Let’s Talk Talking Heads

Murrow1 I am inspired by listening to Thaddeus (Christopher) Matthews (a member of the Philadelphia "troika" of Smerconish, Shields and Matthews) to invite a general discussion of the personalities and views of the talking heads seen on our present media.  pl

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23 Responses to Let’s Talk Talking Heads

  1. Mark Logan says:

    Col, if I have the spirit of this thread wrong, please do not post.
    If I had a chance to say anything to them…
    Chris: Sir, you are unforgiveably rude. Why? Do you think no one will watch
    your show if you are not?
    Anderson: You have mastered the look of puzzlement. Is it an act?
    Nevertheless, thanks for keeping your token intellectual Gergen around.
    Keith: You have some very insightful comments. Now, if you could please get over yourself…
    Racheal: Will you please wipe that phoney
    smile off your face. The material is not that funny and you know it.
    I do not wish to venture into FOX-land. Can’t do it justice. That’s Colbert territory….
    Truth from the gut:

  2. Homer says:

    It would be great to know who exactly belonged to the White House Press Corps during the eight years of the Bush administration.
    David Gregory, aka Stretch thanks to GW Bush, stands out prominently.
    1) David Gregory shows why he’s the perfect replacement for Tim Russert
    Perish the thought that a reporter should point out when government officials are making “bogus” claims and are lying a country into a war. That is “not their role,” says the New Tim Russert (and, unsurprisingly, the Old Tim Russert wholeheartedly agreed).
    2) How will the David Gregory theory of journalism apply to the Obama administration?
    Here is but one of the shining monuments to the press corps’ tough, probing job of which David Gregory is so proud — from a Washington Post/Gallup poll in September, 2003, 6 months after the U.S. invaded Iraq:
    Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, says a poll out almost two years after the terrorists’ strike against this country.
    Sixty-nine percent in a Washington Post poll published Saturday said they believe it is likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe it’s likely Saddam was involved.
    Any journalist with the most minimal amount of professional pride or integrity would be deeply ashamed of that, not self-satisfied and even boastful like David Gregory is.
    3) Defending media’s war coverage, NBC’s Gregory asked, “Where was Congress?” (Answer: Most Dems were voting against the bill)
    Summary: Discussing the run-up to the Iraq war on Hardball, David Gregory said, “If there wasn’t a debate in this country, then maybe the American people should think about, why not? Where was Congress? Where was the House? Where was the Senate?” In fact, a majority of congressional Democrats voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in October 2002. Of the 258 Democrats in Congress at the time, 147 voted against the resolution, while 110 voted for it. One Democrat did not vote.

  3. patrick says:

    Olbermann’s behavior is either an act or he is genuinely nuts. He gets all lathered up about Rove, Cheney, and Bush, yet, he never delves into the topic of “why.”
    Why are we in Iraq? No. That would be too serious. He’d rather have a coronary screaming about Blackwater and Halliburton. He would never touch upon the Office of Special Plans, Eliot Abrams, and the Israel Lobby’s push for the war in Iraq. That type of inquiry would be damaging to his career. It’s easier to scream about Alberto Gonzalez.
    Olbermann also steered clear of the siege of Gaza.
    Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are semi-retarded and are not worth discussing. Rachel Maddow is smarmy and self-righteous. A middle-aged Paula Zahn is better to look at than a younger Campbell Brown. Fareed Zakaria wants to export all of our jobs to the subcontinent.
    I know Smerconish and Matthews, who is Shields?

  4. Cujo359 says:

    What about them? I pay so little attention to them, even when I’m somewhere there’s cable TV, that they hardly seem to matter any more. Nearly all seem so full of themselves that they won’t ever examine their preconceptions and assumptions. Rachel Maddow is the only one I’ve noted lately who can do journalism, but she’s pretty new at it. Give her a few years and let’s see what she’s like.
    As for the rest of them, their opinions are usually worth the air they’re carried over.

  5. Cieran says:

    Chris who?
    I get my news from trusted sites on the web. SST is the first one I read whenever I can make the time to check up on events, and I try to read every post and every comment (and generally succeed). There are other worthwhile sites, e.g., Yves Smith’s is always enjoyable, John Robb makes me think, and Driftglass makes me laugh and cry at the same time.
    TeeVee and the print media are barely any good for information, and of no use whatsoever for knowledge or understanding. Newton Minnow called TeeVee a “vast wasteland” when I was a kid, and it hasn’t improved since then.
    Give me sites like SST anyday.

  6. George Lowry says:

    For the troika in your lineup, Walter Winchell would have been more apropos.

  7. curious says:

    my biggest complain: no talking head does it for me. That great feeling of …”yeah I am with him/her or.. I see the point “, despite not agreeing. At the very least it shouldn’t give me the urge to change the channel and see what else is on. (hey, my attention span is the size of a gnat.)
    TV is the worst. For political shows, TV seems forced and talking shows are either fighting themselves or just doesn’t care enough to go down and check for latest update.
    Radio surprisingly still has a lot of genuinely interesting conversation instead of quick burst of talking points.
    My ideal talking show is still that grad lounge atmosphere. People are obsessing and know a lot, but at the same time not taking stuff too seriously.

