Which Morning News Shows Are About the News or About the Hype?
So many choices. So little news.
The morning TV wars: GMA and Today
CBS: the redheaded stepchild
FOX - how did Elizabeth earn a place on the couch? They couldn't find a qualified journalist?
Morning Joe - talk, talk and more talk - as long as Joe gets the last word.
What is News vs Hype?
How do you take your morning coffee? Do you take cream? Sugar? How many? And do you take your morning coffee with the news or with hype? Do you know the difference?
News is what happens in the world that affects your life. Hype is what has nothing to do with you but interests you to varying degrees. Both are offered in abundance each and every morning of the week on American television. Which you prefer probably says more about you than how you take your coffee.
The first morning news program was Three to Get Ready, a Philadelphia production hosted by comedian Ernie Kovacs from 1950 until 1952. Prophetic of current morning shows, it was primarily entertainment-oriented. But, also like today’s era, the program did feature some news and weather segments. This NBC affiliate’s success prompted the network to develop a similar program for broadcast nationally. That decision was the genesis of Today.
Premiered on January 14, 1952, Today has been number one in the morning ratings for the vast majority of its 60-year run. And as night follows day, many other programs have copied their successful format.
The Big Three
CBS has been in the mix since 1954 trying to match NBC in the before-the-sun-is-up ratings war. But no random shuffling of hosts, sets, and formats ever made a dent in the NBC armor for CBS. One reason for this ineffectiveness was the children’s program, Captain Kangaroo, which occupied the second hour time slot. When that famous but audience-limited show ended in 1980, CBS burned through a series of anchors and formats, finally leaving This Morning alone long enough to develop a following. The show morphed into The Early Show in 1999, then became the new version of CBS This Morning in the beginning of 2012.
Perennially in third place of the traditional networks, the anchor team of Charlie Rose, Norah O’Donnell, and Oprah best friend Gail King, devotes more time to hard news than NBC and ABC combined. This factoid seems to verify that what viewers really want first thing in the morning is the latest tabloid headline as opposed to the latest breaking news. Still, since the threesome hit the airways in July 2012, ratings have gone up.
Charlie Rose comes from Public Broadcasting and the experience of nightly hosting the world's best thinkers, writers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, scientists and other newsmakers. Norah O’Donnell is a former chief White House correspondent who is familiar with the political stars of today. She is the primary substitute anchor for the programs Face the Nation and CBS Evening News.
If you don’t get cable TV, and you want more news the first thing in the a.m., CBS is where you want to tune in each morning. But according to the ratings, most of us do not.
ABC got in the game in 1975 and since 2012 has occasionally surpassed Today in the ratings. The initial idea for the show was to fashion it after a local Cleveland program called The Morning Exchange. It ran instead of the ABC morning show in the Cleveland market. News and weather were featured at the beginning and middle of each hour. The rest of the air time was devoted to features. Even the set had a more casual look of a living room rather than the typical network news room setting. The pilot was an immediate hit with David Hartman and Nancy Dussault as the soft-spoken co-hosts. It became so popular even the mighty Today Show borrowed from the new format. It’s taken a decade or two, but GMA, as insiders call it, has recently started to take over the top spot in the ratings, and in August 2013 it celebrated 52 consecutive weeks as the top-rated network morning news program.
It's Known as 'shooting Bambi.'
Changes in personnel on these programs are carried off with nothing short of high drama. All the way back to Jane Pauley filling Barbara Walter’s shoes in 1976, career advancements or reversals have played out on live air with the plot twists and backstabbing of current reality shows. Viewers have recently witnessed the ousting of Ann Curry on Today and the arrival of talk show host Elizabeth Hasselbeck on Fox and Friends, replacing a former Miss America but one with a bonefide news resume. It seems having years of experience in journalism neither grants a host job security as in Curry’s situation, nor prohibits a network from hiring a popular personality with no journalism credentials at all as in Hasselbeck’s.
Looking for Objectivity? Look Elsewhere.
Fox & Friends on the Fox News Channel, and CNN’s Early Start and New Day follow the networks' morning show format. Though whatever made the brass at Fox think a reality star could pass for a journalist is beyond my ability to understand. She has recently announced her resignation as of the end of December 2015. It may have followed her debacle interviewing presidential candidates in recent weeks. You really can't blame her for her failure. Fox is once again to blame for its limitless misunderstanding of how you cover the news. There are basic principles to be followed for proven reasons.
MSNBC's Morning Joe follows more of a talk radio style of programming. Shamelessly partisan, the hosts are former republican Congressman Joe Scarborough playing Devil’s Advocate to self-proclaimed democrat Mika Brezenski (and vice versa).
While GMA is known for committing numerous segments to such entertainment news as the most recent cast-offs from its own network’s Dancing With The Stars, and Today makes room on its couch for the parents of the country’s latest missing children, Brezezinski has been known to refuse to read her own producers’ news copy. She once attempted to light a script on fire instead of reading a report on the recent release from jail of Paris Hilton. Brzezinski received large quantities of fan mail supporting her on-air protest against leading with entertainment news instead of hard news. As a result,eventually a segment was christened “News You Can’t Use” that became a regular feature of the program.
Morning Joe has been known to devote hours, not minutes, to breaking issues of the day. They don't just read the news or interview news makers. The hosts lead (often dominate) a discussion of the news with a panel of invited guests, usually correspondents or commentators who make their living delving into the details of politics. The show is more a study of the news than simply the reporting of the news.
Needless to say, in the ratings Morning Joe regularly comes in dead last, only occasionally coming close to CNN’s American Morning, another bottom of the pile regular that spends more time on news than entertainment. As of April 2013, Morning Joe was the lowest rated of the big three cable news morning shows in both total viewers and the younger demographic.
The Internet, tablets, and cellphones with limitless data have certainly changed the delivery of news in today's America. By the time the average person turns on the TV in the morning they may well have already seen the news headlines that have occurred overnight. A little levity might be just what they are looking for with that first cup of coffee. Nothing wrong with that. The important factor is whether or not the average American can tell the difference between news and hype, and the difference between a reporter and a personality.
So, what do you take with your morning coffee?