February 10, 2009

How The Today Show Made Me Dumber

I'm pretty sure that the sole mission of The Today Show is to lobotomize the American public. Before you jump up and down screaming, accusing me of inciting panic and fear-mongering or throwing "America's First Family" of Matt, Ann, Al and Meredith under the bus, I have evidence. First, the list of stories covered so far this week, according to their own website.

  • N.J. man finally gets to see son in Brazil
  • 10 tips for the fun-yet-frugal Valentine
  • Dr. Ruth: Great sex is like fine wine
  • 20-year wait to see abducted kids not over
  • Four sisters, four weddings — in one year
  • Barefoot Contessa's mustard roasted fish
  • Under pressure: Are girls facing too much?
  • Stressed out! The life of a ‘Supergirl’
  • It's a boy! Tiger becomes father for second time
  • Call TODAY’s parenting expert for advice
  • How sweet it is: Spiced hot chocolate
  • Snooze away those unwanted pounds
  • Hoda, Kathie Lee return to 'SNL'
  • Secret cupid delivers V-Day cheer
  • Best gift for your guy? A boudoir photo
  • Martha’s Valentine’s Day crafts
  • Tara Conner on getting sober
  • Grammy red carpet glitter
  • Ambush! Hot new looks for heart patients
  • Last year's top dog ready to yield title
  • Is your diet making you fat?
  • Secret cupid delivers Valentine's Day cheer
  • Miss Piggy: How to love like a ‘Diva’

I have, uh, news for Today - this is not news. Tiger Woods having a kid would be news only if it was revealed that he had blossomed a vagina and given birth from his own loins. There is absolutely no possibility that I could care less about Martha Stewart's Valentine's Day craft prowess. Nor do I give a crap about Tara Conner. Frankly she was a hell of a lot more interesting when she was a trainwreck. My diet is not making me fat. It's making me crabby. Crabbier now that you've brought up hot chocolate. I cannot conceive of fashion specifically designed for heart patients. The Grammys are boring. And Miss Piggy is a fucking puppet and, as such, should not be giving advice on love. I'm pretty sure Dr. Ruth is a puppet too so the same goes for her.

And if this list of inane crap wasn't bad enough, didn't scream hello, we are NBC and we are here to turn your brain into mush so that one day we can run nothing but really bad remakes of old series from the 1980s and you will watch and you will love it, I actually tuned into this crap about a week ago. Willingly. No gun to my head or promise of free candy after watching.

I was home, working, and made the mistake of turning on the television. If I'm home and doing something that takes less than full brain power I'll sometimes pop in a DVD of Magnum P.I. (come on, Magnum rocks) or something similar. But no, on this particular day I wanted to see what was happening in the world. Boy was I barking up the wrong tree. Because what I found instead were two worthless giggly people dancing and talking about Facebook. Kathy Lee Gifford - who I now know to be completely useless - and Hoda Kotb - who I once ran into at the beach a few years ago and respected - were, I swear, talking about Facebook, Regis Philbin and god while dancing around the studio. It was completely fucked up. I thought I must be drunk or asleep so I turned off the TV, pinched myself, said ow, turned the TV back on and there they were dancing and talking about Facebook. I wish I could say that this lasted a minute and a half then they went back to reporting news but, no, they kept dancing, talking about Facebook and how many friends they had.

So, when I turned the television off fifteen minutes later - who doesn't like to watch a good trainwreck? - I felt stupid. Not embarrassed stupid but literally stupid. The Today Show made me dumber.

Look, I know that if I wanted news, I went to the wrong source. I really do know that. But The Today Show is billed as news. It's included in the news section of NBC's programming site. The people who host it are called anchors and reporters. And all it is is a televised ego-tripping wank-fest populated by pretty people who think they're important and like to hear themselves talk. Is this seriously what passes for news?

So, news. Is the coverage good or are we getting a raw deal? How do you get your news? Or do you just avoid it altogether?

Posted by Chris at February 10, 2009 6:50 AM

I think we ARE getting a raw deal. These shows are just looking for crap stories to keep them on the air. And they sure seem to be able to find those crap stories.

Luckily, I can't watch those shows due to work. When I do have a day off, the TV usually stays off -- I'd rather have silence or listen to the radio. I get my news online. That way, I can read about what I *choose* to read about, and it's my own damn fault if I don't know about something. Also, online news is generally less sensationalized than it is on TV, which is a great thing for me. I can't stand when the media goes ape-shit over something ridiculous.

Alternately, I do read the newspaper almost daily, but by the time I get to it in the evening, it's generally pretty old news. Hey, at least I still know how to *use* a newspaper!

