A Terrible Cable News Snafu

A hobby of mine is to follow the media. From the local level to the national level, I like observing how different organizations and people cover certain stories. Although I take a special interest in the sports media, I also follow closely the news media as well. With the Presidential Election last night, it was prime time to take note of what various stations and news personalities were doing on their biggest evening.

A fact of the media is that it is left-leaning. While the major networks all adhere to more of a liberal identity, the cable news network landscape is saturated with outfits that don’t just lean left, they weigh themselves down completely on that side. They make seemingly no effort to shield the fact that they embrace a democrat philosophy. Of course, there is a network out there that does give viewers another point of view, Fox News. Notorious for running with a conservative agenda, Fox News sits on the other end of the political spectrum. When I want clear, unbiased information on what is going on in the world, I will watch either C-SPAN or PBS. However, like I said above, I do like to follow the more controversial members of the news media and I do like to test my own thinking against much stronger and different opinions so I do watch all the various cable outlets.

When I watch MSNBC or when I watch Fox News, I very rarely take the anchors and news personalities seriously. They are on our televisions to stir up emotions, make bold statements, and produce high ratings. On all of these different networks I watch and listen as personalities say one stupid thing after the other. I watch them cut guests off, inflate their egos, make outrageous claims, and put the opposing party down. Instead of getting worked up about it, I really just get a kick out of it. I understand the game, I understand that it is much more about entertainment than news.

As I watched election coverage last night flipping through the channels, pretty much everyone stayed in character. If you tuned into a certain program and a certain anchor team, they pretty much held true to the same type of reporting they had done for the hundreds of days leading up to the election. I watched as predictably certain stations acted bush league in victory and another station pouted in defeat. That was all fine and good…I expected that, America expected that. Unfortunately, at the very end of the night, someone had to go completely off the deep end.

Chris Matthews is a political commentator for MSNBC. Before coming to television, Matthews had a career in politics serving the Democratic party in many different capacities. On MSNBC, he has his own show on the station and contributes to many other shows as well. Always angry at Republicans and always negative in nature, he is quite the polarizing figure. Chris Matthews is the Stephen A. Smith of the news media. Always yelling at the top of his lungs while on air and way too overexposed, his act tends to wear on a lot of people, including me. But while his act wears on me, it never pushed me over the edge because I understood he was just doing his job in the business…until late last night.

After President Obama had secured his re-election and the coverage on MSNBC was wrapping up for the night, Matthews was unfortunately given the opportunity to offer his closing thoughts of the evening. Beginning his comments by going on and on about how happy he was that Obama won the election, his tangent quickly turned ugly when he addressed Hurricane Sandy and his perceived role it had in the President’s success by saying: “I’m so glad we had that storm last week.” As someone off camera could be heard questioning the moronic comment, he tried to clarify by adding, “No, politically I should say. Not in terms of hurting people. The storm brought in possibilities for good politics.”

Excuse me?

Matthews’ misguided opinion was that Hurricane Sandy proved to be a good thing because it showcased Obama’s bipartisan skills and helped him rebound from his poor debate showing. It is unfathomable to even conceive how a disaster that caused billions of dollars in damage, negatively impacted millions of people, and took the lives of many could be constituted as a positive occurrence. To put it in the context of politics is even more sickening. MSNBC’s coverage ended for the night, countless hours ruined and tarnished because of a comment so boneheaded that not even a station that is based on the bold and controversial could shake it off.

Again, I understand the dynamic of cable news. I get it, the stations need to bring in viewers, they need to fire up the audience. But there is a line and it was crossed last night. Cable television gives the commentators more freedom to express their views but it does not give them the freedom to make irresponsible and hurtful comments. I will never call for someone’s job because I have no business doing so but MSNBC and all other news organizations can’t let its talent get away with snafus like this. Chris Matthews owes millions of people an apology, and I just don’t know if a couple tweets and a quick on-air apology will be enough. Don’t Blink.

Election Night

A major theme that I bring to the forefront in this blog centers on America and the blessed luck that myself and most of my readers enjoy in that we get to live in this great nation. This is definitely one of those days where there is no escaping how amazing this country is.

Today, millions of people flocked to voter booths to select representatives, approve/disapprove initiatives, and to engage in democracy at its finest. Americans went to these polls without pressure of life or death on who they voted for, without fear of bombs going off at the voting stations, and without dread of intimidators with weapons looking their way as they punched in the ballots. Although at times many of us feel like we are assaulted with too much negative campaigning, too many television ads, and too many signs/stickers polluting our landscapes, we need to realize that it is just part of democracy and the passion that comes from it.

Tonight we get to relax in our homes and watch live as results are announced. Of course, nothing is more suspenseful or more significant than the Presidential race. The technology and manpower that television networks devote to this night makes for great TV. The first Presidential election night I firmly remember watching was the Clinton vs. Dole race of 1996. As an eighth grader, I stayed glued to my TV during the unprecedented Bush vs. Gore battle of 2000, staying up to the wee hours of the morning before finally calling it a night. I watched the less suspenseful election of 2004 between Bush and Kerry and then I watched the historical election of 2008 between Obama and McCain, my first one in the state of Montana.

And here we are tonight.

In a few hours we will probably know whether President Barack Obama has earned another term in office or whether Governor Mitt Romney will become the next President of the United States. While I do have a candidate I would like to see win, I must admit that I am much more fascinated with the pomp and circumstance of the night. I love everything from the exit polls to the projections to the different paths to victory to the clinching of the 270 electoral votes to the victory speech to the concession speech.

I am an election night junkie. I enjoy flipping from channel to channel seeing how each station is covering the big night, seeing the different electoral counts that each network currently has. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little bit of a rush each time an anchor excitedly stated “We now have a projection to make.” I love the live check-ins from Chicago and Boston at the candidate’s headquarters. I enjoy watching the quarrels between the Democratic and Republican strategists that each station has on the set. What we are watching is history, and nothing beats that.

For everyone who is fed up with the election season I hear you, but just hold on throughout tonight. Only a few more hours of ads, one more night of ridiculous Facebook and Twitter posts, and one last onslaught of people with agendas knocking on your door. But no matter how irritated you are, I ask you this, please take a little bit of time to enjoy this historical evening. It only comes around once every four years and it is a definite distinguishing mark on what makes this nation the best in the world. Get a little wrapped up in what is occurring this November 6, 2012. In a peaceful and efficient manner, we are selecting our leaders and selecting the laws we want our areas of living to abide by. At the same time, we get to watch it all unfold right in front of us in our living rooms. Don’t let it pass you by. Don’t Blink.