1980s NEWS
People lined up in a hallway waiting to get on the Morton Downey Jr.'s tabloid TV show.
TABLOID TELEVISION / NIGHTLINE
INCOMPLETE CS VO PROFILING TELEVISION PERSONALITY MORTON DOWNEY JR. AND HIS BRAND OF TABLOID TELEVISION. 10:00:01:10 VS of Downey greeting people before entering a television studio. Soundbites of people who say they like the show. VS of the audience applauding Downey during a taping of the Morton Downey Jr Show. Blank to End. CI: PERSONALITIES: DOWNEY, MORTON JR. INDUSTRIES: TELEVISION.
NATPE CONVENTION
COVER FTG OF A NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TELEVISION PROGRAM EXECUTIVES (NATPE) CONVENTION. 00:00:25:10 LS OF AN AUDITORIUM WITH A LARGE OVERHEAD VIDEO SCREEN SHOWING THE IMAGE OF MORTON DOWNEY JR. VARIOUS MLS' OF A GUEST PANEL ON STAGE FEATURING MORTON DOWNEY JR AND THREE EXECUTIVES INVOLVED WITH TABLOID STYLE TELEVISION PROGRAMS. MAUREY POVICH OF, A CURRENT AFFAIR, CAN BE SEEN AND HEARD ON THE OVERHEAD SCREEN, BUT IS NOT IN THE AUDITORIUM. CUTS OF THE AUDIENCE. 00:07:43:08 CU OF RON POWERS DURING AN INTV. POWERS COMMENTS ON TABLOID TELEVISION BY SAYING, IN THE OLD DAYS, WE USED TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. I MISS THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. REVERSALS JUDD ROSE. 00:12:18:09 VS OF COMPANY DISPLAYS INCLUDING REPUBLIC AND KING WORLD. KING WORLD'S BOOTHS HAVE LARGE PHOTOS OF DAVID FROST AND OPRAH WINFREY ATOP THEM. CU'S OF IMPRESSIONIST / COMEDIAN FRED TRAVALINA AS HE DOES IMPRESSIONS OF PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH AND PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN. MS OF A USA TODAY TELEVISION SHOW DISPLAY. 00:17:27:29 MS OF A WOMAN EXECUTIVE STANDING WITH A PERSON DRESSED AS A DINOSAUR. SHE IS PITCHING A PROGRAM CALLED, THE LAST DINOSAUR. CU'S AND MS' OF THE HOST OF A PROPOSED CHILDREN'S SHOW WHO DEMONSTRATES TINY RUBBER TOY OCTOPI BY WEARING THEM ON HIS SWEATER AND THROWING THEM AT A COLUMN. CU'S OF THE TOYS ON THE COLUMN. CI: PERSONALITIES: BUSH, GEORGE (ABOUT). PERSONALITIES: DOWNEY, MORTON JR. PERSONALITIES: FROST, DAVID (ABOUT). PERSONALITIES: POVICH, MAUREY. PERSONALITIES: POWERS, RON. PERSONALITIES: REAGAN, RONALD (ABOUT). PERSONALITIES: TRAVALINA, FRED. PERSONALITIES: WINFREY, OPRAH (ABOUT). EXHIBITIONS: CONVENTION, NATPE. INDUSTRIES: TELEVISION.
