The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Predictably, Japan Disaster to Be Scene of Next ‘Battle of the Network News Stars’

Posted on | March 12, 2011 | 27 Comments

So predictable, you can set your watch by it: A catastrophe or crisis makes headlines, and TV news operations compete to see who can get their celebrity on-air talent to the scene first:

Cooper, Amanpour among TV journalists to Japan
U.S. broadcast and cable networks, some of which were short-staffed Friday morning in Japan, are now sending top anchors and correspondents to the northeastern region of the country that’s been ravaged by [Friday’s] earthquake and tsunami. . . .
[Christiane] Amanpour — who’s recently escaped the Beltway to host “This Week” from Tucson, Cairo, and Libya — will host the Sunday public affairs show from Japan, too. . . .
CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who devoted several shows to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, plans to leave for Japan after [Friday night’s] show, a spokeswoman confirmed.

As with the Egypt protest Live-From-Cairo Derby — where the rioting mobs were in danger of getting crowded out of Tahrir Square by all the American network anchors setting up for live remotes — this pilgrimage of TV talking-heads to Japan has absolutely nothing to do with providing news coverage.

Each of these networks has foreign correspondents who could do the job of reporting from the scene. No, let’s call this what it is: A publicity stunt, a star-system celebrity-status game where it’s not enough to let reporters do the reporting, but instead the networks want to send their Famous Faces With Big Names.

The purpose is to signify that this is really important news and that their anchors aren’t just Pretty People who read a Teleprompter in a Manhattan TV studio but are actual honest-to-God journalists. It’s like how, when TV news does a story about Congress, it’s important that the reporter be on camera with the Capitol dome in the background — “See? He’s really there at the Capitol, covering Congress!” — even if what he’s reporting is just stuff that anybody could have picked up off the AP wire.

So now we’ll get to watch footage of Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper walking through scenes of earthquake-and-flood devastation, because it’s important for the networks that we see this story “reported” by their $4-million-a-year superstars.

Beyond the transparent synthetic bogusness of it all, what bugs me is knowing that these jetsetting anchors-on-the-scene are greedily gobbling up air time that, by all rights, ought to go to their networks’ usual Asian/Pacific bureau reporters (who, of course, get a mere fraction of the fat salaries paid to Amanpour, Cooper, et al.).

UPDATE: Is Little Miss Attila accusing moi of cynicism? Don’t hate the player, sweetheart, hate the game.


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