Turkeys of 2008


This week, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, and it's a particularly good time to be grateful for any shred of kindness, prosperity and employment you enjoy in what has been an economically brutal fourth quarter.

It is also a time to reflect on the turkeys that intruded on the media world during the last year. Most of the unfortunately unforgettable moments on television were connected to the presidential campaigns, which provided a cornucopia of silliness in the media for us to carve up.

For example, in February, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann were discussing a speech Barack Obama had just delivered when the excitable Matthews confessed that as Obama spoke, “My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often.”

We're glad it's not chronic. And we hope it's not contagious.

In fact, the political weirdness reigned right to the end. During the Obama-McCain debates, CNN hooked up undecided voters in Ohio with dials with which they were supposed to register their attitudes toward the candidates moment by moment. The electronic line monitoring male and female response looked like an electrocardiogram test, was wholly unscientific and uniquely distracting. The money used to develop it could have been better spent improving the Election Night CNN holograms that, frankly, gave us nightmares. We'll say it once, and never again: There's no place for holograms in journalism.

We'll skip over the detailed reporting on Barack and Michele Obama's “terror fist jab,” as (soon to be former) Fox News anchor E.D. Hill described the couple's modified high five at a campaign event; and we'll just shake our heads over the prankster who fooled some in the media into believing he was a McCain aide and the source for a report that Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country, not a continent.

It's also hard to explain how the government's $40 converter box coupon, intended to help defray the cost of retrofitting older TV sets in anticipation of the digital conversion, was not valid for residents of nursing homes. The government itself recognized that older Americans are among those who most need the converters and the aid. (And eventually, the feds changed the rule.)

But politics is strange. In what everyone says was a first, in October FCC Chairman Kevin Martin called a press conference in Washington that actually conflicted with an FCC meeting that was going on in Nashville at the same time.

But it gets better. Martin made the decision not to show up for the Nashville meeting at the last minute, after encouraging low-power-TV-station executives, who aren't made of money, to make the trip to advocate loudly for an item that he himself wound up pulling off the agenda.

Ain't that America?

With that, we wish you a warm, sane Thanksgiving. At the dining room table Thursday, give thanks—and pray for a sane digital conversion and better, wiser days to come.