A Useful Way to Fill 24 Hours


So.  The cable news networks.  Everybody knows they spend about 18 of every 24 hours banging on about nothing.  A lot of that time is spent talking about reality soap operas — this or that titillating criminal investigation or trial that, while of obvious importance to the people immediately affected, is a complete waste of time for the rest of us.

Of the 6 hours they don’t spend banging on about nothing, there are about 3 hours of real news reporting.  The other 3 are verbatim repetitions of those same reports.

An Yglesias post about a couple of heretofore DC insiders who have decided to turn their careers toward state and local politics, rather than national, gives me an idea: the cable newsies should spend a big chunk of their day reporting on state and local politics and policy, in every state in the union.

This stuff is, as Yglesias points out, incredibly important and incredibly undercovered.  I’ll add that, to the degree it is covered, it’s covered badly.

The coverage is all from local media.  That means the talent pool is shallower: a handful of local  reporters do yeoman’s work, but the vast majority of them just aren’t good at the job.  Coverage by small, local outlets also means they lack the heft of a CNN when it comes to getting calls and emails returned and questions actually answered, and it usually means the editor or publisher or corporate owner is highly sensitive to pressure from the politicians they’re supposed to be covering.

The cable networks have the same problem on the national level, of course.  They wouldn’t have it, however, on the state level.  They would all be bigger than the politicians they’re covering.  They should be able to follow stories wherever they lead, without worrying about stepping on the wrong toes.

So that’s what viewers would get from state coverage by national media: better information on what their politicians are actually doing, why, and analysis of whether or not it’s a good idea.

What would CNN, etc., get from it?  I’d bet better ratings.

First of all, if they want reality soap operas, they really couldn’t do better than state and local politics.

One of the things I disagree with conservatives on is this business of devolving more power to state and local government, away from the feds.  Contrary to their view, my observation is that, by and large, the smaller and closer government gets to you, the worse it gets.  State governments are much worse — more corrupt, more venal, more petty, more subject to lobbying, more incompetent — than the federal government; worse, not better.  And local governments are often worse than state governments.

For juicy morality plays about crime and corruption (punished and unpunished) and family squabbling, you just can’t beat state and local government.  It’s the closest thing to professional wrestling a news channel can put on its air without blushing, and professional wrestling gets boffo ratings.

The second reason I think they’d get better ratings is that everybody likes to see their name in the paper, so to speak.  If people in all 50 states knew that at some point in the day, nearly every day, CNN’s reporters and talking heads would be discussing their little neck of the woods,  a lot of them would spend a lot more time watching (or Tivo’ing) CNN.

Them’s my 2 cents, anyway.

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2 Responses to “A Useful Way to Fill 24 Hours”

  1. Terry Says:

    “Coverage by small, local outlets also means they lack the heft of a CNN when it comes to getting calls and emails returned and questions actually answered…”

    Which reminds me: I read a Forbes (I think it was) online story last week in which the reporter called Tom Kirk Chevy repeatedly to get an answer to this simple question: Is GM shutting down your dealership? The reason s/he had to call repeatedly is that someone at TK would hang up as soon as the reporter identified him/herself. Repeatedly.

    Nothing to hide here, folks. Nothing at all.

  2. The Future of GM and Chrysler? « Hungry Hungry Hippos Says:

    […] Future of GM and Chrysler? By urbino Terry’s comment about the possible closure of a taciturn local Chevy dealership reminded me of an idea I had over […]

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