Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where did Anderson Cooper go?

When Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast, Anderson Cooper was catapulted from second tier anchor to a mainstream name. The Landrieu interview (above) became the “voice” of the Nation’s indignity in the way things were handled by the Bush and State administrations. Some claimed that precise moment was the turning point of Cooper’s career; others went so far to claim he was the new face of journalism, or the birth of the emo-anchor. The rebirth of journalism. Or was it?

Cooper became a symbol, the ultimate resource of everything Katrina, almost a spokesperson for the victims coining the phrase Keeping them Honest. The public was tired of the silence of the press, of its fear (the press and parent companies) of losing access to information if they made the right questions about Iraq, their contractors or any sign of corruption to the White House. Cooper’s interview to Landrieu broke that silence. And its force was comparable to Katrina.

Time Warner and its research division didn’t miss the opportunity to grasp the reaction. Bad news is good news for media outlets. They gain a lot of money with tragedies. And they were going to milk the Cooper empathy for what it was worth. Soon he was everywhere: billboards, ads, magazine covers, book tours. He was presented as a new millennium super hero. Every interview meticulously scripted and threaded (just think about the interviews that he repeats the same information over and over again). CNN’s promotional budget for him was rumored to be around 10 million. And the public loved it. But Scholars and media professionals on the other hand weren’t so pleased.

Was the Landrieu interview a constructed effort or an outburst of raw emotion and indignation? Most (scholars and professionals) think it was a very decent human been calling on someone on its own Bull Shit, but not a journalistic endeavor. Some claim he became the face of Katrina, sometimes focusing everything on his image eclipsing the real issues and problems.

He tried to keep the bravado in other interviews like the one with Iran’s president. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which was very close to a train wreck where he went to the cheap offensive and righteous position of claiming freedom of press, forgetting that his own executive producer asked at the 360 blog ( Sept. 20, 2006 ) to submit questions to the president, making valid Ahmadinejad’s question about if he asked everything ”they asked him to ask”. He missed a golden opportunity to provoke questions, discussions; he went with the cheap smart ass trick.

His reports and series became photo ops for promotion, some of them like the Planet in Peril editions a great example of bad production. Many people were looking forward to his Katrina first anniversary special, which ironically became the perfect example of mediocrity. They didn’t even used the reports made by the team of American Morning (excellent BTW) They limited themselves to the old shrimp boat… to later claim there is no right to have Katrina Fatigue.

All the promotional investment hasn’t proportionally translated in strong and steady ratings growths. Seven years ago, during an Edwards R. Murrow Awards Ceremony at the RTNDA, Christiane Amanpour presented and excellent explanation to it: “I believe good journalism is good business.” And the monster ratings she had with God’s Warriors proved it, leaving in the dust all news stations.

But it’s not all Anderson Cooper’s fault. TV production is a team effort. Management and production has to work hand in hand, and respect its audience, something that the team behind Cooper is seriously lacking or forgetting. Sometimes I ask myself if we are really watching CNN or E!?

Amanpour again addressed the issues:

“Surely a news operation should be the crown jewel of any corporation…the thing that makes a corporation feel good about itself. We all love "Millionaire," make your money off that….make your super-dollars somewhere else. Leave us alone, with only good competitive journalism as our benchmark. I know I do not need to remind you of all the quality programs that make money too…60-minutes, Nightline…are just a couple. No matter what the hocus-pocus focus groups tell you, time has proven that all the gimmicks and cheap journalism can only carry you so far.”

“Remember the movie "Field of Dreams" when the voice said, "Build it and they will come." Well, tell a compelling story and they will watch. Lest you think these are woolly-headed musings …we are not dinosaurs…we are the frontier. You've mastered the hardware…we are the software. And that will never change. Today's buzzwords seem to be content, and platforms. Well, we produce the content for all your different platforms…and that will never change. Humble newsprint, the New York Times, still rules the world. As someone else might have said, "It's the content stupid." You've invested so much money in technology…perhaps it's time to invest in talent…in people…do you know how many people in newsrooms I know have a hard time even recognizing news anymore….”

People in the media knows that CNN is great for entry level positions (the pay isn’t that good unlike networks), but unfortunately the lack of experience of its productions slaps you through your TV set. A friend from Argentina who usually catches 360 through CNN International sent me an email furious about the coverage of the Vick case. He couldn’t understand how that case was more important than the lost of entire cities in Peru or other international events. Why people in Europe should tune in to watch CNN for Paris Hilton? As Anderson Cooper once said: there is a war, there is a war, there is a war. And God’s Warrior proved that people tune in for good content.

