November 8, 2006

"'Utterly absurd.' Not to mention, utterly un-watchable."

The Columbia Journalism Review blog talks about the CNN blogger party (and quotes me):
[L]ast night CNN hosted a blogging party at Tryst, a cafe on 18th Street in Washington, D.C. The network was careful to invite bloggers from across the political spectrum...

Having crammed their blogger petri dish with crabby pundits of every stripe, CNN producers throughout the night broke away from their otherwise excellent election coverage to wade into the blogging abyss at Tryst. There, surrounded by the dim glow of laptops, bloggers offered CNN cameras loads of dubious wisdom. Occasionally, the cameras would pan across the room, capturing the magic of bloggers in action -- essentially, people typing.

All of which proved, once again, that the act of writing a scorching blog post looks no different on camera than the act of writing the world's most mind-numbing inter-office memo. And neither makes for good television -- a fact that at least one blogger who attended the Tryst party owned up to this morning.

"Waking up this morning in my quiet hotel room, I realize how insanely hard it was to try to watch the election returns at that blogger party at Tryst," writes Ann Althouse. "The notion that we were in some way bringing you the news is utterly absurd."

Not to mention, utterly un-watchable.
Could it have been good television? I think there was a different path that could have been taken, but that is probably not what CNN would dare to do. The party atmosphere was beautifully staged, but to the extent that we were there to be blogging, it falls flat. We're just typing. Plus, the party is wildly distracting. How are you supposed to write or even perceive things that you can write about? I think we should have been miked and monitored, not interviewed and not seriously expected to write anything on the spot. Collect us in a room as bloggers, but then show us in something more like a reality show style. There actually were a lot of great conversations going on, and I think would have been cool and different to eavesdrop on us.


Chris said...

"There actually were a lot of great conversations going on, and I think [it] would have been cool and different to eavesdrop on us." I imagine a collection of short little bits of conversations like they have on Antiques Roadshow. You'd have to tape & edit them, though, rather than getting lots of live footage, which seems to fill up TV on election night.

knox said...

I have to admit, I was confused by the idea, and it seemed really lame... a lame member of the very lame MSM trying to hitch their wagon on the Information Superhighway. THey should have just had some "roundtables" of prominent bloggers. I would love to have seen one with you and TRex for example. Assuming he would deign to participate in a roundtable with YOU!

bill said...

The idea should be to introduce new voices and conversations instead of the usual Slot A and Slot B talking heads. Bringing a roomful of people together and then not have them do something together sounds like a wasted opportunity.

There's a section in Steven Levy's Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution where he is discussing the rise of the video game arcades in the early 1980s. Someone had the brilliant idea to create a televised game show showcasing the best gamers they could find. Apparently no one realized, until they started filming, just how boring watching someone pound a couple buttons and twitch a joystick could be.

Maxine Weiss said...

Oh Please.

I truly great writer can read the phone book and come up with the most wildly clever, fantastical, and pity observations ever.

You either have an imagination, or you don't.

Let's face it: Blogging doesn't lead to great writing.

Snippets vs. Substance

No contest.

And last night's debacle really drove that point home.

Really exposed the shortcomings, limitations of the genre.

I warned you not to show up.

As usual, you refuse to listen to my sage advice.

(word verification: meleee)

(seems appropriate, extra 'e' notwithstanding)

Peace, Maxine

Freder Frederson said...

They should have taken away your computers, and given you lots of free booze and sharp objects instead. Now that would have been interesting. A right/left brawl.

Fenrisulven said...

There actually were a lot of great conversations going on, and I think would have been cool and different to eavesdrop on us.

Speaking of eavesdropping, I somehow managed to land a position on a congressional cmte - something about fetching coffee and banging my against a wall... So I probably should stop commenting on blogs, as Edward may "out" me. [j/k ED]

Anne, I want to thank you for your hospitality here. I enjoyed my time here, esp all the banter back and forth, as well as the sometimes odd topic like Runway. I wish everyone well, and remind you all to play nice. :)

The enemy is radical Islam, not the radicals on the other side of the aisle.


KCFleming said...



Maxine Weiss said...

The Emporer has no clothes. Last night was very revealing. The public got an up-close view, of just how empty the genre is.

The whole writing style of blogs...very abbreviated, and unreflective sound bites.

Remember Kevin Kelly's vision of how writing will be in the future?

He described things melting into one another, a kind of information blob that would grow like one of those giant mushrooms that appears at the base of trees.

And we got a vision of just what that looks like--- last night.

A bunch of mushroom blobs. True, young and trendy blobs, but blobs nonetheless, with even worse writing.

