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Monday, March 3, 2008


A couple weeks ago, a (male) friend sent me a link to a new commercial featuring Hollywood director Michael Bay. Bay, known for blowing up everything in sight, spoofs his directorial style by showing off his over-the-top "home," complete with larger-than-life decor and explode-to-order fireballs.*

This morning I was watching some clips from CNN International, and looking at the graphics and backdrops got me thinking about that Bay ad. Comparing the way they present news to the rest of the world with how the Domestic feed, well, feeds the US, I have to wonder whether the difference is because all of America is suffering from ADD or just because the dominant preferred demographic has for so long been male twenty-somethings.

Take a look at how International looks. The anchor sits or stands in front of a still picture. That's right... still. The graphics are not constantly in motion, there is not an explosion of busy people or flickering monitors behind them. There's no crawl; a single phrase or headline appears in full for a few seconds, then fades out before another drops in. The screen is clean and uncluttered; your focus is on... the story.

Contrast that with some random grabs from Domestic. Can you even count how many separate images are above and behind the anchors? How many colors are there, how high is the gloss on the floor, how much data is attacking your corneas?

This isn't even taking into consideration the full-on assault of the Election Central version of the new New York set, with multiple rows of correspondents and analysts, plus banks of busy-busy people seen only in half-light, all frantically working the phones and keyboards and lord-only-knows what else to bring you-the-viewer the freshest, most uptodate, mostest news in the morning/afternoon/evening "stay tuned to CNN day and night" breakingest news POSSIBLE!

*Phew* I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted already. Be glad I didn't make you watch them actually in motion!

So...why is it that Americans seem to have the attention span of a hungry solitary gnat? Why do we need to be bombarded by images? Do we feel guilty if we aren't multi-tasking even when we watch television? A question better left to sociologists, perhaps... but I am reminded of an elementary school teacher who, when asked what part of her job she liked least, answered, "I have to compete with Big Bird."

And Wolf et al apparently have to compete with Michael Bay.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tuesday brings us (like you could forget!) primaries/caucuses in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island. I belive the current label is Make-or-Break Tuesday. Somehow, I suspect the folks who are expected to "break" will find a reason to keep going, regardless of the outcome... It's just that kind of year...

(And yes, I will be glued to the outcomes, flashing graphics, magic boards, exit polls and all!)

* If you really need to see it, it's here.

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Anonymous said...

Tuesday should really be interesting. I am planning
on staying up all night with the tv on CNN.
Go Team CNN.

Lower_third said...

Interesting piece of commentary...I guess the answer is that for CNN/I they serve a huge audience that differ in tastes and likes from country to country and continent to continent so they have to present their programming in a nuetral format hence the "clean" look. Now with the US it is easy to see who CNN is after thanks to Nielsen ratings and due to that they can format their programming and look to entice that particular demographic they are after..hence the clutter and gloss!
Speaking of Gloss what do u think about them not updating their Atlanta newroom to give it the same look and feel as their New York set? That particular look has now been there for almost 10 years now!

Phebe said...

I hate the screen clutter on CNN. Give me the clean screen of CNNi anyday.

Cyn said...

Lower_third, I have puzzled over the lack of update for the Atlanta set. It looks very dated, especially compared to the shiny-shiny New York set.

And I definitely prefer the clean CNN/I look, too!