Do you watch the lineup of serious Sunday morning television news, one after another?
I don't, much, I confess. But I have a valid reason for my apathy.
Paul Simon once sang puckishly, "I get all the news I need on the weather report." Me? I get all the news I need on the Internet. The Net allows me to follow what's happening right away. I can get opinions from the right, left and center aisles at once, too. The immediacy and convenience are what appeal to me about this method of staying informed. I'm a certifiable news junkie. I read and watch and listen. I am a model news consumer.
But by the time Sunday morning rolls around, I'm news'd out. I'm wasted with it. I'm burned out. I usually head for a spinning class in the gym and seldom DVR something. What would be the point? By the time I got home, there would be a new bombshell coming out of Israel or Syria or North Korea or the Bronx borough of New York City (well, that's where my beloved New York Yankees play, you see). And I can follow the up-to-date news on my computer or a mobile device.
To win me back to the fold, here are five suggestions for the titans of Sunday morning news TV:
1) Relevance: Take the topics out of Beltway politics and make the shows personal to me. Yes, I understand that the news executives believe that these ultra-serious (and self-serious) people are best suited to discussing weighty political subjects. But sometimes the approach doesn't do anything for the viewers who don't live in Georgetown or Sutton Place. For instance, the panel that opened George Stephanopoulos' ABC show on May 5 talked about Syria, concluding that the president doesn't know what to do and neither does anybody else (as Cokie Roberts wryly put it). Mary Matalin immediately echoed those words, further prompting me to ask: Why am I watching this when they are talking to each other and aren't presenting any ideas of their own and merely try to show how smart they are. Thank heavens for the always lively James Carville. But if the shows go beyond the standard fare of Washington, my ears would perk up. I like ABC's news presentations so I am not trying to single out this network. They're all part of the problem, equally.
2) Topics: Discuss such issues as tech, health care, media, education, entertainment, popular culture and personal finance -- and make it a point to show how much these mean to ALL of the viewers, not only rich people in Washington and Hollywood and on Wall Street. Don't the panelists understand that they need to connect the dots on these issues because the voters care about them? Sure it's always the economy, stupid -- but people can also vote one way or the other because of the way they feel about social issues
3) Guests: Bring in smart "ordinary people" to serve as panelists: Lots of people have the street cred to make them worthy panel guests. Instead of always talking (down) to America, particularly the forgotten folks along our nation's Main Streets, bring in more farmers, small business owners, job seekers, students and labor leaders, to name just a few groups of AMERICANS, and let them spew and vent and explain what they care about in he news.
4) Interpret the Economy, Please: The networks don't seem to understand what the hell is going on among those quants and geeks any more than the rest of us do. But if the Sunday shows tried harder to EXPLAIN what all of the data mean to most of us, they would be taking a giant step toward making their programs seem more relevant and maybe even lively.
5) Incorporate Humorous Commentary: The noted satirist Andy Borowitz and I have a running joke because I have been writing now for a decade (!) that news shows miss the boat by not giving him a regular gig. He could close out a show with one of typically pointed, witty commentaries. Borowitz is savvy enough not to have to pick on anyone by name -- he could simply mock the Congress, the President, the media, TV entertainment, whatever appeals to him (and us, watching at home). John Fugelsang, for instance, is another biting social critic with a humorous edge. These folks are resources. Use them.
MEDIA MATRIX QUESTION OF THE DAY: What do you think the TV networks need to do to make the Sunday morning programs more relevant to America?
Please feel free to post your comments here.