Posted by: ironic1 at February 11, 2009 7:19 AM

I only watch the New England News and I do that for the weather. Aside from that I tune it all out! It's all pablum!
PS: Got my roses yesterday! Beautiful! And will be for a while as I chose a plant! Thanks again!!

Posted by: Maribeth at February 11, 2009 7:51 AM

What? They still have news shows on TV?

I love my TiVo......and I get all my new online and from all those emails about the latest coupon offers from Bill and Melinda Gates, the guy who died in some African country that needs me -- ME -- to help and how Proctor & Gamble is run by the Anti-Christ.


Posted by: David at February 11, 2009 7:57 AM

I gave up on television news for this reason.

As an aside: I have no freakin' clue who that Tara person is. Good on her for getting sober. I think. Dunno. Guess it depends what (who?) she did when she was drunk...

Posted by: Nat at February 11, 2009 8:10 AM

I almost never watch TV - thank you for reminding me why. :) I get my news through the RSS feed readers on iGoogle. They don't go into Google Reader because I honestly don't want to read every single item, nor even bother clicking through them. I chooose what I want to read and read it... and if something else seems interesting from there, I might read that, too. I avoid stories with movies - let me read, please.

Oh - and I get most of my news from the BBC International page. Plus I have a link to NU.nl, which is a Dutch news site. I follow Register.co.uk (IT), Tweakers.nl (IT) and Wowinsider (WoW) on the same page.

Brain rot averted. ;)

Posted by: Hannah at February 11, 2009 8:10 AM

Honestly? I read the website for my local paper - briefly - and read DIGG like a fiend. That way, I get the important things without the depressing stuff or the BS. And I can choose what I read instead of listening to the insipid voices of the Today drones.

Posted by: Claire at February 11, 2009 8:25 AM

I vote for Raw Deal. I used to love the Today Show but now it makes me queasy. Not only is it a farce as far as real journalism is concerned (Kathy Lee Gifford - enough said), but it's on for something like 4 hours every morning. WTF?! I full agree with you that it is an effort to lobotomize us all.

Posted by: Shelly at February 11, 2009 8:29 AM

Newspapers, preferably the hard-copy kind because I'm old skool like that.

Magnum P.I. does rock. If you get the DVDs of Simon & Simon and watch an episode of Magnum, then one of Simon & Simon, you pretty much have my Thursday night lineup while growing up.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at February 11, 2009 8:53 AM

I mostly get my news online. That way I can control, to a better extent, what I actually have to hear/read about. Occasionally I'll watch CNN but the plethora of typos usually have me changing the channel right quick.

Also, I had no idea who the fuck Tara Conner was and had to look her up. Now I care even less.

Posted by: Fraulein N at February 11, 2009 9:30 AM

This post reinforced the happiness I feel in not having a television.

Posted by: jessica at February 11, 2009 9:46 AM

I think Today is meant to be a morning entertainment program, not a news program. I mean, I know News is listed as their first feature but you just get bounced over to MSNBC if you click on a News link. It's lame but even NBC seems to realize that's tongue in cheek. I agree with you, though -- watching it makes me feel dumber too.

Posted by: Laura GF at February 11, 2009 9:56 AM

I gave up on TV news as well. Most of it is like one of those episodes of Cops or Police chases, that to me is not news especially if I live in New England and it's happening in CA. I don't care to watch a police chase on TV unless the car is going to run into my house (which it likely won't unless it plans on going 3000 miles to New England) than I don't consider it news. It's all sensationalized. I don't care about that sensationalized crap I want to know about important issues that effect me.
If CA wants to watch police chases more power to em'

Posted by: Dee at February 11, 2009 10:20 AM

in their defense that "fourth hour" with kathie lee and hoda is supposed to be NBC's answer to The View. i don't think they've ever made it sound like it was going to be News.
HOWEVER, kathy lee is the DEVIL and i will never watch it. EVER.
come to think of it, so is Al and Willard Scott. basically watching the Today Show is like my tv is a window into hell...

Posted by: kati at February 11, 2009 10:47 AM

I have not watched a news show in more than 1 minute spurts in over a year, and actually feel smarter and happier because of it. So much is sensationalized or incorrect, I've decided to read or go to the net for my news.

I'm with you, Magnum PI is much better entertainment than news, or anything on TV right now!

Posted by: Katie at February 11, 2009 11:12 AM

I'm very fond of Meredith Viera but I almost never turn on Today. Until a couple of weeks ago, I didn't know she was there and had been wondering what she was doing with herself.

