A Blog “Dedicated To Keeping CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Honest.”
AHN: “Faculty at SMU in Dallas are protesting the plans to house the George W. Bush Presidential Library.”
I just got off the phone with Sylvia, who passed on a great idea that just might work, to help George Bush leave office early. Here’s how it goes. We all contribute to a fund, that hopefully would contain a lot of money, say $150 million. If Bush resigns on the first day, he gets the whole $150 million. Every day he waits, the fund goes down by 10 percent, so there’s a real incentive for him to act quickly. On Day 2 it’s worth only $135 million. On Day 3, $121.5 million. And so on. It’s kind of a simplified version of Deal or No Deal.
I love the idea! I’d kick in $5K.
Here’s an idea for Jeff Jarvis, who says, with the best intentions, that we need to measure the number of people reading news sources or listening to podcasts so advertisers can know how many people are getting their messages, so they know how much to pay news organizations to carry those messages.
As a “consumer” of news (or user of news, or just citizen) I am interested in knowing which organizations do the best job providing news. The more they focus on news, the higher their score. I think there actually is a way to quantify it in a meaningful way.
Consider: When Anderson Cooper devotes his whole 2-hour show on CNN to the return of two children to their families in Missouri, that would add very little to the score of CNN. On the other hand, the Headline News channel, which repeats the top stories every half-hour, would score relatively high, because of the variety of the stories they carry, and the relevance of those stories.
There is a way to separate the human interest stuff that’s clogging the air waves from hard news. When four climbers are lost on Mount Hood, for example, if we look at it dispassionately, we’d see that the only people who are affected are the climbers (who died) and their families. If you want to stretch it, other people who climb mountains in inclement weather might also have an interest in that information. But the rest of us are only getting an emotional hit from the story. We project ourselves into the situation, and think how horrible it would be to die that way, or to have a family member or friend die that way. It’s not news, it’s not conveying information that affects us, it’s story-telling.
On the other hand, there is information that is news, that affects all of us, that has almost no story-telling to it. When the Fed raises interest rates, there’s no story, but wide impact. The fact that many Americans don’t understand how it impacts them, is perhaps itself a story.
Anyway, my hope is that if the various news sources were rated, they might feel pressure to add more news to their news shows. So someone who tuned into CNN might get 45 minutes of the hostages in St Louis, and 15 minutes on the PBS interview with Bush, or Scooter Libby, or global warming. Or if you like human interest mixed in, how about a story about the Christian Coalition working with Moveon.org. It’s a bit of a tear-jerker for sure, but it’s also news. Or, why not interview some of the families of Iraq casualties? There’s a real emotional rush, for sure, but it’s real. Or if you really want to go for the gusto, show Iraqis as human beings, and help people understand that when an Iraqi dies in violence that we caused (or at our hand) they leave behind people who miss them, who grieve them, just like us.
And how about the “meta” story of why the networks aren’t interviewing the families of Iraq casualties. These stories are about the times we live in. When future generations wonder what we were doing when all this was going on, we’ll have something to tell them. And I can’t help wondering if we aren’t witnessing a successful attempt by the government to control the news we’re getting.
Imagine an airline that, instead of taking you to Chicago, as advertised, gave you burgers and left you right where you were. Sure, the burgers taste better than airline food, but you got on the plane to actually go somewhere!
I’ll write some more about this later.