At 7:26 this morning, Central Time, I received a "breaking news" email from CNN, saying "Ex-Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has died, according to media reports." After quickly putting up a post, I thought the best way to see the unfolding news would be television. To my surprise, the 3 network news shows were not covering the story. All were either running commercials or doing the usual morning show material about your family's health or some American crime scene. I shifted to CNN and Fox News. Fox had Greta Van Susteren reminiscing about the time she spoke to Benazir Bhutto, so only CNN was seriously covering the story.
After a while, I went back to see if the network shows had caught up, and only ABC had. Most shocking was the "Today Show," which I set to record on my TiVo and filmed — crudely, sorry — to show you how appalling it was:
As you can see, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry are horsing around on the street, Matt introduces the news reader, and she proceeds to tell us that Benazir Bhutto has been wounded.
The next story is about a murder investigation in Washington, followed by the tiger escape in San Francisco, a pit bull mauling, and then — replete with photos of shoppers riding escalators — the way some people go to the store after Christmas.
It goes on. There's Willard Scott with the weather. There's a festive weather map of America dotted with snowflakes and Mr. Sun wearing sunglasses. Local weather. I stop the video at this point, but the embarrassment continues.
They go to commercial and return with a long story about colds and herbal tea. A long commercial break follows, and then we see Matt Lauer, sitting in front of a silver-wrapped package and silver balls, warmly sympathizing with us about the travails of celebrating New Year's. He's got a lovely lady in a low-cut top next to him on the sofa and, on the coffee table, there's a line-up of champagne flutes filled with champagne and other champagne-like drinks. Now, it's a pre-recorded segment on "all things bubbly." Back to Matt: Can he tell the difference between $5 sparkling wine from a can and $100-a-bottle Dom Perignon? That's got to be a more important question than whether Benazir Bhutto has died and what might happen in Pakistan. It is now 8:26 Central Time — an hour after the CNN email. Matt takes the taste test and guesses. The lady (Jenna Wolfe) giggles and says "Now, I don't remember which one I gave him." So they can't even get the idiotic champagne tasting right! Matt acts like it's just really funny.
Commercials. Local weather again. Commercial. Video of a cheerleader getting knocked down by football players. It's just one of many video clips that "caught our attention this year," we're told by a pretty woman sitting on the sofa, flanked by two pretty women and — over to the left — Willard Scott. Now, it's back to the story of the girl who survived the plane crash. The women murmur and coo mindlessly — "ooh," "mmm," "heartbreaking." And — you know what? — there is a coach who has helped his team overcome adversity. They chatter about what to do for New Year's. Why not cook something with your kids? They have some recipes for you. Willard says he likes to be with the family on New Year's Eve — "make cookies, drink cocoa." More weather from Willard. More local weather. Commercials. Plane crash survivor. Commercials. That coach who helped the team. Commercials. Those recipes. Commercials. Local news (about the weather). Commercials.
Finally, it's the top of the hour, 9:00 Central Time, and we see a picture of Benazir Bhutto, with the dates 1953-2007. Matt Lauer and Ann Curry are on the sofa, and Matt says he's back now with more. "In just a moment, we're going to have the latest on the suicide bombing today in Pakistan that killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. We're going to have a report on that in just a couple of minutes." And also more on that tiger attack. And that plane crash survivor. It's "nothing short of miraculous."
What an embarrassment!