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Obama Gets High Marks from Most Analysts, But CBS Deserves Low Ones
August 29, 2008  | By David Bianculli

Barack Obama ended the Democratic National Convention, and made history, with a speech that got high marks from most (but not all) analysts -- but what many called his finest hour was marred, at the start, by an arrogant editorial decision by CBS News.

At the start of the 10 p.m. hour, as the biographical film began that served as Obama's official introduction, CBS decided to ignore it. Instead, it continued with its own reporting, after which Katie Couric cut to commercials. The Barack film was joined in progress afterward.

Meanwhile, everyone else covering the event, on broadcast as well as cable, showed the film from the start. CBS was the only news organization to make the call that the introductory film for the Democratic nominee for President of the United States was not worth showing in full.

CBS was wrong. And if it pulls the same trick by showing only part of John McCain's film next week, it'll be wrong again. The commercial broadcast networks have cut back on coverage so much already that they're making themselves obsolete -- but to ignore even a portion of a national political convention's main event, and deny its viewers the chance to see and assess that message, is an indefensible lapse in judgment.


Otherwise, there were no major gaffes or missteps during coverage of the final night of the Democrats' turn at bat -- and, given the stadium setting, a sports analogy is even more appropriate than usual. Former Vice President Al Gore's speech occurred long before the broadcast networks' prime-time window, but was given respectful coverage by outlets already offering coverage.

And as for reaction to Obama's speech, seldom was heard a discouraging word. Oh, there were a few, including one Fox News pundit, Juan Williams, who dismissed the speech as "more prose than poetry" and "more like a laundry list." But that definitely was a minority opinion, Even fellow Fox News analyst Bill Kristol, unimpressed by most speeches all week, called it "an actually impressive performance."


At CNN, David Gergen called it "less a speech than a symphony," admitted to being "deepy impressed," and said, "As a political speech, it was a masterpiece." On MSNBC, Chris Matthews said, "I've been criticized for saying he inspires me. To hell with my critics." And Pat Robertson, Buchanan, also on MSNBC, delighted the crowd listening to the post-speech analysis when even he, as a proud conservative, said of Obama's address, "That wasn't a liberal speech at all," and called it "a genuinely outstanding speech."

Monday, the Republicans take over. Stay tuned...





jan said:

Thanks for the heads up on C-SPAN coverage. I had recorded the CNN version on Wednesday night because I thought it would be the most complete, but was sorry I had when I didn't get to hear Richardson or Duckworth, or some of the other speakers that I was interested in. The added benefit with C-SPAN was that not only did I not have to hear all the commentators yammering on and on about very little, but there were no banners blocking the bottom third of the screen. I haven't had a chance to watch all of Thursday night's program (I was watching Wednesday's part of the time on Thursday), but I did get to see Obama's speech. I thought it was masterful. I couldn't believe some of the callers afterwards, though, especially the person who said she had a secure job, and she didn't care if gas cost $5 a gallon as long as she could afford it. How shortsighted! It's not about whether we can pay for it now; it's what will happen to future generations. I can only hope that most Americans are not so tied up with the "me first, and who cares about the rest" mentality. OK, off the soapbox now. Thanks again for all the information you give so that viewers can make more intelligent decisions about where to get the coverage we want.

Comment posted on August 29, 2008 8:28 AM

chris said:

you mean pat buchanan... (Whoops -- Late-night, brain-dead typing on my part. I'll correct the mistake you and others pointed out, of my Freudian slip swapping one conservative TV face for another. Not as good as Joe Biden's slip about "George McCain," but still... -- David B.)

Comment posted on August 29, 2008 5:38 PM

Peter S said:

You meant to write MSNBC analyst and Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, not Pat Robertson in last paragraph.

Glad Keith Olbermann pointed out the wrong-headed and factually incorrect reporting on Obama's speech by Charles Babbington of the AP. Good news is the AP released more than Babbington's opinion.

Comment posted on August 29, 2008 7:19 PM

John said:

I agree wholeheartedly with you David.
Just a small correction to your blog today.
The commentator in question at MSNBC was Pat Buchanan not Robertson.

Keep up the good work!

Comment posted on August 29, 2008 7:31 PM

Toby O'B said:

Even though they'd be wrong again, I hope CBS does treat the McCain film (if there is one, and there usually is) in the same way, only so that they won't be suspected of playing favorites. But I suspect/hope they may have learned their lesson and won't try that stunt again.

For me it was C-SPAN in the living room while I was on the computer in the other room, jumping up to see some of the speakers or performers and of course for the movie and Obama's acceptance speech. Afterwards it was over to CNN for the talking heads and taped Daily Show for their take on Wednesday.


Comment posted on August 30, 2008 12:30 AM

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