1980s NEWS
Interview Inserted: Robert Lipsyte: In the interest of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, I must say that Mr. Kitman has reviewed the 11th Hour very generously for which we are proud, as suggested we might be tabloid for which we are puzzled. So Marvin Kitman, what's your definition of tabloid TV? Marvin Kitman: Tabloid TV has nothing to do with the word tabloid, which is basically a newspaper word. It's the size of a page you know, like the Daily News or News day my newspaper in contrast to the broadsheet, which is like US today, the full size. And by tabloid, I meant that it uses pictures your program like the pictures we've been seeing, and uh, and I, I think it's a great misnomer to call programs like Downey's show tabloid journalism. Jeff Cohen: What do you call them? Marvin Kitman: Well, I view that as argument TV or debates.That that is the closest thing we have to the Oxford Debating Union in this country, the Morton Downey show, and it's, it's a program, it's also a show very much like wrestling, also, it's kind of a wrestling debate where there's a whole ritual to it. And Mort is a great artist. He controls an audience like I, we haven't seen anything like this since Musselini, actually who he he controls them with his hands. He says zip it, and the audience suddenly becomes as quiet as a clam in the Hackensack River. I mean is there's a lot of artistry to what Mort does. It's a debate in the old fashioned American tradition of whoever yells the loudest wins. Reminds me of old arguments we used to have in my neighborhood way, which would end with, ah, your mother wears combat shoes. Robert Lipsyte: Yeah, but but somewhere between Musselini, wrestling, and the Oxford Debate, something, something else is going on. People have called this trash TV. They've also called it punk news. Jeff Cohn, you have, I think, a different approach to Jeff Cohen: Yeah. Robert Lipsyte: Whatever- what do you call it? Jeff Cohen: Well, I think tabloid TV is an interesting name for it because the comparison is to the tabloids, the National Enquirer and The Star. And I think if you're talking about programs like A Current Affair, or Inside Edition, that's not an unfair comparison. If you're talking about Mort Downey and you want to compare it to print medium, it might be more like the John Birch Society Gazette. And G. Gordon Liddy is coming that might be more like the Liberty Lobby Spotlight. I don't know. Robert Lipsyte: But do you see a strong political strain? Jeff Cohen: Oh, clearly these things are, tend to be right-wing or reactionary or law and order vigilanteism the show? Robert Lipsyte: You don't feel that? Marvin Kitman: No, I mean, I, you you started off the program by talking about the babble of all it is, I think you're really contributing to the babble and I, I by this the misuse of terms here. Um, classic television terms. I mean, all of these things, you lumped together the debates of Downey with with Geraldo show, which
NATPE CONVENTION
COVER FTG OF A NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TELEVISION PROGRAM EXECUTIVES (NATPE) CONVENTION. 00:00:25:10 LS OF AN AUDITORIUM WITH A LARGE OVERHEAD VIDEO SCREEN SHOWING THE IMAGE OF MORTON DOWNEY JR. VARIOUS MLS' OF A GUEST PANEL ON STAGE FEATURING MORTON DOWNEY JR AND THREE EXECUTIVES INVOLVED WITH TABLOID STYLE TELEVISION PROGRAMS. MAUREY POVICH OF, A CURRENT AFFAIR, CAN BE SEEN AND HEARD ON THE OVERHEAD SCREEN, BUT IS NOT IN THE AUDITORIUM. CUTS OF THE AUDIENCE. 00:07:43:08 CU OF RON POWERS DURING AN INTV. POWERS COMMENTS ON TABLOID TELEVISION BY SAYING, IN THE OLD DAYS, WE USED TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. I MISS THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. REVERSALS JUDD ROSE. 00:12:18:09 VS OF COMPANY DISPLAYS INCLUDING REPUBLIC AND KING WORLD. KING WORLD'S BOOTHS HAVE LARGE PHOTOS OF DAVID FROST AND OPRAH WINFREY ATOP THEM. CU'S OF IMPRESSIONIST / COMEDIAN FRED TRAVALINA AS HE DOES IMPRESSIONS OF PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH AND PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN. MS OF A USA TODAY TELEVISION SHOW DISPLAY. 00:17:27:29 MS OF A WOMAN EXECUTIVE STANDING WITH A PERSON DRESSED AS A DINOSAUR. SHE IS PITCHING A PROGRAM CALLED, THE LAST DINOSAUR. CU'S AND MS' OF THE HOST OF A PROPOSED CHILDREN'S SHOW WHO DEMONSTRATES TINY RUBBER TOY OCTOPI BY WEARING THEM ON HIS SWEATER AND THROWING THEM AT A COLUMN. CU'S OF THE TOYS ON THE COLUMN. CI: PERSONALITIES: BUSH, GEORGE (ABOUT). PERSONALITIES: DOWNEY, MORTON JR. PERSONALITIES: FROST, DAVID (ABOUT). PERSONALITIES: POVICH, MAUREY. PERSONALITIES: POWERS, RON. PERSONALITIES: REAGAN, RONALD (ABOUT). PERSONALITIES: TRAVALINA, FRED. PERSONALITIES: WINFREY, OPRAH (ABOUT). EXHIBITIONS: CONVENTION, NATPE. INDUSTRIES: TELEVISION.
