THE BLOG
11/21/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What I Learned From Jay Leno's Prime Time Debut: Part III

I watched Jay Leno's prime time debut Monday night and learned: 1) Don't watch Jay Leno's new prime time show; it's dull and overly scripted. 2) Don't watch prime time terrestrial network TV entertainment programming; it's not entertaining. 3) Don't read about TV in the New York Times; its coverage is insipid and inaccurate.

At 11:00 p.m. Monday night, after the Leno show on NBC, I made a second mistake. I watched WNBC-TV's local news with veteran anchor Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons.

What did I learn from watching WNBC-TV's late news, "News 4"? 1) I was absolutely right in my decision ten years ago to stop watching local TV news; it's worthless, boring, and old-fashioned. 2) Never watch local TV in the days and weeks before election because you'll hate all politicians and you'll avoid voting. 3) Someone should wake up Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons -it's safe because I Googled sleepwalking and it's a myth that it is dangerous to wake up someone who is sleep walking.

After watching the deadly dull, formulaic, old-fashioned "News 4," I Googled "WNBC-TV new york" because I wanted to check to see who Chuck Scarborough's female co-anchor was. I got several search results, so I clicked on the top one and got this page which looked nothing like a typical television station Web site -- for comparison, see WCBS-TV's, WABC-TV's, and WNYW-TV's(Fox). WCBS-TV's is the best, WNYW-TV's is the worst.

On the first WNBC-TV page (yes, there are more than one WNBC-TV pages) I saw the headline banner was "NEW YORK" in a modern font with no mention of WNBC-TV or "News 4." Underneath the NEW YORK head, in a casual script font, was the sub-head "is laughing about Obama's Wall Street reform speech."

I was shocked -- I would have expected this trash from Fox News, not NBC -- but when I clicked on a news story to read, under the heading "DON"T MISS," a hardly journalistic headline, I understood what was happening. When you click on a story, you go a page containing that story and to the right of the item is a column headed "WE ARE" with six responses listed underneath: "Laughing - 29%," "Furious - 26%," "Bored - 18%," Thrilled -- 12%," Intrigued -- 8%," and "Sad - 8%."

Under the "WE ARE" list is a drop-down menu labeled "I AM," with the six emotions listed so you can vote on how you're feeling about a story - sort of like choosing a mood ring. Check it out so you'll get the feel of it better.

So it's come to this: A once respected, now desperate-to-be-hip local news operation, in an attempt to interact with its audience and appeal to entertainment-obsessed younger people is headlining news stories based on how people feel about them. In other words their emotional response to news is what counts, not their rational response to a news story's importance or relevance to helping them make a decision in a democratic society.

WNBC-TV has another Web site that is less moody and touchy-feely and that features a photo of CBS anchor Walter Cronkite with the caption "Cronkite Remembered." Why on earth would WNBC-TV be promoting the traditional CBS News icon, Cronkite, several weeks after his passing? The only plausible explanation I can come up with is that WNBC-TV is so embarrassed by the moronic pandering of its NEW YORK Web site that it is trying to counterbalance its effect by associating itself lamely with "the most trusted man in America" 45 years ago.

But WNBC-TV's NEW YORK Web site mirrors the reality in television news today -- it's all about pandering to emotions (mostly anger), not about appealing to rationality and searching for the truth. TV news has become America's 21st century EST, a phony scam that makes its promoters richer and its victims poorer and more removed from reality.

What did I learn by going to WNBC-TV's Web site? 1) WNBC-TV and NBC News has strayed so far from the journalistic principles that once drove its great news operation that it is no longer in the news or journalism business; it's in the business of pandering to the emotions of intellectually arid young people. 2) That WNBC-TV's Web site has become the New York Post of TV. 3) I am so grateful for intelligent news and opinion sources such as The Atlantic, the New Yorker, Talking Points Memo, NPR, and Pro Publica so that I never have to watch news on TV again or go to Web sites associated in any way with a TV network or TV station.