An Open Letter to Morning News Shows*

I watch the Today show.  I watch the Today Show because it comes on after NBC 5 morning news here in Chicago, and I like to know about weather and CTA problems and Andy Avalos is just downright the most pleasant human being on the planet.

I am a lone viewer and not likely to cause any change but here goes.

There has been much talk about why the big morning shows, and more specifically the Today Show continue to lose viewers.  They blamed it on Ann Curry, and unceremoniously booted her.  But the ratings continue to fall.  Now, let me be clear, I don’t love Ann Curry because the only loveable news anchor is Brian Williams.  That’s a fact, Jack.  But it’s pretty clear Curry got screwed.  And while yes, Lauer seems to be a bit of a pompous unpleasant guy, I don’t really care.

I want the networks to know that the reason these morning shows are failing is because THEY SUCK.  You may wonder why I continue to watch these shows.  Because I am a creature of habit and for the 20 minutes the Today Show is on before I leave in the morning, I have their segment timing memorized so even if I’m putting on mascara, I know what time it is without having to look.  It’s a skill.

But back to the issue at hand:  the suckage.

I understand that morning shows are supposed to be a light blend of news, entertainment, and a ladies magazine and maybe a little bit of cartoony weather.

Well, here’s the thing.  We have the internet now.  There is no longer a monopoly on information.  We now know that  the shallow coverage of news items that make it through the issue gate are not the only things happening in the world.  And I have to tell you that in the first ten minutes of a “news” show, I should not hear the name Justin Bieber uttered once.  Not once.  And yet, this morning, this was not the case.

I read somewhere that the Today Show considers its main audience base to be, basically, a 45 year-old-woman.  Well, I’m 32.  But I can’t imagine that your average 45 year-old-woman would care MORE about Justin Bieber than a 32-year-old woman.

I mean, it all feels made up.  Whatever stupid non-threat of a hyped “here’s the drug the kids are doing now” story to the absolutely gaggy and overly reverent coverage of new Pope installation to the ongoing drone of celebrity non-news where you will say…..YOU WILL SAY RIGHT OUT LOUD MATT LAUER, “TMZ confirms….”

Two things.

1.  I’ll just read TMZ’s blog for (long and despair-filled sigh) better and more in-depth coverage

2.  Your source is THIS GUY:

This guy.

And yet, even though Harvey Levin is doing your dirty work, there is no sense of humor.  (Dressing in Halloween costumes once a year is not a sense of humor.  It’s…well, for you know, elite educated journalists, sad and unprofessional.  I mean, you guys are AT WORK.  It’s why I don’t watch Good Morning America.  I love Stephanopolous too much to watch him suffer.)

I mean, yes, it’s true.  You had a great thing with Meredith Viera.  But, unfortunately, she’s a human and she had to go, you know, be human with her human family.  I suspect, and I bet she would confirm, that working with all you guys was liking working with multiple Lt. Commander Data.

“But I am not capable of love.”

I mean, I know.  I know.  I’m the idiot here.  I should just turn off my tv, but I like the low and predictable noise of your dumb show with the volume set on 5 or 6 at most.

So look, I know I’m only one voice here.  But please.  For the love of all things, cover some actual in-depth news.  LAUER.  WE KNOW YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS.  I think THAT is why I am so mad.  It’s not like you’re not capable!  Do you guys know what kind of educations you have?! And yet you keep covering CHRIS BROWN!?

Meanwhile, I will never understand why morning news anchor on a stupid show like Today ranks much higher in the news world scheme of things than motherf*cking WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT!  HELLO? Chuck Todd should be calling the shots.  Not only because he has a first name for a last name, but also he COVERS ACTUAL HAPPENINGS.  And you give him, like a second and a half to do it. But Bieber spits on a guy, and I hear the headline before you play the theme song?!  And even that isn’t coming close to the Richard Engel level of reportage. He should be FAR more revered than Matt Lauer.  I read that Vanity Fair article.  GOOD GOD.  But I’m not talking about the foreign assignments that may or may not end in kidnapping or head chopping.  I’m talking about WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT.  I mean, yes, I could be wrong.  I’m basing most of this on pretending that CJ Cregg is the Press Secretary and how it would be awesome to work around her.  But seriously?  Covering Justin Beiber SPITTING and Chris Brown saying anything at all is more prestigious in the journalism world than White House Correspondent?

Alright.  Whatever.  I’ll take your word for it.  I mean a Lean Cuisine is better than a big ol’ slice of Lou Malnati’s, right?

The answer is NO.




Speaking of former White House regulars, let’s talk about Stephanopolous for a moment.  Like I said before, I like him TOO MUCH to watch him on a morning show.  So, you see, it doesn’t matter who the anchors are.  (I may have loved Meredith, but she still had to cover some stupid shit.  “Brangelina” stories pop into my mind… ) What matters is that everything you are telling me DOESN’T MATTER.  Sure, every once in a while during an election cycle, you might ask a tough question or two, but you are so constrained by your segment time that you can’t (or won’t…I have no idea) MAKE those slippery politicos answer the damn thing!  Are you afraid we’re going to be uncomfortable?  Did you see Ann Curry’s last day? That ship has sailed, friends.  Might as well use the harbor.

Yet, when something truly newsworthy (and usually horrifying) does make it through the Beiber/Brangelina gate, and you are covering a shooting or something equally as horrid, you don’t cover it.  You WORSHIP it.  You glorify it. Beware. Like most institutions who view the world with cynicism and greed, you eventually crumble. You are charged with educating a voting public on the days issues, events and major players.  To do this using sound bytes and sensationalism is nothing short of an affront to truth and democracy.

It’s not the personalities.  These are talented, educated journalists. It’s the crap that they are covering and the insipid way they are covering it.  Bring on Anderson Cooper if you want to, but until you radically reform the structure of the show, it’s going to be the same thing all over again.

Die to live, Today Show.  Go back to the drawing board.  Tell us stories with truth and complexity.  Ask questions of leaders and public figures that they don’t want to be asked.  Don’t reach us using our fears.  Reach us using our brains and our empathy and compassion.  And stop making your weather people stand in hurricanes.  That’s just silly.

*Never get rid of Hoda and Kathy Lee.