  8. Yohan says:

    How are talking heads allowed to exist on TV? Where is their value-added? These people don’t have any unique insights or expertise, they don’t inform their audiences, they’re just showmen who need to be ignored. If you want cheap entertainment, go watch wrestling, the discourse in the WWF is higher.
    Fox News basically destroyed 24 hour news by entering the market, stealing CNN’s market share, and leading a headlong race to the bottom. News is *supposed* to be boring! It’s always so refreshing to be in Europe where news is publicly financed and where they report(and investigate!) actual news rather than leading off with A-Rod.

  9. Maureen Lang says:

    I’m with Cieran on this- reading widely on the web beats tv news coverage hollow. The exception can be a “breaking news” story that’s truly breaking (example- US Airways crash coverage). I was a devoted watcher of the PBS News Hour for years, but no longer. It’s the web for me.
    BTW, our CA budget crisis is being covered in the most superficial, “headline only” way by tv news talking heads here in Los Angeles. Since it is L.A. after all, we have no shortage of perfectly coiffed news readers & would-be local analysts hoping to chatter their way into the nationals, so to speak. As for newspapers, the LA Times, Sacramento Bee, San Diego Tribune, & SF Chronicle are doing an adequate job of reporting this important story, but I’ve found what I was really looking for, real-time analysis & in-depth coverage, at http://www.calitics.com.

  10. Green Zone Cafe says:

    I can’t be too hard on any but the most obvious shills and propagandists. TV is a business, news is entertainment. Even PBS has its target demographic to beg contributions from and lead opinion in favor of their corporate donors.
    First, I miss Ted Koppel. That was a nice half hour to explore a subject in some depth.
    Bill Moyers is as good or better than Koppel though, just once a week.
    Matthews strikes me as a decent thinker (because I mostly agree with him) and sincere.
    Buchanan is an honest purveyor of his point of view. He’s best on The McLaughlin Group, which can be fun.
    I like Maddow, she is a “happy warrior” and treats guests with respect but not deference.
    I should watch more Fareed Zakaria, he’s good, but he’s not on at a time I watch TV much, Sunday afternoon.
    Olbermann is a polemicist, not a journalist. Ditto for O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck. I just happen to agree with Olbermann more.
    Is there anything more consistently vapid than the Larry King Show?

  11. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    Formerly enjoyed Olberman because he expressed the rage I felt towards the trashing of the Constitution that the last administration enjoyed. But KO’s pomposity has grown exponentially to where he’s no longer all that tolerable.
    Chris Matthews is unbearable for his fast talk and rudeness as pointed out above. Best shot I’ve seen at him was Jesse Ventura’s comment a few years back: “I can’t believe anyone can talk as fast as you.”

  12. Halfnhalf says:

    If only Chris would ask a question and not pontificate…if only Keith would forget the phony accents…if only Shields and Brooks had a regular program other than a 20 minute appearance once a week on Lehrer…if only Fox News network were like our local channel…if only…but that’s TV “News” today. Thank goodness for Lehrer and Bill Moyer and PBS. (BTW, Rachel’s an improvement on the rest of them.)

  13. matt says:

    I think the most deeply rooted problem with the talking head political chat shows is their deeply corrosive effect on national democracy. Almost all of them reinforce the “village” mentality perspective that eliminates huge swaths of legitimate American public opinion. If you lean to the right, they all seem too liberal, and if you lean to the left, they all seem too conservative. the talking heads will cite that as a measure of approval !
    In reality they are just reflecting the values of their little village. Its their world after all, we just have to live in it…

  14. rjj says:

    How beautifully they bray.
    Does anybody remember Lars-Erik Nelson?

    “The enemy isn’t liberalism or conservatism, the enemy is bullshit.”

    He was a columnist for NYDN. Thanks to Al Gore’s inventing of the internets some videos can be found in the archives at CSPAN.
    Link to CSPAN’s archived footage.

  15. jedermann says:

    For the best take on Chris Matthews see Fred Willard as the color commentator at a dog show in the movie, “Best in Show”. He is a dead ringer for our boy.

  16. I would argue that Charlie Rose and Jim Leherer and staff add the most to the knowledge base.

  17. Brett J says:

    Agreed re: Green Zone’s opener – the talking heads are there to talk, less to report.
    Echoing W Cumming re: the crews on the PBS channels. I don’t get Cable, but did just get my DTV box – as a near-Bostonite, I was pleased that my PBS options increased severalfold (instead of just ch.44, now have ch.44-1, 44-2, 44-3, 44-4). They are oases from the flashy, screamy car and carpet commercials that blanket the rest of the stations.
    “I had it installed the next day AAND no payments for a WHOLE year!”
    I would get cable if there was a talking heads program hosted by Nassim Taleb, with him tearing into various guests.

