NBC's Today show has lately taken on the air of Ripley's Believe It or Not. The last few weeks have seen a disappointing parade of features on assorted accidents: a couple of shark attacks, a nail through the head, divers lost at sea and other assorted personal mini-disasters. This all culminated with an astounding four features on poor Farah Fawcett -- coverage more promotional than newsworthy -- in what was no doubt an NBC directed effort to try and make their money back on the $5 million reportedly paid for her documentary.
I like the show's anchors and was heartened to see that they too are tired of this cavalcade of calamities. After a quick mention of another bizarre accident as reported in an Australian newspaper, Meredith Viera, in one of her refreshing loose-cannon moments, jokingly cried out "Book 'em!" The rest of the morning team and crew burst into laughter, knowingly. It must be dizzyingly dull, if not embarrassing for those with real news chops, like Meredith, to endlessly ask survivors if, um, "you were afraid?"
And it's dizzyingly dull for me. But of course television is a business and apparently this is what people want to see. It gets ratings. This is all part of the long bemoaned sorry state of American television among not just the "cultural elite" but a lot of just plain normal folks who feel television has been dumbed down beyond recognition. And now it's infected our news programming too. When we're not being fed tales of personal calamity, we're watching interviews with reality show winners, losers, and miscreants. We're hearing about Octomom and Jon and Kate Plus 8 and -- stop the press -- Jon's philandering -- out of the mouths of Matt Lauer et al.
But the last shark attack was really the straw that broke the camels' back. So after many years at NBC, I may have to change horses. It's funny how we get stuck on one network for all our morning needs. At least I have. I think it's because my parents watched Today and like any brand, we pledge allegiance until long after the product stops giving us what we need, switching reluctantly.
I dipped my toe in the water and made a quick hop over to Good Morning America. I was pleasantly surprised -- Green Day was the morning's concert. Ah, a little edgy, that GMA. The band's punkish lead singer Billy Joe Armstrong gamely interacted with Robin Roberts and her cohorts.
Curiously, after the first song, they broke for a cooking segment featuring barbecue. Though timely, right before Memorial Day, it was certainly an unusual choice for intermission at a rock show. Providing counterpoint to Billy Joe's black eyeliner? Straddling a line between attracting a younger demographic while appeasing the at home Moms?
I know, I know, I have other choices. I could watch CNN and I do watch the BBC, but they don't break for local news. Doesn't CBS's The Early Show reach an older demo (much to their chagrin)? Maybe I'll give them a try. Or just stick with my New York Times, in silence, and maybe a little NPR in the shower. Of course I know I can be getting all my news online, but old habits die hard.
What's your morning news habit?