MORE ON THE SUNDAY TALK SHOWS….Last night I suggested that the paucity of anti-war guests on the Sunday gabfests was largely a function of talk show bookers lazily speed-dialing the same guests week in and week out regardless of what’s going on in the world. But a friend of mine who’s in the talk show biz emails to say that this is only part of the answer:
Take it from someone who works in television: it’s lazy bookers combined with the need for ratings. It is still a TV show. The networks are not performing a public service. Face the Nation competes with Meet the Press which competes with This Week which competes with Fox Sunday. I’m quite sure when Russert has McCain on and ABC goes with someone like Dick Durbin everyone on the ABC staff understands that they didn’t win the booking war, and as a result they’re going to rate lower when the numbers come back early in the week.
It’s got nothing to do with who is for the war and who is against it, or who is a Democrat and who is a Republican. It’s about getting the biggest name guest you can get depending on what the news is that week. (Example: If Colin Powell’s gave his speech to the UN Security Council that week, you want Colin Powell. Then the rest of the shows have to settle for people talking about Colin Powell.) Or if there isn’t some major news to discuss with the person who made it, it’s about getting McCain because people like watching McCain and the press corps likes talking to him. He gives good TV.
In a followup email he notes acerbically that “The bullpen is empty on our side. After you go through Biden and Schumer and Emmanuel, you get to uninspiring people like Pelosi and Durbin, etc. That’s your problem, fellas. Deal with that.”
I don’t think this is the whole story ? Matt Yglesias takes a fair shot at filling in some of the missing pieces here ? but it’s a big piece of it. The Sunday shows may have done a poor job of representing the full range of views to their audience, but they are what they are and that’s not going to change except at the margins. So while holding them to account is surely the Lord’s work, we also need to figure out how to deal with the media as it is, warts and all. If the bullpen really is empty on our side, we need to start filling it.