I love telly. And radio. And newspapers. And films. Basically I like the media and wherever I am in the world I try and absorb as much of the local media as I can. The advantage with American media is that I can understand it (I do watch Spanish TV and just try and guess what they are saying). Today we visited Hearst castle, the folly of media mogul WR Hearst. He invented the tabloid press in the US and during his career he owned newspapers, radio stations, film companies and a tv network. (Sound familiar?). He nearly lost it all in the 1930’s when one of his journalists was caught intercepting celebrities telegrams, but when he was questioned about it he just claimed he didn’t know about it/forgot.
TV over here is a culture shock. It’s so fast and condensed. Programmes turn into adverts, into promos, into adverts, into programmes etc with no joins or sense where one ends and the other starts. Networks opt out to local weather mid sentence where your local weather girl will give you an astounding amount of information in less than 10 seconds, to return to the network where the national weather man will say “that’s your weather”. Blink and you miss it.
One of my favourites when I’m over here is the Today Show (which is as far away from the Radio 4 Today programme as an American car is from economical (but that’s another blog)). Imagine the suited journalists on BBC Breakfast delivering the content of Daybreak in the style of The Big Breakfast…but a bit lighter, and you have the Today programme. It comes from Rockerfella Plaza in New York and come rain or shine their are people outside the studio with placards (nice ones, not the protesting ones we used to get every other week at Oxford Road). The hosts seem to move inside to outside and then back again every link. I think the studio director must had ADD.
It’s presented by 4 hosts. Matt Lauer, who is very tall, does the occasional serious item but is quite Alan Partridgesque. Savannah Guthrie who has all the sincerity of Fiona Phillips i.e. none. Actually that’s a bit harsh. Fiona Phillips actually has negative sincerity, Savanah just views her guests with contempt. Al Roker, the weatherman (sorry meteorologist as they all insisting being called over here) who is a cross between Fred Talbot, Alan Partridge and Bill Cosby. When we were over here on St Patricks day a few years ago, he escaped the plaza and was sent to Ireland where he wore a green suit and tried to do an Irish accent all morning. This in front of a crowd of Dubliners (whose placard looked slightly less friendly than the usual ones in NY). He was lucky to get out of there alive. And finally there is Natalie Morales who is the news reader, who appears to have had a personality bypass, but whom we saw a new side of on Friday.
Each week they have a sort of concert in the plaza. They keep showing the clip of One Direction performing a few months back like they are the Beatles. Now this item is trailed heavily. I mean really heavily. Over the week, what is essentially a 4 minute item must receive over and hour of time to promoting it. This week it was K pop sensation Psy performing Gangnam style. Now that is embarrassing in itself, but then the suited and booted presenters join in. Don’t believe me, watch the clip. I’ll wait for you here. (you may have to cut and paste the link).
Watched it? Embarrassing eh? Saying that, Natalie’s a bit of a sassy mover when the let her out from behind the desk isn’t she? Now I may sneer at this and even cringe, but the annoying thing is that it’s strangely addictive. On more than one occasion Karen has been stood with her coat on and the car packed ready to explore this enormous country and I have caught myself saying “we can leave soon, I just want to see what Al is going to say to this woman from Michigan who has a hat made out of cheese” (I am not joking about the hat made of cheese, I saw it with my own eyes).
So is the American media good or bad. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad and sometimes its so bad that it becomes good again. But whatever it is, it’s all strangely and worryingly addictive.