Author Archives: David Zurawik
April 23rd, 2013
If you want a glimpse what makes MSNBC’s Morning Joe so much better than anything else on morning TV, check out this video of a discussion Monday morning about President Obama‘s failure to marshall support for even the most tepid gun reform.
First of all, hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough were not only absolutely transparent about the way in which they were feeding off of Maureen Dowd’s superb Sunday column in the New York Times, they showcased her words. When was the last time you saw TV pay proper respect to the print content that sustains it?
But what makes the segment so riveting is the passion Scarborough brings to his explanation of how Obama should have handled recalcitrant Democratic senators. The former Republican congressman is hot under the collar and he is not afraid to show it. That’s refreshing in the fake-nice-smiley-face world of morning TV talk.
April 20th, 2013
After spending 15 hours Friday locked on coverage of the manhunt in Boston, here are my picks for the highs, lows and deeper media stories of this remarkable day and night.
The best moment belonged to Diane Sawyer and ABC News for a phone interview Friday night with George Pizzuto, a next-door neighbor to the man who discovered a wounded and bloody Dzhokhar Tsarnaev lying under a tarp in a boat in his backyard and called police.
The interview started at 8:02 p.m., and was the first clear explanation of how the police found the 19-year-old bombing suspect in Watertown Friday night. It is an incredible story of the boat owner going out in his backyard after seeing a TV press conference that gave residents the green light to leave their homes.
April 1st, 2013
Ben Carson got a tough lesson in the past week on how quickly the angry and divisive world of cable TV can chew you up.
The 61-year-old Baltimore County physician has been in the media spotlight as a darling of the right since early February, when he addressed the National Prayer Breakfast with what some interpreted as a lecture to President Barack Obama. But last week, Carson’s TV image and the discussion about him shifted dramatically — for the worse.
He became engaged in a TV discussion on race that included back-and-forth name calling — and he offered a critique on same-sex marriage that included such extreme rhetoric that he now has Johns Hopkins colleagues calling him out and medical students petitioning to have him removed as a graduation speaker in May. Most of it played out before millions on highly partisan Fox News, where he has recently been treated like a member of the home team.
March 13th, 2013
The first question Dick Cheney is asked in The World According to Dick Cheney is: What’s your favorite virtue?
“Integrity,” he answers.
What do you value most in your friends?” he’s asked in follow-up.
“Honesty,” he says through those crooked, snarly, cartoon-character lips.
Documentary filmmaker R. J. Cutler then spends most of the next 89 minutes in this documentary that premieres Friday night on Showtime chronicling what a deadly and destructive liar the former vice president of the United States has been throughout his career.
March 4th, 2013
March 2nd, 2013
Remember when Chelsea Clinton and NBC News launched this misadventure featuring her as a “special correspondent” on Rock Center with a fanfare of hype and outright lies about what she and the journalistically-challenged NBC News were up to?
Steve Capus, the recently deposed president of NBC News, said “it was as if she had been preparing her whole life” for the job.
Clinton herself told Rock Center host Brian Williams as part of her first appearance that she took the TV job to lead a more “purposefully public life” highlighting people who are “making a difference.” She said her first report on a woman in Arkansas who helped underprivileged children with after-school tutoring and meals allegedly at her own great expense was the template. She promised more stories on struggling non-profits and charitable efforts she deemed worthy.
So, Friday night, again came Chelsea on Rock Center, one of the sorriest and most compromised newsmagazines in the history of network television — and that’s covering a lot of territory. Only now after only 14 months, she isn’t profiling some hard-working, struggling, philanthropic enterprise in an inner city, she’s interviewing the multi-millionaire author, Judy Blume, in Key West.
February 25th, 2013
MSNBC has long been as bad as Fox News when it comes to ideological bias. But with the hiring of longtime Team Obama loyalists David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, it’s official: MSNBC is worse.
The cable channel that flies under the banner of NBC News is now all but a bona fide organ of state propaganda, an information channel that speaks in the same dominant voice as the folks running the government — and tries to mask what it is up to.
I didn’t plan on getting all free-press-and-democracy amped up about the hirings until I saw Axelrod with Andrea Mitchell last week in his first appearance on MSNBC. It was Echo Chamber Politics 101 with Axelrod characterizing some Republicans in Congress as irrationally wanting the draconian cuts of the sequester –as “dangerous” as that thinking is.
February 24th, 2013
On CNN’s Reliable Sources, Daily Download contributor and Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik assesses the MSNBC hires–and Fox tapping Herman Cain–with Howard Kurtz.
February 17th, 2013
Much of Friday’s political-media online chatter was focused on Fox News hiring failed presidential candidate and former pizza executive Herman Cain as a political analyst.
But the big story that seemed to mostly sail under the radar was the channel’s hour-long, full-right-wing, all-out, let’s-give-a-big-big-hug coronation later in the evening of Benjamin Carson, the famous neurosurgeon at Baltimore’s Johns Hospital, who made headlines for what he had to say Feb. 7 at the National Prayer Breakfast.
I cannot remember seeing anything quite like it, even on Fox.
What happened for 60 minutes on Hannity Friday night went beyond even the nights when the portly show host would genuflect before vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, nodding so wildly in agreement with her crackpot pronunciations that you feared he would need neck surgery by the next commercial break. (May she rest in peace, amen.)
February 9th, 2013
Catalina Byrd’s early-morning tweets last Saturday tell a tale of TV change.
“I said I was going to bed hours ago,” one tweet written shortly after midnight began. “But then ‘House of Cards’ got me all caught up.”
A little over an hour later, she wrote again, “After episode 3 goes off, I have to call it a night … but tomorrow I’m right back on it …”
Later yet: “I made it to episode 5 …”
Byrd, a Baltimore journalist, is one of many who spent last weekend on the cutting edge of a new way to watch TV — or, more specifically, a new way to watch TV shows that were never on television — in the topsy-turvy world of massive media transformation these days.
House of Cards, a $100 million production that premiered Feb. 1 on Netflix, made a Super Bowl weekend even crazier than usual for serious fans of pop culture. Instead of premiering on a cable channel like HBO or AMC and being portioned out one episode a week, the 13-episode first season of the Baltimore-made political drama was made available for instant streaming in one fell swoop.
And subscribers, some of them engaging in a new kind of competitive viewing complete with humble Twitter boasts, found just how much of a good thing they could handle — or not.