flight 370 Coverage

Chuck Todd is a bit of a joke. We know this. He’s the guy who once said that it isn’t his job to call out partisan lies and set the record straight for the audience. He’s the guy who just a year before that literally broke down on the air over the public being misled by lies and half-truths, despite his unwillingness to correct those lies for the public. He’s the guy who contributed to the bullshit by saying that asking legitimate questions about Mitt Romney’s super-secret tax history amounted to the Obama administration “swift boating” Romney. So, yeah, joke.

With this in mind, the fact that Todd jumped on the schadenfreude bandwagon now occupied by every TV news person not currently working at CNN shouldn’t surprise anybody. Over the past couple of days, Todd has fired off a series of tweets from his seat atop Mount Olympus, where he converses with the ghost of Eric Sevareid, aimed squarely at CNN and its relentless, astonishingly silly coverage of the search for Flight 370.

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Todd’s main point of contention seems to be CNN’s abuse of the already abused-to-death phrase “Breaking News,” his point being that what CNN is doing stopped being breaking days ago and by continuing to throw the term out there it’s simply devaluing it for the audience and the rest of the media. I mentioned a couple of days ago what’s behind CNN’s liberal use of “breaking” and “developing” in its coverage of this story — namely that the network believes that the absence of real information is precisely what allows it to get away with treating the story as if it’s constantly developing. As far as the network is concerned, being able to ask a bunch of questions that don’t have answers is what propels the story forward. If there was a conclusion to report, the whole thing would basically be over. No more mystery and drama to hype.

But it’s noteworthy that CNN hasn’t taken the unrelenting criticism that’s been heaped on it lying down. Both officially and anonymously, the network has defended this ridiculous shit-show, culminating in a Twitter response to Todd’s comments from Vaughn Sterling, who’s a senior producer on The Situation Room. Sterling seems to think that because other networks are covering Flight 370 and occasionally labeling developments in the story “breaking,” it’s hypocritical for people from those networks — like Chuck Todd — to take shots at CNN.

And so we get this juvenile “Ooh, snap.”

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the adults running the national cable news outlets you rely on for the important information of the day. They’re squaring off on fucking Twitter over who can be dumber.

Look, here’s the thing: Todd’s a boob, but he’s right. What CNN is doing is technically lousy for the business as a whole. The ceaseless, almost prurient, entertain-every-crackpot-theory-out-there, we-ran-out-of-real-news-days-ago approach to this story is exactly the kind of clever quick-fix parlor trick Jeff Zucker excels at — remember, this is the guy who brought you “super-sized” episodes of Friends to cut into Survivor‘s quarter-hour numbers and who brilliantly installed Leno at 10PM weeknights to both prevent his exit from NBC and cut costs in prime-time — and as usual it’s working, short-term. Numbers are up for CNN. But that’s almost certainly not going to last, not unless CNN plans on continuing this formula — as if the entire network were Nancy Grace — and picking one story it can tawdrily dedicate itself to at the expense of everything else, over and over again. What CNN will then become is a network willing to turn anything into a missing airliner or poop-cruise as long as it brings in a few eyeballs. Right now it almost feels like there might be a method to the madness in making the once-vaunted network into a carnival sideshow people will tune in for just to see how insane it all gets.

Regardless, we’re well past the zero barrier for CNN and cable news in general in all of this. This kind of stupidity is almost certainly the future, and it’s one CNN’s people don’t seem to be embarrassed by. In fact, they’re apparently very proud to be a part of it.

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Although I will say that yesterday when I wrote about this I almost wanted to make mention of the fact that it sure would be nice if CNN had an in-house aviation expert who could speak authoritatively on the subject it’s now running into the ground. Someone like, oh, I don’t know, Miles O’Brien, whom the network unceremoniously let go in late 2008. Well, lo and behold, look who’s back.

(via Mediaite)

  • Peter James

    Although he was making a good point, I’m sorry but Chuck Todd of all people in journalism is not the person to make this point.

    Mr. Chuck “It’s not our job as journalists to corrects errors and misconceptions of the Healthcare Law” Todd is the very last person who should be critiquing anything that actual journalists (you know, with actually journalism degrees) actually do.

