Friday, February 28, 2003

News News

I watch news on and off pretty much anytime I'm watching TV, but I thought I'd lay out the highlights of a typical day. I'm not saying I watch all of this, but these are generally the shows I turn to when I want to know what's going on. All times central.

5:00 AM - 8:00 AM - Imus In The Morning (MSNBC)
You don't have to agree with Don Imus to enjoy his show, which is good, because Imus generally chooses to shake things up by being disagreeable. Three things make this show work - Imus' provocativity (this may or may not be a word, but you get the point), great guests, and it's a radio show that happens to be on TV. If you want to see sharp-dressed people all made up for a national TV audience, turn to any one of the major networks. If you want to see somebody who looks more like you do when you roll out of bed, watch Don Imus.
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM - Various MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, and The History Channel
Even with everything going on in the world, if you watch any of the 24-hour news networks for more than a couple of hours you'll soon reach the point of diminishing returns - when you're unlikely to hear anything new and stories and topics just get repeated. I find this particularly true during the day, so on days I'm not working I either find something else to do or watch something entertaining. Watching or listening to The History Channel is a great way to learn something while taking on other daily projects.
4:00 PM - 4:30 PM - Around The Horn (ESPN)
4:30 PM - 5:00 PM - Pardon The Interruption (ESPN)
I don't watch SportsCenter as much as I used to - I prefer for checking scores and reading the headlines. I do like to hear sportswriters debate about the stories of the day, and these two shows feature exactly that. These shows aren't necessarily the highest quality shows on TV, but they're good for entertainment value.
5:00 PM - 5:30 PM - Local News
I watch the closest NBC affiliate, but your preferences may vary.
5:30 PM - 6:00 PM - NBC Nightly News (NBC)
Again, I stick with NBC, but either one of the alternatives (ABC, CBS) are just as good. All of the anchormen have been around a long time and are well-respected, but they have their differences. I see NBC's Tom Brokaw as the senior of the three (he'll be the first to retire) and he's always been my favorite. CBS's Dan Rather has a little Texas cowboy in him (which serves him well), and ABC's Peter Jennings has the interesting perspective of being Canadian-born and of having years of experience as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East.
6:00 PM - 6:30 PM - Local News
More local news...I watch the same station that I watch at 5:00.
6:30 PM - 8:00 PM - Sometimes News, Sometimes Not
From 6:30 to 7:00 you can catch the second half of "The News with Brian Williams" on CNBC, or "Crossfire" on CNN. Then again, after having watched an hour and a half of news, maybe this is a good time to take a break. The 7:00 - 8:00 period is really a toss-up, so it just depends on that night's programming.
8:00 PM - 9:00 PM - Hardball (MSNBC)
Hardball with Chris Matthews is my favorite hour of news commentary and debate. Chris Matthews has really made a name for himself, and the parody of Hardball on NBC's Saturday Night Live certainly doesn't hurt. I think the Hardball College Tour is a particularly good idea, and Matthews knows how to keep a show moving.
9:00 PM - 10:00 PM - Good TV
Sure, you could watch Brian Williams on CNBC, but this is a good time to relax with some good TV. Tuesday has "The Shield" on FX, Wednesday has "Law & Order" on NBC, and Friday has "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit", also on NBC. Dave Chappelle has an excellent variety comedy show on Comedy Central at 9:30 on Wednesdays, and every night on Nick @ Nite you can find either "Cheers" or "The Cosby Show" (Fri. and Sat. only).
10:00 PM - 10:30 PM - The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
A brilliant mix of news and comedy, much in the tradition of Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update". Jon Stewart is a great host, and after watching "serious" news, it's great to hear somebody poke fun at the serious topics of the day.
10:30 PM - 11:00 PM - Late Night with David Letterman (CBS)
Leno is good, but I prefer Letterman, and on most nights I don't watch past the first half hour.
11:00 PM - 12:00 AM - Larry King Live (CNN)
My interest varies greatly depending on Larry's guest, but this always one of the best interview shows on TV. "Hardball" is also replayed at this time, so I'll watch it if I missed it earlier. If all else fails, "The Cosby Show" is on Nick & Nite.
12:00 AM - 1:00 AM - NewsNight (CNN)
Aaron Brown hosts this show, and there's something easy-going, almost soothing about the way he gives the news. "Cheers" is on Nick & Nite if the news gets dull.
1:00 AM - 2:00 AM - Kudlow & Cramer (CNBC)
Kudlow & Cramer is actually on three times, first at 7 PM, then at 10 PM, and finally again at 1 AM. I might tune into it earlier in the evening, but most likely I'll see it real late. I try to keep up with financial news, but this is usually a good time to set the sleep timer on the TV.