1980s NEWS
Interview insert continues: Jeff Cohen: But Cheryl, don't you think it's already happening? When nightline does show after show about Jim and Tammy, part of it shed a little, Cheryl Gould: No show after show, a couple of shows- Jeff Cohen: No, they they had a- we studied their religious show. Yeah. Robert Lipsyte: And it was their highest rated show. Jeff Cohen: Yeah, it's because it was their highest rated show. Cheryl Gould: You can take the same topic and have it done by you know, foreign policy review and by, you know, USA Today and you'll get very different coverage. Right? It's not to say that there can never be overlap of topics. Jeff Cohen: Right, I'm just saying when you wring everything out of the subject- Cheryl Gould: But that's an interesting topic! Jeff Cohen : Oh, I thought ut was very interesting! Cheryl Gould: The Evangelists is a very newsworthy story. Jeff Cohen: And we studied their coverage on religion shows in general and basically that obliterated all religious issues. That was the religious issue. Marvin Kitman: There's a lot of hypocrisy in network news and the establishment of the journalists there. They're they're all attacking tabloid programs for what they're doing, but basically, what programs like 60 Minutes and 2020 do at their best is exactly what the tabloids are doing. They take the same kinds of subjects and the major difference is that the tabloid programs do not have expensive journalists doing the stand ups. And I think that the really important issue in what's wrong with network news is the form of it! Why should they be three programs in a free country where theoretically, they are not conspiring with each other? Why should there be three major programs that have exactly the same news? Maybe the difference is .007 Cheryl Gould: Well they're not the same news, why should there be Newsday and the New York Times? Marvin Kitman: And why should there be why should they be in network news, the thrust on the reporter reporting the news, why not on our pictures? Robert Lipsyte: Marvin, you're gonna have to leave it there. I think you may be onto something about the three network new shows being very similar, but 60 Minutes and Morton Downey being the same maybe provocative. Marvin Kitman: I'm not talking about Morton Downey!
1980s NEWS
Interview Insert Continues: Lipsyte introduces next guest. Cheryl Gould, Producer for NVC Nightly News. Robert Lipsyte: Joining us now is Cheryl Gould, the senior producer for the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw. Cheryl, there is a sense that what we've been talking about as tabloid television is is really a reaction to either the blandness, of so much of network news, or really as a continuation of shows like 2020. and Nightline, which have dealt with some of these topics in almost a sensational away. Do you have a reaction to that? Cheryl Gould: I'm not sure that these shows and, and I think within the category, that you're calling them tabloid or trash television, they're all different kinds within, but I'm not sure that there's so much reaction to network news. And I don't even think it's right to call them news programs per se. I think that the audience makes that distinction itself. I found it interesting in the tape piece before when a woman was asked in the audience, do you consider this news or do you consider this entertainment? She had no hesitation. This is, in her mind entertainment. And therefore, I think to cast the argument, is this somehow an outgrowth of the news programs? I think that is to load the argument and saying that is somehow related to what the network news programs are doing. And I think that we're very much different. Robert Lipsyte: You think there's no connection whatsoever, that the audience's leaving network news is not going to some of these programs. Cheryl Gould: There's a connection in many ways. Some of the issues as you said, they are the same, but it's how they're handled. There's also the connection in the time slot. Many of these programs are being put up against the network news programs. But again, I don't think that people are leaving the network news and going to these programs thinking that they are getting the synopsis of the day's news. They're just as easily watching Wheel of Fortune or some other program. And I don't think that in anybody's mind, he or she thinks I'm getting today's news by watching. Robert Lipsyte: Let's let Jeff Cohn join us because you've been a critic of both network news and so-called tabloid news. Jeff Cohen: Right, I think there is a connection, because I believe that two and a half years ago, when we formed F.A.I.R., we said, there's a bigger audience for controversy. And there's a big audience, TV audience, out there for programs that deal in a controversial way with political and social issues. Well, the one thing that's been proven is that yes, there's an audience out there for lively controversial shows that discuss political and social issues. We had criticized the blandness and the same establishment experts getting the same sound bites- Hague and Kissinger and Brzezinski, we said if there was a wide ranging debate type show, with say the head of General Electric debating the head of Greenpeace about nuclear power, or the Pentagon chief debates the head of the nuclear freeze movement about the arms race, that would get big ratings instead of Hagan, Kissinger and Brzezinski basically agreeing on all major issues, and quibbling over the fine points. That's the blandness, of establishment TV news. So I'm happy in one on one area that the so-called "tabloid shows," have shown that if you have a lively show, people will watch political and social issues. And I'm just waiting for something that's not the blandness