I wake up, turn on MSNBC and the computer, get coffee and check the email. The last couple of weeks I've had CSPAN for the Senate votes (speaking of trainwrecks). How do they ever get anything done?

I'm not as harsh as you are about the morning shows even though you're probably right about dumbing down the t.v. audience. There are times in today's world that silly is the only way to go.

Posted by: Ann Adams at February 11, 2009 11:13 AM

Honestly, what do you expect when they have to fill FOUR FREAKING HOURS! I just keep CNN on all morning and even that edges on fluff more than I would like. I know when I've heard the same story for the third time it's time to turn the TV off and go read the internet for my real news - you, The Onion and such. :)

Posted by: TUWABVB at February 11, 2009 11:22 AM

I cannot watch any morning news show because of the types of stories you mention AND because I hate those screamy people who hang outside the studio window. Hate them. Who is that excited to see Al Roker? WHO? I do not want to listen to people shriek, well, anytime, but especially not at 7:30 in the morning.

I gave up on evening news for a while, but now I like Charles Gibson occasionally. But mostly it's NPR on the commute with a check-in online during the day if something pressing is happening. That's it.

Posted by: Alias Mother at February 11, 2009 11:30 AM

the portion of the show with Kathie Lee and Hoda makes me want to start punching things

Posted by: Lee at February 11, 2009 12:07 PM

I listen to NPR on the drive to and from work and obssessively surf news websites throughout the day. I like my news unfiltered, straight from the AP wires and I endorse the previous post's recommendation of the BBC world news. It's always eye-opening to see how the world sees the U.S. and to read about news that happens somewhere outside of the country....like, oh, I dunno, the wildifres in Australia and the economic slump in Europe (global economy anyone?) and the fact that more cars were sold last month in China than in the U.S. I should add a disclaimer though: Martha Stewart absolutely rocks and I love to watch her seethe inside as she does those Today show segments. You can tell she *hates*them*all* but is under contract and therefore, must deliver. Kind of like alot of us feel at work!

Posted by: rebecca at February 11, 2009 12:10 PM

Raw deal. To be fair, it is across the board. They go overboard on stories that aren't that important. The things that are important just aren't covered much or in great detail. Reason that I rarely watch news on television.

The latest is the non-stop coverage of the Mom who now has 14 children. I don't care about this story, but I do feel sorry for all those kids. One parent, no job and 14 kids. This doesn't spell a good story or a normal childhood. How and why she was able to have another 8 kids is for the medical community to decide. My take is that it was disgraceful and irresponsible.

I get most of my news online. I occasionally watch it on television, but most of the time is is terrible and I turn it off.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at February 11, 2009 12:21 PM

So I despise the local news. It is all death, doom, and gloom with 95% of the stories focusing on the scum of humanity. I started watching the Today show last year and I have a different opinion of it, though I fully agree that Kathie Lee and Hoda (in the FOURTH hour, MY GOD, WHY?) are so far beyond stupid that I don't know what to call them.

I completely agree that during the more relevant hours of the morning they have a lot of really stupid fluff and filler (which you saw on the website), but then Ann Curry breaks in with actual news segments and without those, I would not know about things like the tornado in Oklahoma that happened last night.

The world has a lot of bad news that is just waiting to drag you down. I will honestly say that I can't handle it in large doses. So I take it with a large side of Martha's Valentine Crafts. Yes, it's probably killing my brain, but I'd like to think I undo the damage when I come into work and read the NYT.

Posted by: Erin at February 11, 2009 1:00 PM

Those network "news" shows are a joke. They've always been more news magazine than just news. But, I can't start my day without WGN Morning News. I love their irreverence - like when they read one of these asinine stories and then react, as we the viewers do: "Did we really just report that?" Paul Konrad especially. Lucky for me, my 2-year-old likes him, too.

Otherwise, I read the Chicago Trib online (yes - I know all my news is fed through the monster that is the Tribune Corp.) and our local paper. I feel the local paper is the most useful, least sensationalized, and most easily digested.

Posted by: kate at February 11, 2009 1:01 PM

Yeah, I feel the same way about pretty much all tv "news." I watch the Daily Show & Colbert Report and sometimes Keith Obermann. I read Slate, Feminist, and the NYT online and I get The Week (a national/international weekly newsmagazine). That pretty much keeps me informed and of course doesnt include following links to other stuff.

Posted by: That Girl at February 11, 2009 1:23 PM

Oy, tell me about it. I'm not a big tv watcher but the last few days It's been on when I get to work and I've watched it while the baby naps. I think Kathy Lee might be actively evil. And yes, it's ridiculous that TTS is billed as "news"

Posted by: jess at February 11, 2009 1:32 PM

New York Times, NPR, MacNeil/Lehrer.

