Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"Boot Cokie!" Some questions

Perfectly Obvious Cokie
Behold how little substance NPR's Cokie Roberts can pack into four minutes of airtime.


"his criticisms could be leveled at most any talking head on most any show."

OK, here are my questions:

if this could, indeed, be leveled as a criticism against any talking head on any show, what does that say about mental laziness among talking heads? Are they discussing issues of import to voters and constituents, or merely using the time slot to float trial balloons from their political affiliations and lobbying influences?

Also, if we're speaking of the influence of commercial media's talking head shows on public and community radio, why would we allow them to define the terms of what we say and how we speak?

Might we not consider speaking from a more authentic and more informed voice, rather than theirs? Ought we allow the corrupting influences on the talking heads influence us, as well?

Using Ms. Roberts as an example, Ms. Roberts speaks, I'm thinking, in a rather generic manner. She seems, very consciously, trying not to alienate anybody.

When she's done, or as her introduction, it is mentioned that she has a new book on women's history.

Might it not be better if Ms. Roberts spoke from her authority on women's history, when discussing beltway politics, rather than aping commercial talking heads?

Surely, we've progressed far enough past the stereotype of feminism as man hating lavender herrings that Ms. Roberts' views on the historical impact of beltway politics on women and, therefore, families and, therefore, culture in general could be insightful and provocative for NPR listeners.Those who don't learn from our history are doomed to repeat it. If we have not progressed that far, ought we not continue to push that envelope?

Perhaps Ms. Roberts' experiences of coming to a place of influence in media have been so informed by the sexism even she - as a member of an affluent, political family -- has experienced that it has has made her voice more timid, assimilated and conceded than it would have been, had it not been formed under the hostility of sexism in her profession that she experienced some thirty years ago. Sometimes, to paraphrase Freud, a microphone is just a microphone.

We need to remember that Ms. Roberts, like me, comes from an historical time when women weren't allowed access to credit, had little control over the conditions of their children's lives, were defined and named by the men who controlled their lives, couldn't prosecute a husband for rape, were medicated for "depression" by addictive substances like Valium and had hell to pay if they entertained the notion of pursuing a "man's" profession.

I see, in my own life, how these have changed my own voice. Perhaps they changed Ms. Roberts, as well. She is a "success" in an unhealthy culture; I am not. Her voice is more conciliatory; mine is not.

While I'm not thrilled that she "phones it in," literally, from home, I do not begrudge her the fact; telecommuting radio in the modern, digital age is saving my life.

Have you looked at your local news tv stations? Are the women intelligent, well-educated in investigative reporting, good journalists? Are they Barbie dolls, flashing a bit of cleavage and bling, batting their eyes as they banter with the dudes who do the more substantive (though also scant) reportage? Are any of them fat or older or living with visible disabilities? Do they look like models or do they look like they work for a living? Do they write the news or make editorial decisions? Or are they just reading from a teleprompter?

I'm going to suggest, for you younger producers here who never saw it, that you watch a movie, "Broadcast News," in which Holly Hunter speaks at a convention to an hostile, apathetic audience of young, local news people. It is a brilliant soliloquy, beautifully written. This was in the 1980s. At one point, she consults her notes and mutters a topic she's deciding not to address, as she sees the audience literally getting up and walking out. The phrase she reads is,"The historical influence of "Entertainment Tonight."

That phrase drilled a permanent hole in my brain. It shocked and horrified me then, and it still does, today.

Newspapers are folding. NPR has cut its news staff. Few local outlets even have real news departments anymore. Fewer even attempt commentary on policy making, local, national or international.

We are living in a media age of bread and circuses. We are not an informed democracy; we are over-informed consumers. The lobbyists and special interests control the dialogue on policy in this, the most influential nation on Earth.

Ought we not, as community and public radio producers, resist this trend?

Siskel & Ebert - Broadcast News (1987)


On 5/5/09, L H wrote:

his criticisms could be leveled at most any talking head on most any show. you have to wonder what else is going on here.

You are reading http://rriverstoneradio.blogspot.com/

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