  • Richard_thunderbay

    Breaking: nothing new to report.

  • dbtheonly

    If Todd doesn’t like CNN’s “Breaking News”; what are his thoughts on Fox’s “Fair and Balanced”?

    BTW, I will defend the proposition that not finding something can be breaking news.

    • feloniousgrammar

      Especially when it’s phenomenal that it’s so totally lost with over 200 people onboard and 21 or so nations are looking for it.

  • missliberties

    The media is failing us. Again!

  • CL Nicholson

    What CNN will then become is a network willing to turn anything into a missing airliner or poop-cruise as long as it brings in a few eyeballs. Right now it almost feels like there might be a method to the madness in making the once-vaunted network into a carnival sideshow people will tune in for just to see how insane it all gets.

    And people wonder why, despite the virtual weekly tongue bath to Glenn Greenwald, I still listen to “Democracy Now!” every morning. it shouldn’t be a shock why more people under 45 get their news from “The Daily Show” or sites like the Banter.

    There are real problems going on in the world, real issues that required an informed public. CNN should be the venerable standard bearer for television journalism – Americans should be able to turn on the network and walk away knowing what’s happening around the planet. The fact that CNN is wiling to chase those ‘TMZ’ dollars at the sake if their brand is sad. News flash, Jeff Zucker, even Bill O’Reilly eventually left ‘Inside Edition’.

  • Kennet

    “Ok, I mark it as Urgent A, Urgent B, Urgent C, Urgent D. Urgent A is the most important. Urgent D you don’t even really have to worry about.” — Michael Scott

  • RilesSD

    Having a point or not, I REALLY wish Chuck Todd would go away. He does more harm than good.

    • Victor_the_Crab

      Agreed!

  • feloniousgrammar

    MSNBC may be devoting too much time to this, but part of the cable audience is made up of people who don’t work 9 to 5. Those repetitions don’t necessarily mean that they’re just harping.

    Someone who wants to learn how not to jump to conclusions and wants to hear a lot of actual experts talk about the nuts and bolts of investigations and the dangers of jumping to conclusions would be well served by watching MSNBC coverage.

    Also, having narrowed the search engine to the size of Italy is significant. Not only does that rule out land, but it rules out a hell of a lot of water.

    • OC_DC

      CNN runs 24/7 in a lot of office buildings. Lobby TVs, international
      companies, what have you. You need a 24/7 news feed and Fox/MSNBC are
      way to political and often full of crazy. So CNN it is. CNN also
      avoids causing any political spats between your workers, which is
      largely for their benefit as going political at work is a sure way to
      get your ass fired when the inevitable fiasco starts. The government
      does this as well, it’s all CNN. The joke of CNiNtel is really common.

      That’s
      where this idiocy hurts. Over the past week we’ve had supernatural,
      black holes eating the universe, and psychics on the “not crazy or
      political” channel.

      • feloniousgrammar

        Having spent a lot of times in hospitals as a caregiver, and a vet who takes the shuttle and so spends many hours waiting before and after appointments at the main hospital, I’ve very seriously wanted to destroy those televisions with FOX or CNN running all day. Or TVs on in waiting rooms when no one is in there. They do have off buttons. Last few times I went to the main V.A. hospitals, CNN was on. For years before that, they were always on FOX.

        • OC_DC

          In the military it was always CNN. In various K Street firms and NGOs it’s always CNN/CSPAN/CNBC, the responsible, main stream, non offensive trifecta. With maybe BBC thrown in for an international perspective.

          The only places that bother with Fox/MSNBC were firms/NGOs that made no bones about working with one party and that party exclusively. They didn’t take what was on there seriously, but it’s a way of building your brand as an exclusively partisan firm to get the $$$ going. It’s easy to guess what will be on the TV simply by knowing where an entity gets it’s money and where it spends it. I know we sometimes cheat the channels depending on who from The Hill is stopping by that day.

          I can see how Fox works for the VA. At the local VFW hall Fox is really popular. But I think that has to do with the age more than anything else. Fox reigns with the old codgers, not so much my generation.