Jon Stewart And Brian Williams

Today’s outcome for both Jon Stewart and Brian Williams saddens me. And, in the end, shouldn’t it be all about the viewer?


A real one-two punch today. Brian Williams suspended for six months, then Jon Stewart announcing he’s leaving The Daily Show. I’ll start with Stewart.


There was no way I saw this coming. It would be different if Rosewood, his directorial debut, had gotten rave reviews. He is walking away from the goose tha lays the golden egg!

Today Jon Stewart is a powerful political force. Attention from The Daily Show can swing public opinion.

He undoubtedly understands the powerful voice he commands doesn’t leave the show with him. Just ask Glenn Beck, Howard Stern or Oprah. They left over-the-air broadcasting for positions with less visibility and influence.

Fifteen years is a long time. Stewart, especially after the movie, doesn’t seem as passionate. There are more movie star interviews and fewer examples of Stewart as TVs only interviewer who actually read the book. Better to quit before that lack of drive becomes too obvious?

I will miss The Daily Show. It’s the only show I watch even if I can’t fast forward through the ads.

Selfishly, I’ll be sad.

Brian Williams situation is a little more complex. NBC says he’s suspended for six months without pay. He’s a union employee. Suspensions only happen like this if negotiated with Williams’ full agreement and everyone signs off.

I’ve never met Brian Williams, but I know folks who’ve worked with him. I’ve never heard a bad word–and I would have. He’s always been cited as the kind of guy you want in your newsroom.

We all fall victim to puffery. Everyone inflates their resume a little. This is more than most. Maybe it is an actionable offense?

However, Brian Williams deserves to have his transgressions weighed against the total of his professional life. There’s a little Geoff self pity in that last sentence.

Should Brian Williams’ penalty be a life sentence? I don’t think so, but not strongly enough that my opinion might not change over time.

Today’s outcome for both Jon Stewart and Brian Williams saddens me. And, in the end, shouldn’t it be all about the viewer?

Who Is Missing?

Tonight, they ran the graphic pictured above, promoting their coverage. Where are Obama and Clinton? Aren’t they what the debate is all about?

debate-still.jpgI have been following the 2008 presidential campaign with a great deal of interest. Obviously, the Republican side is all but decided.

The Democrats, living up to Will Roger’s expectations&#185, are still fighting it out. At the moment, that’s a figurative expression, but it could become literal!

Tuesday night is the last of the internecine Democratic debates, this time in Cleveland. It will be carried by MSNBC.

Tonight, they ran the graphic pictured above, promoting their coverage. Where are Obama and Clinton? Aren’t they what the debate is all about?

Far be it for me to criticize “hey look at me” journalism. Still, we’re electing a president. Maybe for this one night, the four horsemen could take a back seat?

By the way, I originally saw this graphic with just Brian Williams and Tim Russert. I wonder if there’s any backstory with the addition of Olbermann and Matthews?

&#185 – Back in the mid-1930s, humorist, writer, movie star Will Rogers wrote, “I don’t belong to any organized party. I’m a Democrat.”

It’s That Voice Guy – Elwood Edwards

I probably shouldn’t do this… embed video from NBC on my blog. After all, my rent money comes from an ABC affiliate. Alas, this is too good to resist.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I’m a voice guy. Not that I have pipes, but I’ve always admired those who did. Even as a kid, I could identify most of the network and local voiceover guys by name.

Today, in Cleveland, Brian Williams met one of the most famous voices of all time. I guarantee you’ve heard him a thousand times… probably more! And now, you get to meet him.

The fact that Brian Williams seems genuinely excited by this only makes this video that much better.

NBC Almost Gets It

As I type this, I am watching NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. It’s the Internet version, though I’m not sure what’s different between this and the newscast that aired earlier tonight over-the-air&#185.

As a Firefox browser user, MSNBC sites have given me problems in the past. Everything loaded perfectly tonight – painlessly. Maybe MSNBC has mended their ways.

Nightly News is streaming using the Windows Media protocol at 300 kbps. The video looks to be about 320×240 and is relatively sharp with a few glitches associated with motion. Brian Williams looks crisper on TV with more vivid colors… but not by much. I’m actually impressed with the quality.

