Friday, December 11, 2009

Dear Chris Licht – A Technical Note

The Morning Joe Rebuttal for December 11th, 2009

Dear Chris Licht:

It has become obvious in the last several weeks that news and analysis have taken a backseat to features on the show and I feel the need to explain the peril that you face by continuing such a downward slide.

1) It keeps happening that a guest of some journalistic or political esteem is asked to participate in an awkward acknowledgment of bad behavior as news. It happened today with Richard Haas. Watch tape to see if you can catch your part in the dumbing down of America, today’s chapter.

We all know where we were when Willie Geist asked Maxine Waters about Carrie Prejean and was resoundingly scolded. It was so out of place that there was a sense of shame on the whole crew for creating an atmosphere that permitted that. Symptomatic of the current problems is that this is now commonplace, the Michigan Governor last week, anyone?

2) Structurally we lost one of the Geist segments, then it came back under a different name, and lets be honest, he has a whole show at 5:30 that you could Tivo if you want that content, otherwise one segment would be plenty. Do you remember when he went out, Letterman-esque, to the upper westside in a McCain shirt? That’s Geist’s gift, not turnstiling interruptive nonsense 3 times a show. No one has disdain for Willie Geist’s role in the program until he is the face of the interruption of the program’s core competencies.

3) It’s not just Morning Joe, but the entire 5 AM – 1 PM EST corridor is bogged down by a gross over repetition of the news slideshow. You’re cashing a check, right? Then it is your job to come up with some way out of 6 readings of the same news on your watch. The fact that the last story is rarely covered as the reading is perpetually drowned out the first time through, combined with the fact that the first two readings seemingly bump up together, should be a sign that you could creatively intersperse the news once over a whole hour so that it is not the useless logjam that it is now.

These are dynamics errors. Willie would be funnier if we wasn’t drowning himself out. Mika could bring the news to the debate, if there wasn’t a need for a hard break that often disrupts the real work going on while desensitizing or worse antagonizing the selected five or so headlines of the day.

A lack of a demonstration of core competency can have devastating effects. There is no roadmap for this show, as it has different time factors and deadline factors than any of the other shows on cable news. But the negative consequences of not getting it right are the same. If you can’t differentiate yourself in each half hour with value and brand value, your executives won’t justify your cost difference over having Alex Witt or Contessa Brewer generically reading the same script, and guests of the level of Richard Haas don’t go on that program. In fact, how many upper echelon guests are feeling a mysterious attrition coming to their appearance choice for fear of being adjacent embarrassing programming? How quickly will people you want as guests start to avoid you for fear of being set next to a man in a donkey suit? Where is that threshold today as opposed to yesterday?

I guess the jobs vigil is back too, as the subject of jobs itself took a holiday to a New Jersey beach.

I’m waiting for someone to try and claim it must’ve been a slow news day.

That’s all for today, see you Monday.

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