Tonight Anderson will present his Katrina Second Anniversary Special. I no longer expect to be amazed or informed by his show. I do not even expect to see quality. I’m tired of the endless rehashing and recycling of news or clips that belong to America’s Funniest Videos or Animal Planet, an insult when you think there are hundreds of journalist that are killed in order to cover the news, and a whole nation hungry (or at least in need) to be informed in an entire new perspective.

Will tonight mark the return of Anderson Cooper? I'm not holding my breath.

22 comentarios:

NOLA said...

Last year's anniversary coverage was overshadowed by the capture of Warren Jeffs, the shrimp boat was destroyed by fire a few months before, and AC & co went with that instead of Katrina.
Needless to say some people were disappointed, others like me were downright pissed off and let their displeasure be known. That seemed to be the turning point on AC360. Keeping them honest is a great idea, but when you throw out stories based on that quote then never tell the results its just a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Wow Christiane, you hit the nail on the head.

Anderson Cooper expressed concerned that the public is becoming "fatigued" with this story when in fact, he is the one making us fatigued.

Everytime he reports from NOLA it's the same old, same old stories.

I honestly believe Anderson doesn't want conditions down there to improve so he'll have an excuse to keep going back and rehashing what we already heard him say previously.

Another comment,
Christiane Amanpour's God's Warriors was THE best special I have seen on CNN in years.

Betty Boop said...

Excellent Chris! Thanks for voicing some of our frustrations with CNN. If only they will invest money in the production of 360, including hiring executive producers that are least more atuned and compromised with the quality and consistency of the show...

Lets all hope they get the message that Christiane Amanpour so eloquently described and has exemplified through her responsible and relevant reporting.

courtney01 said...

Christiane Amanpour's special was terrific. I would like to see it on DVD--it's something I'd purchase in a heartbeat.

As for Anderson, well, I haven't watched 360 in a long time (or CNN, for that matter) exactly for the reasons you mentioned, Chris. The quality is poor. 360 is basically a tabloid show. I hope Anderson can bail himself out of there with his reputation intact.

Anonymous said...

I have not watched AC360 in its entirety for such a long time. The plataform of his show reminds me of the E channel; the way his image was, and is currently publicized, and the choice of news hit me as an insult...

I wonder why they just won't give Cooper a camera and send him to Iraq, Peru, Greece, etc, and let him do what he does best: cover events which would undoubtedly inform sincere viewers, tell worthwhile stories about worthwhile people.

Why wasn't a team sent down to Brazil, Peru, Greece... people died, people are dying. I guess I'm just a fatigued fan... They are after all a news program. Why expect any less of them?

Another comment:
Amanpour's documentary was the best piece of journalism I've ever seen on a cable news channel; some flaws are always present, but she really tried, and it was an extraordinary piece.

Loui

Nadine said...

I'm confused!!! Who wrote this article and why is everyone "bashing" Anderson?

Nola said...

@nadine no one is bashing Anderson, we are just voicing our opinion on his work and his show. Not everyone is "in love" with Anderson some of us, at one time, admired the work he was doing. Once upon a time 360 was fresh, unique and better than most news programs, but not anymore.

Sometimes its good for media people to hear negative things about their work because they will strive to do better. but with Anderson and 360 its like they are on a perpetual roller coaster, one day up another down. They just can't seem to find a happy medium. Maybe I expect too much, but then again maybe they do too little.

Anonymous said...

@nola
I certainly agree with your opinion. I don't watch AC360 often because I find it to be somewhat boring and redundant.

360 has been doing more of a 180 lately. Most of the stories seem to be more US oriented rather than worldwide.

courtney01 said...

I don't think anyone is bashing Anderson personally here. Most of us are more concerned with the quality of the show, rather than upset with him as a journalist. In fact, I think it's because we realize the show might have his name on it, but he does not make all the decisions about what goes into the show.

And if you carefully read my comment, I said "I hope Anderson can bail himself out of there with his reputation intact."

--which means he has a good reputation, so I hope the poor quality (lately) of 360 doesn't ruin the hard work he's invested in his career.

ivy said...

yesterday's Ac360, the part that anderson prepared was more about anniversary of his coverage of the Katrina 2 years ago hen the hurricane himself. That's what his report looked like on Oprah too, but I was hoping he saved all the fresh and real reporting for his own show. That didn't happen, I'm dissapoined that they didn't have a more substantial show. 360 has been more down then up lately, and I agree that it's not all anderson's fault, but seeing his report on oprah, and I assume he has creative control over that, made me think it's as much his fault as his production team.

rosie said...