Here’s where NBC has it wrong – and I’m afraid this shows they don’t totally understand how Internet streaming will be used. You can only watch this broadcast beginning to end, in real time. There is no ability to jump forward or back.

If you miss something, there’s no way to repeat without repeating everything you’ve already seen. Same if you want to skip ahead past a story you’re not interested in. Tough luck.

There is code on the webpage which turns off the Windows Media Player timeline and any of the standard ‘right click’ functions. There are probably ways to work around these shortcomings, but for most users, it is what it is.

This is the way I watched TV 20 years ago. I am used to more control. My DVR is more powerful. Certainly, the Internet and Windows Media Player allow more versatility, if that’s NBC’s desire.

I should be allowed to move forward and backward thought the timeline. In fact, the site should be set up with the ability to random access stories, probably at the click of a button.

At some point television networks and stations will have to come to grips with the difference between Internet viewing and over-the-air viewing. We will probably see shorter programs, but possibly longer individual stories. Once we can ‘request’ stories that interest us, more time and depth in reporting are a logical next step.

Maybe the idea of a program (at least for news) will disappear as you cherry pick what you want to see.

It’s funny, in this age when HDTV and huge sets seem to be the big thing, the tiny on-screen viewing window works just fine.

&#185 – Now that it’s over, I can report the commercials have been replaced by promos and the 30 minute newscast ran around 22 minutes.

Daily Nightly

I hate to say something good about a competitor, but I enjoy reading The Daily Nightly, NBC News’ blog which serves to promote NBC Nightly News (and is seen on a competing channel).

I especially enjoy reading Brian Williams entries. They are written in a very conversational tone. You can hear Williams’ voice as you read.

It is interesting to watch the direction of TV news and the Internet. We have a large Internet presence at my station and I think it serves us well. I’m sure what we’re doing now isn’t what we’ll doing a year from now.

I don’t think anyone knows where this is leading, but there’s no doubt the Internet can earn money for content providers. TV station or broadcast networks can provide lots of content. And, altruism aside, that’s why business is done – to make a profit.

Right now the people leading the way are classicly trained in the art of television. That seems to be a good jumping off point. I suspect this medium will become even more powerful, and a preferred choice, as soon as we learn to harness random access and customization.

I have some ideas of my own, but I’m not sure how to implement them or whether they can be implemented at all. I do know a TV station can not discern who is watching and from where. An Internet broadcaster can!&#185 That is the key.

Broadband speed is available in enough places that we’ve reached a sweet spot for video. What you can see on the Internet looks pretty good (Will I eat those words in 5 years? Probably.) But, by and large, we are feeding it as a serial medium. A follows B follows C… and everyone gets the same content in the same order. Or, individual elements can be requested, but only one at a time and with all the choice at the user’s end and not built into the serving software.

We really need to transition into individual channels presenting customized feeds. The more we know about you and where you live, the more customized and germane we can make the content.

Even when all this technology comes on line, good writing, like Brian Williams’, will still have an important place.

&#185 – Here’s a sample of how Internet hits can be physically located. This is based on my IP address and was produced just by reaching a specific website.

Be Careful Ad Libbing

I work on TV and when I’m on the air, everything I say is an ad lib. Yes, the anchors and sports reporters read most of their copy, but for some reason the weather person has always been afforded this privilege.

Ad libbing can sometimes cause problems. I often speak with ‘salty’ language off the air and have to be careful I remember when I’m on.

My biggest ad lib problems have come when I’ve said something innocent and it turned out to have a second meaning. It is interesting, from my vantage point, to see the anchors biting their tongues, trying to keep from busting out laughing.

As it turns out, my ad lib problems put me in the same boat as Bill Clinton. Here’s an email I got this afternoon from a friend.

Yesterday on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, which I am sure you never watch, he had an “exclusive” interview with former President Clinton, who talked about the Pope, his relationship with his new best friend, former President Bush and his health. When asked about this kind gesture offering former President Bush the only bed on the government jet when they were on the recent tour of Tsunami-affected countries, Clinton shrugged it off and said, “I can sleep anywhere.” OUCH!

Mr. Clinton, I feel your pain.