Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The most spectacularly unhelpful gadget in TV news

I generally flip between the major cable news networks on election nights, finding all of them largely loathsome, but tonight, I came to hate CNN's high-tech "Wall." There's almost nothing useful about it, particularly when things get late and the guy running it basically just wants to do anything but run the Wall so he can go home. He'll stand there and cycle through data point after data point, switching the map's colors seemingly at random, then heading over to point out where Chicago is in relation to Gary, Ind., or something. Then he'll show off a random bit of polling data. It's all completely contextless, and it's just there to bombard you with information so you feel like you're getting your money's worth.

Then, most of cable news is that way, simply tossing information our way and not making any of it particularly HELPFUL in any way. It's not a new observation to say that the media's coverage of this particular primary has been almost completely void of substance, choosing instead to focus on bizarre controversies instead of things that might matter (I'm currently watching the mayors of Hammond and Gary, Ind., argue about how they count their votes only to have votes be reported that almost COMPLETELY invalidated the argument they were having in the end). I mean, you occasionally get something entertaining like this, but most of the time, it just sucks.

So why do we still do it this way? Because it's the way we're used to, I guess. There's got to be something better.

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