of MacNeil Lehrer or Nightline or Brokaw or Jennings. Or on the other hand, Geraldo- Cheryl Gould: But what you described is very much like, say, a Nightline program. Jeff Cohen: Yeah. Cheryl Gould: Are you saying you want a liberal Morton Downey to get up and rant and rave their point of view? Jeff Cohen: No, no, I like the Nightline format is fine. But we've done studies of their guests the last and like 90% of the guests are men, 90% of them are white, they tend to come from the same establishment think tanks, and they share very similar views. I'm talking about a Nightline show that really puts on different social groups, labor as well as corporate viewpoints, consumer rights viewpoints, a lot more blacks and Hispanics, a lot more women, that kind of show with really polar, real good debates, but moderated by a strong person. Cheryl Gould: I think there is room for that. And but I think that to argue that somehow there's not room for this kind of program and that somehow it's ruining, or in some way affecting the network evening newscasts. I think that that's to miss the point. Sure, we should have more. Marvin Kitman: I don't think the audience is leaving the network evening news to watch the tabloid programs. I think the audience was never there at network evening news, which is the real scandal of television news. It's that so few people watched this such an important program in so many millions and billions of dollars is spent on network evening news, and then people do not watch it. And, and this to me is the interesting thing in the largest group that doesn't watch it is the young people and this started many years ago. These young people are now old when they first started, stopped watching network evening news. And why didn't they watch it? I think it's the voice of network evening news. You know, this, this whole form of it where they tried to make it. This is the news. This is the this is the way it is. And it never explains the young people why all these crazy things are going on in the world. And, and no matter how many times they go over. I mean, it goes all the way back to the Vietnam War, that they stopped watching network evening news. Robert Lipsyte: I And I think they think that they stopped watching.mean, that that seemed to be a time when they really were watching. Cheryl Gould: I agree, it seemed to be the high point of network viewership. Robert Lipsyte: Well, but, but, but my point of people are leaving network, it was a very low point. Cheryl Gould: For the reason of I'm not exactly sure why they're leaving. It's not true that no one is watching the network news, tell Tom Brokaw that- but 13, 50 million people a night per network, I believe, but Jeff Cohen: But I know why people aren't watching Meet the Press? Marvin Kitman: Why? Jeff Cohen: Because it's bland, and it interviews the same old people. You know what, when I'm talking about a wide ranging debate, that would be, I think that would be I think it shows, the Downey show is showing one thing, that a free for all debate on social andpolitical issues will get attention and get an audience what everyone hates is that they abuse Cheryl Gould: Attention, attention, yes, I'm not sure. I don't I certainly don't know the numbers. How many people if you add them all up, I mean, there is a considerable audience every night watching what we call the serious news. And I think it's wrong to say that you should try and invent a program that everybody across the spectrum, from, you know, all classes, all education levels, is going to find interesting or respond to in the same way. And I don't think there's anything wrong with opening up the spectrum. Jeff Cohen: But why isn't- I mean, I would argue the reason it's not opened up is because, I mean, there's a big corporation behind Mort Downey, it's called MCA and they say we want more Downey to look like the voice to, you know, give voice to the little man. That's a hoax. And then on the other hand, I think General Electric being behind NBC, or Capital Cities behind ABC, the reason that these viewpoints that I want to see on the air, don't get on the air, like labor, and consumer rights and anti-nuclear and peace is, I think, because it would really in the long run, it might impact negatively corporate profits that benefit from the system as is. Robert Lipsyte: You're coming, you're talking from a certain left of center perspective, which we really don't see represented anywhere on other channels, do we? Cheryl Gould: In the sense of having a talk show, or Robert Lipsyte: Well, network news certainly would be considered centrist? Cheryl Gould: Yes. Robert Lipsyte: And a lot of the we call tabloid TV would be considered right of center. Marvin Kitman: But, but this, this position he's taking is totally irrelevant to the real world of television. People like the political viewpoint of Jeopardy, or Win, Lose, or Draw. And I think, and I think that is the real world that nobody is discussing, that why should intelligent people listen to Jeopardy instead of Jennings or whatever? Cheryl Gould: Well I think one reason is when it's on at night, I mean, I think many people cannot watch when the network news is, uh, scheduled. Robert Lipsyte: Do you think that there's any kind of tabloid virus out there in the sense that, that there will be, because of the bottom line mentality, of so many of the corporations that own broadcasting will push even network news toward a more sensational approach. Cheryl Gould: I don't think so. I really don't. And I think even if there were a push, I think that the network news organizations are still strong enough in the editorial control, that that is not a danger. I mean, there are real journalists who are, who are operating the network news.