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      ​Media Culpability For Trump

      3 months ago

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      A piece from 2017 that seemed worth re-visiting...

      Media Culpability For Trump

      The CBS Example



      By Ray Cunneff

      1-5-2017


      As some of you already know, I spent fourteen years at CBS, starting as a Program Coordinator in New York and ending as as Executive Producer at TV City Hollywood. What I don't think I've ever mentioned was that at one time I was very interested in joining the CBS News Division, something I never got the chance to do but instead bounced back and forth between the Program Department and the Program Practices Department (twice), something analogous to alternately being a prosecutor and a defense attorney.

      But in 1966, I was one of two or three candidates for the job of Production Manager for a new CBS News program called "60 Minutes". No one really knew exactly how the show would work, but it was clearly a top-tier team led by veteran Cronkite producer Don Hewitt and hosted by Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner.

      In those days, if CBS was "the Tiffany of Networks", CBS News was the jewel in the crown. Evening news anchor Walter Cronkite was "the most trusted man in America" and the news division was generally regarded as the best in broadcasting (although NBC was a close second). CBS News was not yet considered a profit center, more like a "loss leader" and blessed with a protective buffer from the pressures of advertisers, affiliates and government in the towering presence of chairman Bill Paley and president Dr. Frank Stanton.

      One can only speculate what a news organization like that would have made of a candidate like Donald Trump. But it's doubtful that they would have granted him disproportionate free airtime or considered him anything more than a carnival sideshow. More likely, they would have investigated such a candidate thoroughly and ultimately castigated him for his hateful and reckless rhetoric much in the way CBS's Edward R. Morrow had dismembered red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy a decade earlier.

      I'll never know if I would have gotten the job, I was drafted into the U.S. Army and my friend (the late) Tony Sturniolo * got the job and stayed with the show for over thirty years.


      FLASH FORWARD:



      In a February 29, 2016 article in the Hollywood Reporter, CBS CEO Les Moonves famously remarked about the candidacy of Donald Trump, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS".

      But there was a good deal more to the article. Moonves was euphoric about the ratings and ad dollars Trump's candidacy was delivering for the network. He called his campaign for president a "circus" full of "bomb throwing"and hoped it would continue.

      He said, "Most of the ads are not about issues. They're sort of like the debates. Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? ... The money's rolling in and this is fun," he said.

      "I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going," said Moonves.

      Days earlier, he told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco, "Donald's place in this election is a good thing. There's a lot of money in the marketplace," the exec said of political advertising so far the presidential election season.

      Beyond politics, Moonves said ad sales in general were strong because there's not a lot of places beyond "The Big Bang Theory" where advertisers can reach 20 million people all at once.

      This was by no means unique to CBS. In fact, the cable news networks with their 24/7 news cycles bear even more responsibility than the major broadcast networks for the rise of Donald J. Trump, president for all the wrong reasons.


      * I only found out earlier today that Tony had died in 2016. A bit of a shock since we're almost exactly the same age.


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          Ray Cunneff
          3 months ago

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          Donald Trump, the con-artist huckster and "reality TV star" fully understood his appeal to the networks and publicly stated, several times during the 2016 election campaign, words to the effect of, "The networks love me--I'm great for their ratings."

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              Ray Cunneff
              3 months ago

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              FOOTNOTE:

              Beyond the ratings and advertising dollars, the networks, and even more significantly the 24/7 cable news outlets, gave Trump a disproportionate amount of airtime (some calculated more than all the other candidates combined) due to his 'entertainment value'.

              A Trump rally seemed like the circus had come to town and the candidate was a combination of ringmaster and clown, whose TV-reality persona effortlessly morphed into that of a snake oil salesman with shameless lies part of a magician's bag of tricks.

              And Trump played the media like a circus calliope, calculatingly doling out at daily, sometimes hourly, sound-bite morsels of insult and outrage designed to dominate the news cycle.

              And the media became a codependent, an enabler of his dangerous disfunction, delusion and disability.


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                  Ray Cunneff
                  3 months ago

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                  The same kind of people watch trump rallies and Jerry Springer, for the same reasons. They are low-brow, uncultured, uneducated, lazy slobs addicted to their TVs and Internet for "shock value." They want to be shocked and outraged. They love discord, chaos, and the sound of raised voices yelling over each other. They sit their and yell right along with them, pumping their fists and chanting "Jerry, Jerry" "Mexico, Mexico" "Lock her up, lock her up" or whatever the latest, most aggressive, tough-guy chant is.

                  Many years ago, the BBC (no commercials) was the only TV station in Britain. But canny marketers knew that it was too high-brow for a large segment of the population, so they came up with ITV (paid for by corporate commercials). In order to hold onto viewers, BBC went low-brow too, but established BBC2 for those who liked high-brow material, like documentaries and historical dramas. For-profit corporations always pander to the lowest common denominator.

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                          Ray Cunneff
                          3 months ago

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                          Looking backward from now and thinking of all the shenanigan's of Donald, and those of other men of note, including Moonves, exposed as sexual harassers and suffering great downfalls, and how his candidacy worked to infuse the #MeToo movement with vigor, I wonder if Moonves now thinks, in hindsight, that the ratings and the spectacle that was and is driven by Trump a good thing ? Seeing that he was fired and was recently denied his $100 million dollar severance from CBS, I highly doubt it.

                          Karma is a hell of a thing.

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                              Dajuan Candle
                              3 months ago

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                              Beyond the ratings and advertising dollars, the networks, and even more significantly the 24/7 cable news outlets, gave Trump a disproportionate amount of airtime (some calculated more than all the other candidates combined) due to his entertainment value.

                              A Trump rally seemed like the circus had come to town and the candidate was a combination of ringmaster and clown, whose TV-reality persona effortlessly morphed into that of a snake oil salesman with shameless lies part of a magician's bag of tricks.

                              And Trump played the media like a circus calliope, calculatingly doling out at daily, sometimes hourly, sound-bite morsels of insult and outrage designed to dominate the news cycle.

                              And the media became a codependent, an enabler of his dangerous disfunction, delusion and disability.



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