Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Late Night with "The Point"

Apparently because his presence in New York allowed him to do a commentary with the “Late Show with David Letterman” marquee in the background, Mark Hyman devoted his most recent edition of "The Point,” to commenting on the number of people turning to comedy shows such as Leno, Letterman, and “The Daily Show” for news on current events.

It’s always a bit difficult to keep a straight face when watching Hyman bemoan the state of broadcast journalism. After all, Sinclair Broadcasting has been in the vanguard of forces aiming at the homogenization and dumbing-down of news content. And ratings for many of their stations show the result. A case in point is WPGH in Pittsburgh. Purchased just over a year ago by Sinclair, the station's ratings have been sliding ever since. Given that Sinclair’s modus operandi for its news stations is to profit through slashing staff rather than producing a superior product, it’s not terribly surprising that viewers are flipping channels to watch Jon Stewart instead of their “local” nightly news.

But we’re still wondering: why does Hyman bother with this editorial now? Sure, the Letterman theatre offers a cute backdrop, but isn’t there a national political convention to be covered? Why would Hyman take a pass on covering the Republicans to comment on the state of the media (particularly when doing so invites speculation from more thoughtful viewers on Sinclair’s own role in the very dynamic Hyman describes)?

The answer comes in Hyman’s final observation: John Kerry’s appearance on “The Daily Show” drew a large rating. After suggesting that the popularity of late night comedic commentary suggests a trivializing of public discourse, Hyman brings in his favorite rhetorical tactic: the meaningless juxtaposition. By mentioning John Kerry in the context of his appearance on the type of show he’s spent the last 60 seconds suggesting are “lightweight,” Hyman looks for a sort of semiotic “bleedover”: If John Kerry appeared on “The Daily Show,” and “The Daily Show” represents superficiality, then John Kerry must be superficial himself.

More subtle than the usual “Point,” but just as logic-free as ever.

And that’s The Counterpoint


At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Baltimore Sun's David Folkenflik had a write-up on Hyman in today's paper:


Best wishes,



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