  18. WDD says:

    Amen to rjj about Lars-Erik Nelson. He let the chips fall where they might.
    The ‘news’ cable headliners (Dobbs, O’Reilly, Olberman, et al) are primarily megalomaniacs. I don’t watch any of them much but Jon Stewart knows policy as opposed to politics (which is beltway gossip in Cableland) better than the ‘serious people. He also thinks more clearly and logically than the rest.

  19. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Somewhat off topic, but sadly, not too much off topic, I offer the lyrics of Don Henley’s song from back in the day that conveys his take on the Newz Bidness, “Dirty Laundry”:
    I make my living off the evening news
    Just give me something, something I can use
    People love it when you lose, they love dirty laundry
    Well, I could’ve been an actor, but I wound up here
    I just have to look good, I don’t have to be clear
    Come and whisper in my ear, give us dirty laundry
    Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down
    Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down
    Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down
    Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em all around
    We got the bubbleheaded bleach-blonde, comes on at 5
    She can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye
    It’s interesting when people die, give us dirty laundry
    Can we film the operation? Is the head dead yet?
    You know the boys in the newsroom got a running bet
    Get the widow on the set, we need dirty laundry
    You don’t really need to find out what’s going on
    You don’t really want to know just how far it’s gone
    Just leave well enough alone, keep your dirty laundry
    Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down
    Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down
    Kick ’em when they’re up, kick ’em when they’re down
    Kick ’em when they’re stiff, kick ’em all around
    Dirty little secrets, dirty little lies
    We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie
    Love to cut you down to size, we love dirty laundry
    We can do the innuendo, we can dance and sing
    When it’s said and done, we haven’t told you a thing
    We all know that crap is king, give us dirty laundry
    In a nutshell, that’s why I’m here reading the thoughts of Col. Lang and all of you other folks. Thanks for keepin’ it real, Citizens.

  20. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    As for an apt description of at least a few news producers, I offer the following:
    “You are television incarnate, Diana, indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. The daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split-seconds and instant replays. You are madness, Diana, virulent madness, and everything you touch dies with you…”
    Max to Diana Christiansen in the film Network.

  21. different clue says:

    There must be at least several thoughtful talking heads on regional or local TV. The internets make it possible to find them.
    One very good political interview show is Deadline Now conducted by Jack Lessenberry on Toledo, Ohio public TV. Archived interviews can be found under those names.
    I think the national broadcast shouting heads are
    doing exactly what their corporate check-signers are paying them to do. They dumb the audience down, numb it up, and do their best to prevent information from spreading or thought from occuring. They run political Jerry Springer shows without being honest enough to say so. Their genre might be referred to as “confrontainment”.
    I remember once years ago
    watching Matthews when he had as his guests Sidney Zion and Hussein Ibish at the same time, discussing Middle East Affairs. He kept both their mikes live at the same time so of course he wanted them to start yelling at eachother on air. When they finally did, Chris started grinning the hardest I’ve ever seen him grin. His eyes shone with pure delight. It was clear to me what the whole purpose of his show was.

  22. different clue says:

    My brain churned up some doggerel,
    if that is forgiveable…
    And they asked Mr. Matthews before the din,
    Will you let any facts or logic come in?
    “Not by the leer of my grinny-grin-grin!”

  23. Karen Copeland says:

    I like Chris Matthews. I think he’s improved a great deal with age. Yes, he’s a little rough. But he’s one of the few who’s retained something of a regional dialect, which I like to hear.
    I like Keith. I’ve often thought he’s the left’s answer to Rush Limbaugh & Bill O’Reilly — only a damn site smarter. And I can’t find a single fault with Rachel. She’s at the top of her game every single night.
    David Gregory is a huge disappointment. I thought they should have put Dan Rather in Russert’s job. And I too, miss Ted Koppel’s dignity. And I love Pat Buchanan. For a diehard right-wing partisan, he’s managed to get in the right’s face more than once and come away dead right after they spend a few years vilifying him for it. Ya gotta love anybody with that kind of ironclad integrity. The McLaughlin Group is my favorite. Except for the shrill little blonde with her snarky, smirky style. I’ll take Tony Blankley any day as Eleanor’s counterpoint. At least he had 3 or 4 brain cells to rub together.
    One of the things that makes me sick about the punditocracy is this love affair they have with the Washington area. I grew up in Fairfax — don’t get me wrong. But they obsess about things that nobody outside the beltway gives a tinker’s damn about. “Who nudged Caroline Kennedy out?” “How will they handle the traffic at at the inauguration.” People in the real world care about how the people we’ve hired to take care of the country are doing their jobs, but to hear the pundits you’d think all that matters is which one of them used to be a Hill staffer and what tidbit of silly trivia they can cough up to impress each other with. It’s a little sickening.

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