Monday, February 13, 2006


When Is News Not News?

Answer: When it's "news" delivered on a cable news operation with a parent organization that has a billiion-dollar contract to deliver sports-entertainment programming.

Case-in-point: MSNBC anchor
Chris Jansing is in Torino, excuse me, Turin giving updates on all-things Olympic.

But is she there as a journalist for the news channel -- giving a mixture of news and sports updates -- or is she there as one more public relations agent for parent network NBC's Games coverage?

Well, to ask the question is to answer it. At around 1:20 Sunday afternoon, Jansing came in with a "report" about the developing Michelle Kwan story. No problem, Kwan's decision to pull out of the Olympics was the big story of the day.

However, then Jansing got all coy about the "stunner" in the men's downhill skiing. It "involved", she told her co-anchor back in the States, the American favorite, magazine cover boy Bode Miller. Jansing said that viewers would have to check NBC's coverage later that day to see the "stunner."

Please. Anyone who had been watching ESPN's Sportscenter over the previous four hours knew that the "stunner" was that Miller had not only lost, but lost badly -- coming in fifth. If NBC wants to make the corporate decision to show the biggest events in prime time, because of ratings, that is fine. (I personally believe it to be a foolish decision given the "more-than-24/7" world that the Internet makes possible now.)

However, NBC has made that choice. But, GE/Universal, the corporate parent, should realize that its individual brands have different audiences -- and different responsibilities than stand-alone NBC.

Yes, the sister networks -- MSNBC and CNBC are also showing the Games. But they are still primarily, respectively, news and business news operations.

Jansing is doing a disservice to MSNBC viewers -- and herself as a journalist -- with the cutesy "teasing" of the downhill skiing event. She is supposed to give viewers information that she has, but is intentionally keeping it quiet -- and certainly not because it has anything to do with something so jejeune as "national security." It's to protect the corporate parent's investment. The in-studio anchor is, of course, complicit in this abandonment of journalistic principles by saying how much she would hold off on not finding out the result so she could "tune in" to watch the event later that day...on NBC.

MSNBC: Bronze in the news channel wars, but gets the Gold in keeping viewers in the dark.

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