During Paris Attack Brian Williams Oddly Breaks News About the Deftones, Al Gore
The world is reeling this morning from the series of terrorist attacks in Paris that have claimed at least 129 lives. Over the last few years, a familiar media pattern has developed with these sorts of unfolding tragedies, one which played out during MSNBC’s coverage of the attacks Friday night.
All the familiar elements were there: the unsourced or barely-sourced video footage, the parade of terrorism experts, the boundless speculation, and the desperate need to continue moving your face-hole and making sounds with it at all costs. In this case, it was Brian Williams leading the coverage, which consisted of a Vine video of the soccer game playing on a loop, and a live video feed from a Paris news outlet that, for a good portion of the coverage, Williams only identified as “the Paris cable television” feed.
When Williams wasn’t simply describing what was happening on the screen (with the disclaimer that he didn’t know what any of it meant), he was talking to terrorism experts who openly speculated on everything from the possibility that the hostages were probably all going to be shot to the likelihood that all of the Islamic terrorist groups had joined together into a Legion of Doom.
If that didn’t get you, then you knew Brian Williams was in trouble when he segued from the sadly mounting death toll by saying “For music fans…”
“For music fans following this as well, because after all, this is an American band we’re talking about that was giving the sold-out concert tonight. The Deftones were also in Paris to perform tomorrow evening. We assume that will be canceled. They’re all accounted for and well.”
This just in, among those not killed tonight were multiple Butthole Surfers. Echo and the Bunnymen were also unharmed, but their audience did suffer a number of deep cuts. Kajagoogoo‘s whereabouts remain a mystery, but nobody’s heard from them in years.
At another point in the broadcast, Williams created some drama around the well-being of former Vice President Al Gore, who was in Paris in advance of the upcoming climate summit:
“Among prominent Americans in Paris right now, Al Gore doing a kind of telethon broadcast as a run-up to next week’s climate summit. Mike Bloomberg was there for that earlier today. We are going to assume that all are safe and accounted for.”
Thankfully, Williams was able to resolve it in fairly short order:
“Sam Champion of the Weather Channel was there tonight with former Vice President Al Gore, who is fine, is safe, and is surrounded by security folks.”
There’s no way to be sure of this, but I’m betting there aren’t three people in the world who were wondering, just then, how Al Gore was doing.
Now, it’s a safe bet that someone handed Williams those bits of copy to read, and there were many more stupid, awful things said and done as part of the Paris coverage, but this particular broadcast is symptomatic of the deep pit that journalism has fallen into. Much of what passes for reporting now comes from social media, as that Vine loop demonstrates, and the holes in the coverage are filled in by rank speculation, dubious experts, and someone else’s video feed.
The profit motive has completely destroyed journalism, which is why television networks don’t have the resources on the ground that they had back when they didn’t even need them, and it’s why Brian Williams has to keep up the patter as though he’ll be shot in the head if he shuts up or repeats himself. The only things that matter are cutting costs and retaining eyeballs. Really good journalism excels at neither.
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