At 11:30 p.m. last night, eastern time, I sat hunched over my desk, a glass of wine at the ready, readying manuscripts to send to magazine editors. I nearly jumped out of my chair when the shrill sounds of a woman with a "parlimentary inquiry" blasted over my computer speakers.
I'd totally forgotten about the Texas filibuster! Not because I wasn't interested, but because news outlets apparently couldn't care less about the veritable circus going on within the chambers. No one was saying anything.
Wait, let me rephrase. No one who gets paid to pay attention to newsworthy events around the country was saying anything. Twitter was aflame, and I did my part to engage the 500 friends I have on my Facebook account, many of whom had no idea what I was talking about.
How could they not? This was a level of Tomfoolery not seen since I'd say 2000 when the presidential election was stolen...by a Texas politician (uncanny coincidence, eh?)
Senators shouting over each other, ineffective calls for order, the crowd literally going wild, arrests, miscounts, wrangling of official records to change vote times, slimy political moves, feminism in Texas ("At what point must a female senator raise her hand to be recognized over her male colleagues?" Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D)TX, who skipped her father's funeral to be there, by the way. This had me clapping in my house at past midnight. Looking like a lunatic, but I didn't care.)
What about this isn't news?
As for me, it was pure luck I had the livestream of the Texas senate going in a tab I'd long forgotten about. Curious about it earlier in the day, I'd clicked over, to no audio, lost interest and left without shutting it off.
Where were you? Where were you CNN? This is...kind of your thing. And you're so "Twittery" and "Youtubey" lately, one would think you would have jumped at the chance to air that livestreaming Youtube video. It's just like a satellite share. It's easier in fact. No coordinates to type in, no networks from which to get permission. Plug in and air the news. You didn't even have to do anything. You had three straight hours of amazing programming just sitting there gift-wrapped for you. Where. Were. You.
Sure, you're there now. 10 a.m. the next morning. But two hours ago, your story on the matter consisted of quotes from random people on Twitter and a brief overview of Wendy Davis' website. Really? You couldn't, I don't know, pick up a phone? Basically, I could have written the story you wrote at 8 a.m. this morning five hours before that. Word for word. Not because I used to be a journalist, but because that's the amount of research you did. Any Twitter or Facebook user even remotely interested in the event could have fashioned your story.
I've never been so disappointed in my life.
Here's a quick rundown of Journalism 101 for you, in case you've forgotten.
- Is it timely? (Yes.)
- Is it breaking? (Yes.)
- Is there drama? (Yes.)
- Does it impact individuals? (Yes.)
- Does it have overreaching consequences for the country's population? (Yes.)
- Is it salient? (FFS, YES.)
Women's rights has been a hot-button issue for years now. It's not as if this blindsided you. And sure, state proceedings could possibly be boring and silly, but you had the video at your disposal. You could see that things escalated to newsworthy in .02 seconds. Hell, it was newsworthy as soon as Davis put on her pink sneakers.
Here's what you were doing at 8 a.m. this morning:
- Quoting President Obama's Twitter status from more than 10 hours before that. (Old, vague and irrelevant.)
- Quoting Ricky Gervais' Twitter. (I...what?)
- Quoting some random guy's Twitter who at least said something funny (Not newsworthy.)
- Getting background information on Sen. Wendy Davis from her website. (Lazy. You couldn't confirm she went to Harvard and got pregnant at 19? Really?)
- Outlining the bare bones of the story that anyone could pick up from watching the livestream (Not helpful.)
Here's what you should have been doing:
- Getting to the scene. Seriously. You weren't even present? This wasn't a quick story. You had thirteen hours to get your shit together.
- Interviewing people outside. Can't get in? That's okay. They're taping. Talk to the people outside. Get the human side of the story.
- Calling your sources frantically to get statements from the senators as the proceedings were taking place. Look, I saw Lincoln. They used to do this shit via carrier pigeon, and note-carriers on foot. Surely it's easier now.
- Blowing up the phones of Wendy Davis, the Lt. Governor and Senate President, Kirk Watson, Letitcia Van de Putte, etc. Running them down in person directly after session. Getting the story. You know. Things.
- Stalking the police department. Your people could have been there when they brought the arrests in. On the other side of this, you didn't even have to leave the chamber. Interview police officers at the scene. When they can't talk, call the chief or the PIO. This is easy stuff, people. I did this at 18 years old for a local cable station. No reason why you can't.
- Digging up the rules of the Texas Senate so you could do a feature piece on how many rules were broken in a slimy and horrid way. (Actually, I bet no one does this. If anyone wants to commission me, I'll totally do it for you.)
- Digging up the history of this bill so you could do a feature on how it came to be, who the main players are, and how it all managed to culminate in this wild governmental kerfuffle.
I could go on and on and on, but I'm getting too disgusted.
Journalism, they say, is dead. But Twitter didn't kill it. Bloggers didn't kill it. The Internet didn't kill it. You killed it. By paying your employees literally nothing, by promoting people who don't know what news is but do know how to say "yes, sir," and "you're great, sir."
But, hey, everyone loves a muffin debate, am I right? So get on with your bad self, CNN. You eat that 350-calorie muffin and call it a day. Because it appears you've had yours.