Last Sunday, like most, if not out fishing, I relaxed, drank a few cups of coffee and watched the “Talking Heads” in action. Some of them can be interesting, but, for the most part have nothing to do with “news”. They are opinion shows, which is fine as long as you realize this going in.
Commentator “A” asks guest “B” what his opinion on subject “X”, as stated by his opponent is. The guest replies with the pre-programmed “canned” answer. It is the same answer we have heard all week on the news from this individual. Here was an opportunity to inject some fresh information or answer in a different manner that might have offered relevant insight into the question. But was that done, not a chance, just the “canned” answer that was the party directed line. At the completion of the “canned” answer the guest then immediately switched to ask a question of the commentator about his opponent. No new information provided, no facts to back up what said in the “canned” answer, no background information used to expand on the answer. Normally at this point commentator “A” moves on to the next question which begets the same response from guest “B”. And, so it goes, commentator “A” asks question, guest “B” gives canned answer, guest “B” then deflects to ask question to the commentator concerning his opponent, repeat, repeat, repeat. At the end of the half hour we have been witness to thirty minutes of “canned” answers to staged questions using party line information. What did we learn, well from my observation point – not a darn thing.
Now, we take the next “talking head” show, should be pretty much a repeat. There is a difference on this show however. The commentator asks the question, get the “canned” answer and deflection question, but, does not move on to the next question. Instead he asks basically the same question, again, with different words or from a different perspective. Again the guest gives exactly the same “canned” answer, followed by the deflection question. Being a better than average commentator however he decides to give it one more try. He again asks the same question, again using different words or approaching from a different angle. Wonder of wonders, we the viewer, are once again given the same “canned” answer followed by the deflected question. Once again, what have we learned, again, not a thing.
I have asked myself and others “why don’t the commentators ever hammer it home?” Why don’t they call out the guest and say “I’ve asked the same question three times and three times you have given me the same answer, which does not apply to the question asked, why will you not answer the question?” I know the answer to my question before I get a reply from anyone – if the commentator did that no one would agree to come on the show again. There is not a single guest that would want to be put on the spot and held to account, they are there to spew the party line, end discussion. They are not their to give anyone real information or insight, they are there to try and persuade for their side and demonize the other.
After watching four or five of the shows that morning I have to wonder, why do they bother? The commentator knows up front before the show even starts that he will not get a good answer to any question he asks. The guest knows he will not have to answer any question with any amount of truthful or factual information. The viewers should know by now that the only thing that will be new is the commercials between show segments. And, there is where actual action happens. Advertisers are willing to pay to advertise a product on the show because they know big name guests will be on, mostly softball questions will be asked, “canned” answers will be given, questions about the opponent will raised. All very safe, very middle of the road, non-threatening. The closest thing to factual information on the show turns out to be the commercials.
At the end of the day – why do they bother?