If people wrote to NBC en masse and demanded actual reporting, they might consider it. But I don't see that happening. It's cheaper to "report" on diets and celebrity events, where all you have to do is stick someone in front of a camera, not do research, fact-checking, and other actual work.

Posted by: LauraS at February 11, 2009 1:41 PM

We are fortunate to have the BBC for news. Makes the license fee worthwhile. Talking of which, do Americans still find their jaws at their knees at the idea of having to buy a TV license every year?

Posted by: Loth at February 11, 2009 1:57 PM

It's news lite. Or the skimmer side of the news. Or it's just a talk show with no midget hookers. One of those. :)

Posted by: Issa at February 11, 2009 2:00 PM

I get my news from your blog. Seriously. Remember the morning after the election when I fell asleep? I checked your blog first thing, because I knew you'd tell me.

If anything, I'm loyal. No?

Posted by: k8 at February 11, 2009 2:22 PM

I fucking hate Matt Lauer, which is only perpetuated by the fact that my wife loves him.

I get my news 30 minutes at a time, on the nightly news with Charlie Gibson. Everything else I want I read from news web sites.

Posted by: Brad at February 11, 2009 2:59 PM

We're getting a raw deal. If I lived in the vicinity of a good newspaper, I'd go that route. (Newspaper route! Hah!)

Also, when they've successfully turned our brains to mush, I really hope NBC remakes Mr. Belvedere. I should probably let them know my wishes now while I'm still coherent.

Posted by: Jenn at February 11, 2009 3:54 PM

Um, yeah... Ann Curry?
I rest my case.

Posted by: Brittny at February 11, 2009 3:54 PM

I generally avoid watching the news and just root around online to see whats going on. Sad, I know. Unless there is a major crisis, or severe weather alert like the one we had here yesterday (First Tornado of the season here in the DFW area...woo hoo :o| ) Gotta know when to duck and cover...LOL

Posted by: Elizabeth at February 11, 2009 3:56 PM

I have several sources for news, AP, Fox, and breakingnewson(twitter based news feed). Of course since it is all bad news, it really doesn't matter NBC might be better.

Posted by: Jeff A at February 11, 2009 3:59 PM

Too much airspace for news. Therefore it's filled to the gills with videos of waterskiing squirrels and one armed ladies who crochet. (Bless their hearts. The old ladies, not the squirrels) I used to be a news junkie, watching the AM news, and both the local world and evening.
Plus newspapers. Anymore it takes 10 minutes to slog thru the cutesy weathermen and giddy news ladies on the local stations, so I barely bother. Just a quick glance at the traffic and that's about it. I'm sick of all of it. And now our local (loco) news has broadcasts at 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11. For Godssakes, Central PA isn't the center of the friggin' universe.

Complain much?

Posted by: Ames at February 11, 2009 4:37 PM

I think this is why I don't watch TV. Now there's a few TV shows I watch, but only after they've come out on DVD, when I can borrow them from a friend, copy them, and watch them at my own speed at home. *nods*

Of course my not watching TV and being stuck no dial-up internet leaves me without a lot of news in my life. Yesterday my Mom was watching The Lost Tapes, which is her new favorite show, and I got a ten minute lecture about the Mothman because I'd never heard of it before.

I'm apparently a lost cause. lol

Posted by: Debra at February 11, 2009 5:40 PM

This is why I contribute to my local public radio station. LONG LIVE NPR!!!

And my little PSA for those who like using NPR for news and who don't contribute: BUCK UP and start paying for the news. I cannot even fathom the amount of money it takes to produce news that good from all over the world, but who in the hell do you think pays for it?!?! And the Today Show is what happens when you rely on advertisers to pay for the news. Can you tell it's the fund drive in our town? Is that the case nationally? If so, please, puh-lease, somebody somewhere give to your local public radio station!!!

Posted by: Sabrina at February 11, 2009 5:42 PM

Durrr. I think I feel dumber just reading that list!
And I get my news from a show that doesn't bill itself as news at all - hey it's on the Comedy Network ;-)

Posted by: Heather at February 11, 2009 8:35 PM

I simply read cnn.com and my local news online....can't stand to watch the actual news stations on television anymore. Most of it is crappy, sappy, or just plain depressing.

Posted by: Jen at February 11, 2009 9:47 PM

Well, as long as they discussed Uno the beagle it couldn't have been all bad.

Posted by: Heather at February 12, 2009 1:18 PM

This is why I choose to get all my news from Jon Stewart. At least he admits that it's all just entertainment.

Posted by: NG at February 13, 2009 2:06 PM