Now let me make this clear - I don't watch this much TV every day! Or any day! I don't recommend watching this much TV, and I admire people who watch very little TV (as long as they still find ways to keep themselves informed). But when I'm working around the house, I generally have the TV on, and the shows I listed above are what I would generally watch at a given time. I think it's a pretty good list, and thankfully it contains none of the stereotypical "reality TV". Ick.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Not-So-United Nations

Yesterday was the big day at the United Nations, big enough to fill most of the news coverage for the rest of the day. Some called the report of Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix to be "shocking", but you honestly can't be all that surprised by a guy who doesn't want to be held accountable for starting a war, whether he might personally be for it or not. I thought he gave a pretty honest and straightforward report, and maybe the only real surprises of the day were the rounds of applause following the statements made by the representatives from France and Russia. Anti-war seems to be a popular stance right now, and if it weren't for things like guns and missiles and armies, especially in the hands of people who might use them, I think that even the strongest hawks would agree that not having wars is a good thing. Too bad the world doesn't necessarily work that way, and some will always turn to violence as a means of solving their problems. It seems that the majority of people around the world think the inspections are working and are encouraged by Iraq's improved (yet not complete) cooperation. Even if you're anti-war, you have to realize that Iraq's cooperation is most likely due to those 160,000+ U.S. troops standing at the Iraqi border. Could our military be powerful enough to get Iraq to disarm without firing a shot? Teddy Roosevelt's "big stick" is at it again...

I was a bit disappointed yesterday that following the reports from the U.N. weapons inspectors that the news coverage switched to analysis and commentary and not on all of the comments made thereafter. (Maybe I should have checked out C-SPAN...they probably had it.) Syria went first, and MSNBC was kind enough to put some captions with the picture to indicate what was being said, but none of the translation was heard. MSNBC indicated that the ambassador from Syria was talking about Israel's non-compliance with past U.N. resolutions, and given the problems in that part of the world I think it would have been interesting to hear his side of the story. People riding the fence often do so in an attempt to get the best view of both sides.

So even though I titled this post "Not-So-United Nations", don't think I don't like the process that was on display yesterday. The debate is a good one, and it could shape international diplomacy efforts for years to come. There has been quite a bit of talk about the Security Council's "power" and "relevancy" if they fail to "forcefully enforce" their resolutions, and maybe only time will tell how that will sort out. As pointed out on MSNBC's Hardball last night, the key player at this point may be Britain's Tony Blair - as a leader of a strong European country and the United States' greatest ally, he is in the best position to negotiate a compromise. I think highly of Blair as a world leader, and I hope he can pull it off, regardless of whether that means force is used or not. I really think the "United" in United Nations needs to mean something, just like it does in "United States of America". That doesn't always mean that decisions are made to please the majority, but it should mean that decisions are made together.

Monday, February 03, 2003


In my post a few days ago about the State of the Union, I concentrated mostly on not the speech, but the coverage of it. The news is the window through which I see the larger world, and without that window I would have no knowledge of important events beyond my personal reach. News can come in many different forms, everything to Tom Brokaw on my TV to a friend passing along a story they heard from someone else. Regardless of its source, I'm always thirsty for new knowledge, and I like feeling like I know what's going on around me. When I was writing last week about this fascination I've had with the news, I tried to remember the major news stories that stick out in my earliest memories. I vaguely remember the 1984 Summer Olympics and that year's presidential election, but too vaguely to remember anything specific. Last Saturday I received a grave reminder of the first news story that made a significant impact on my life.

My interests as an 8-year-old were pretty typical - dinosaurs, G.I. Joe, the A-Team, and most all the other stuff you might expect. But at that particular time my greatest interest had to be the NASA and the Space Shuttle Program. I collected toys, built models, read books, and even subscribed to Odyssey, a magazine for kids dedicated to space-related issues. I'd sit outside at night with my K-Mart telescope and wonder if I could possibly ever see the shuttle in orbit, and in December of 1985 and January of 1986 I remember going out to the country at 5 am with my mom to scan the skies for Halley's Comet. It was a great time to be a kid interested in what was beyond our planet...until the Challenger disaster of January 28, 1986.

I was in school eating lunch when my teacher, Mrs. Sue Lynn Steiner (still one of my favorite teachers ever), came into the lunchroom and asked me to come out in the hall with her. She told me what had happened to the Challenger, and that she wanted me to know from her before I heard anything from the other kids or teachers. I knew all about the mission, with Christa McAuliffe as the first teacher in space, and I couldn't wait to get home and find out more information. I'm sure I was tuned into Tom Brokaw that night and for many newscasts in the days and weeks thereafter, and last Saturday's Columbia disaster reminded me of all those details I had yearned for 17 years before.

Although I don't take nearly the interest in NASA and the space program that I did when I was younger, I had seen the Columbia's last liftoff and I still had feelings of nervousness, not knowing if I would see a live replay of the Challenger. Everything seemed to go just fine, and I promptly put it out of my mind. I woke up Saturday and immediately saw the news, and didn't leave the coverage for the next 5 hours, and I've returned to it many times since. I'm still very aware that the news is between me and the actual event, and I feel very sorry for those who cannot say the same.