Thursday, April 17, 2008

ABC's Expectations, ABC's Reality

So, just what the hell happened last night?

Well, I'll tell you.

ABC played a simple and heretofore quite reliable game when they decided on the format and questions for their debate. They assumed that once the debate was over, nobody would care about the questions or the questioners. The discourse would be whether or not "Obama won" or "Hillary won" or whether both were damaged and McCain came out ahead. It makes sense. American television newsmedia aren't really going to criticize each other for bad journalism--except for the Fox News guys, whom ABC corrected assumed would have loved this--and such a small amount of the public actually watches these things that ABC could assume that they wouldn't even know that the debate had had issues.

(Even issues so serious that the audience booed the moderators.)

They certainly didn't need to worry about the candidates. If Obama (the punching bag of the night) complained, he'd be portrayed as a whiner and a ninny by the media protecting its own. Hillary wouldn't want to, this probably helped her. And McCain? Well, let's just say that Disney will have made some friends tonight, friends that'll come in mighty handy when they start making the next big push to DRM everything in sight, and push back the copyright date again.

Seems perfect. And yet.

Head over to your favorite blog. (Aside from this one, naturally.) If they discuss the debate, they're going to discuss how nonsensical it was. They're going to mention that the first hour was hit-pieces on Obama. They're going to mention that ABC made a big show of the flag pin nonsense. They're going to mention that one of the questions was about an association that Obama may have had when he was eight years old. They're going to mention that Charlie Gibson thinks that $200,000 a year is "middle class", despite only 3.4% of the population making anywhere near that much, and that he thinks that Reaganomics actually works.

And yes, they're going to mention the boos.

And the mainstream sources? Well, I don't know if they'll mention it, but I wouldn't be surprised; and if they do mention that the bloggers are angry, they'll have to say why, and then all of a sudden ABC's assumption that their own behavior will be ignored will fall away as quickly as our patience watching the blithering thing. Sure, it's probably not going to cost ABC ratings, but there's going to be an awful lot of pissed off people online who are going to be watching ABC's coverage very closely.

ABC had best be very, very careful with their coverage if they don't want a small mistake or slightly torqued headline to blow up into a national issue.

As for Clinton and Obama? This might have been a big boost for Clinton, but the race is over.

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