Today's Brew: Twitter, Charlie Sheen, Japan Earthquake, Glenn Beck & more
From the labor-union protests in Madison, Wisc., yesterday afternoon, to the LAPD raid on Charlie Sheen's house and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan last night, I've begun to think that TV is the killer app for Twitter, and that Twitter is the killer app for TV.
Both are live and continuous, with tweets reporting and reposting what's happening on TV, and TV news taking in reports via Twitter (and Facebook, although Twitter is faster and more sensitive moment by moment).
TV awards shows and news events are live-tweeted (one could almost "watch" the Oscars just on Twitter), and tweets stream across TV screens.
And some TV-news personalities, like Eric Bolling ( @ericbolling on Twitter, left) of Fox Business Network's "Follow the Money," and CNN's John King ( @JohnKingCNN , right) like to tweet right up to the beginning of -- and sometimes during -- their live TV broadcasts .
On the entertainment side, fans of CBS' "Survivor" are really missing out if they're not following host Jeff Probst's ( @JeffProbst ) frank commentary on his blog and Twitter.
It's getting hard to remember what it was like to watch TV without Twitter. No doubt my friends and relatives are relieved not to get calls during their shows just because I have a comment I can't wait to share.
Was amused the other day to see a breathless piece by David Carr of the New York Times about the supposed slide of Fox News host Glenn Beck (below, left), characterizing him as a "conservative Jeremiah" painting a dark view of the future.
Perhaps the Gray Lady was tired of seeing Pinch the talking paper on FNC's overnight news/comedy roundtable "RedEye W/Greg Gutfeld." The pompous puppet is named after NYT publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., and is known for sarcastic rhymes spoofing on the names of Times reporters and columnists.
(Click here for one of a series of "RedEye" shorts called "Pinch & Me," featuring the the paper and its human alter-ego, Bill Schulz, on an adventure in NYC.)
I don't pay too much attention to the horse race of cable-news ratings, but I'm pretty sure that even if Beck's ratings have dropped from their peak, they're still numbers that FNC's competitors probably can't hope for in their wildest dreams at 5 p.m. ET.
Of course, picking on a popular and controversial figure like Beck might increase the revenue of the Times itself, which is not the financial media powerhouse it once was ( decline being a thing it understands very well).
In the interests of full disclosure, I watch "Glenn Beck" every day (except when Judge Andrew Napolitano is guest-hosting, because his monotone bellow is a bit much after a few minutes). It's fascinating. I've never seen anything on TV like it.
Since he's discussing such sexy topics as the Founding Fathers, monetizing the debt, early 20th-Century Progressivism and the decline in Americans' personal morality and reliance on God, it's a wonder that anybody watches. Really.
Why do they? Can't speak for them, but I'm mesmerized by how he blends radio drama, stage theatrics, visual aids (magnets, blackboards, pieces of pie, cupcakes), semi-Shakespearean soliloquy, portentous video clips, graphs, charts and physical comedy.
And blessedly, when he does have guests on, they 're not yelling at or talking over each other. Such a relief.
If only the rest of the TV commentariat could break away from their apparent fascination with sitting behind a desk and trying to look like Edward R. Murrow and cut loose a bit.
I don't buy everything Beck says, but then I don't buy everything anyone says. Contrary to the assumptions of many of Beck's critics, I'm capable of rationally weighing evidence and opinion and making up my own mind -- and I didn't even have to go to an Ivy League school to do it (in fact, that's possibly a big help in that area).
And I haven't bought any gold or food insurance.
In general, I think it would serve all news enterprises well to spend a little less time harping on what their competitors (and yes, they are competitors and therefore, to one extent or another, are rooting for each other's failure) are doing or saying and spend a little more time covering, you know, the news.
(FYI, if I cared what cable-news networks I'm not watching were saying, I'd be watching them.)
Unless a cable-news host or reporter says something demonstrably factually inaccurate about an important topic, or breaks a law, I don't see where it's news.
Because, when we have breaking events like the Japan earthquake, cable news really demonstrates its value. Focus on that, not each other.