I agree with Courtney's assessment of 360. The quality has been lacking this summer, it feels like AC or the producers really don't care too much about the show and are slapping things together. Maybe with the new fall season coming, it will breathe some new life into the show.

Anonymous said...

Based on comments from other blogs and forums devoted to AC, these people are more concerned that Anderson took a vacation and where he went, than the shambles New Orleans is in 2 years after Katrina.

A sad observation to me.

Anonymous said...

Not true about the "other blogs", they are just as concerned about 360's downturn as this one is. It's a frequent topic on ALL the blogs.

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_the_shark

kata said...

I agree with anon 3:50. They don't care what Anderson reports on as long as it's him reporting it. He could do a segment on why sh** is brown and all of the comments would be on how "hot" he looks.

@Anon 2:40
I don't understand what that link has to do with this.

Anonymous said...

anon 9/2 at 3:50 PM and anon 9/3 at 8:15 pm: I have to agree with. Many comments on other sites will post comments about the content of the show and most will add how pretty he was and how much they liked his outfit or tie. Some don't watch the show when he is not on, leaving me to believe that is the only reason they watch it. Others moan they have an Anderless night or week.

There I times I feel Anderson is fatigued with 360, maybe he is bored or doesn't like is going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. I could be totally wrong.

He's just not into it.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but where I come from, a man is NEVER ever described as pretty. There is not an excuse on the books where to call a man "pretty" nor his attire "pretty" is appropriate. If these females wonder why they are ignored and overlooked by every living, breathing male, maybe this is why. It's an insult to Anderson or any guy to call him pretty.

Anonymous said...

I see Christiane got bored bashing his fans on her new blog so she's back here at her old sport, bashing Anderson himself.

Tell me, what is this blog supposed to be about again? You claim you're not a 'fanblog', yet you post pictures, videos and screencaps of Anderson, speculate wildly about him in comments, and then periodically pen the bashing 'oh we're so disappointed in you' post so you can claim you're not a fanblog.

Oh yeah - you're all about excellence in journalism, I forgot. But where are all the other journalists? Where's Britt Hume or Brian Williams or (if you want to stick to CNN) John King or Susan Candiotti? Yeah, Christiane made passing reference to her name-saint Amanpour's recent series, but not so as anyone would be confused into thinking she actually saw it. Saw the ratings on TVNewser, is more like it. Oh, you want to pretend you saw it? Then where's the analysis of Christian groups' claims she practiced False Equivalence in her Christian segment? Where's the screencaps, the clips, the adoring fanvids?

Courtney admits she doesn't even watch 360 any more; why don't you blog what you DO watch? Or if you don't watch TV news at all, why don't you just blog current events and stop pretending to be an Anderson blog? (And don't even try to claim this isn't an Anderson blog but an 'excellence in journalism' blog - who else ever gets mentioned?)

And Christiane, if you want to be the Cooper Critic, reporting on every little error in fact, analysis and emphasis, go ahead and do it - there's plenty of other blogs bird-dogging a particular journalist's every move, like the PMS-y Olbermann Watch. But fair warning - you can't be both a hard-hitting, fact-checking critic AND toss out pics and videos for the fans to squee over without spawning rumors of schizophrenia.

...oh wait...

Anyway, pick a role and stick to it - fan or critic. As it is, you're just a mess.

rudy said...

and you are? a coward that hides behind anonymity? if you don´t like this blog, go to another, there are plenty out there for you to chose.

Anonymous said...

"... where I come from, a man is NEVER ever described as pretty. There is not an excuse on the books where to call a man "pretty" nor his attire "pretty" is appropriate. ... It's an insult to Anderson or any guy to call him pretty."

Sounds like the place you come from is pretty uptight.

Dawn said...

anon 4:26 pm- this blog has always been about critically examining the production of the show, the quality of the broadcasts, and the presentations by Anderson himself. Why exactly it is wrong to point out flaws in a broadcast that is meant to inform the public, I don't really know. Many of the "fans" insist that this blog attacks Anderson himself, yet, if you read most of the posts, they admire Anderson's work but show how 360 has taken a nose dive. Perhaps if the producers took note of the skepticism and criticisms of the show, they would attempt to improve upon it instead of being "innovative" and messing with the tried and true method of presenting stories with pure journalistic non-opinion.

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