I'm just kidding.

Am I ???

Love, Maxine

Ann Althouse said...

Wow, Fen. Congratulations and sorry to see you go.

Anthony said...

I believe I commented here about the absurdity of televising a bunch of people typing. Bring them on for analysis and commentary if they're good at being talking heads, but otherwise leave bloggers to blogging.

Maxine Weiss said...

"The notion that we were in some way bringing you the news is utterly absurd."----Althouse

Because, after all...why do people even watch CNN ??

How dare viewers watch CNN and expect anything resembling news !

Viewers tune in to CNN looking for tap-dancing, vegetable quesadillas and homemade potato chips, posturing, people in a room, watching each other, canisters of Parmesan cheese....that's what we expect from the esteemed news channel!

Nobody would ever, in their right mind, tune into CNN, on an election night, expecting something as "absurd" as ...gasp...N-E-W-S.

Love, Maxine

Salamandyr said...

I think I get it. Maxine is some kind of surreal dadaist artist whose medium is the blogpost. At least that's what I keep telling myself because I think I'll hurt myself if I actually try to understand what she's saying.

Very clever, Maxine, very clever.

Edward said...

Fenrisulven is the victim of his own paranoia.

Well, I’m joking – but only partially.

I just hope his opinions on gay issues don’t reflect those of most new Congressional staff hires.

Given the wonderful new Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate, I don’t think I need to worry too much on that score.

Jeremy said...

I think the phrase "The Emperor has no clothes" is now just a cliche used to complain that "Nobody ever listens to me."

Maxine Weiss said...

Careful Jeremy: Sadie Hawkins day is coming up.

If I pick'll listen to me then.

(Say, is the Althouse Blog doing having anything special for Sadie Hawkins?)

Peace, Maxine

I'm Full of Soup said...

Yeah Fen- good luck, and I too will miss your informed and spirited and fact-basd arguments and opinions. That is a shame - big loss to Chez Althouse. But, you sound very excited with the new job.

Are there any other openings on that impeachment committee?

I'm Full of Soup said...


I have to agree with the CJR review.I watched very little but I am not a big CNN fan and thought there coverage was crap. They kept saying things like 70% of those who did not like cheese on their burgers voted for Doyle. But they never seemed to get around to telling what % ot the total turnout those cheese-haters were. So, as a numbers guy, there coverage was frustating and not really informative.

Bottom line to me is you are our news concierge- we don't tell you directly what we want, you just serve up what interests you and we generally devour it. What CNN did last night was a schmooze-fest and did not play well on TV.

That said, glad you had some fun!

sierra said...

I like the sharp objects idea, but other than that I can't think of any way the blogger coverage could have been improved. My favorite moment was when Jacki produced Captain Ed and some guy from Human Events for what she promised was a major, emerging disagreement. Great, I said, now these bloggers get to show their stuff! Let's have a penetrating, non-MSM insight! Turns out one of them thought the GOP would lose 30 to 35 House seats, and the other thought it would be less than 30. Neither offered any reason for these positions, so these declarations landed with a dull thud. It seemed you could just as well have taken footage of a couple of guys offering the same set of opinions while cracking peanut shells at a bar.

Charles Giacometti said...

The CNN "blog-in" was a non-starter to me. I don't find the political bloggers on either side of the aisle to be very interesting. They all--Althouse included--reflectively jump to the defense of their side and never come down from that position. If you can predict exactly what someone is going to say, why bother to listen to them?

And--God--who watches TV news? It is so superficial, so dismal. This is perhaps the worst possible combination ever conceived.

As for Fen's new job, he probably got it for his prescience in choosing Steele to win Maryland because of the Kerry dust-up. ;)

But in a bi-partisan nod, I will suggest Fen do what I did the summer I was a legislative intern. Plan to shower at both the beginning and end of the day. Politics is a nasty business. I left that role, joined the private sector, and never looked back.

Maxine Weiss said...

AJ: It's a lot more serious than that.

They charged everyone a fee to subscribe to "Pipeline", under the guise of providing 'News'.

They paid these Bloggers airfare, and cuisine, and deluxe hotel accommodations----and we know they'll surely pass the cost of that onto the customer!

Is CNN planning on reimbursing me for promises they didn't deliver on?

This has rocked the Blogosphere like nothing before. AOL is absolutely buzzing, and saying this blunder may sound the final deathknell for all of of 'em.

If I were Ann, I'd feel terribly exposed. As a paying CNN Customer, expecting NEWS....I just feel violated!

They charged me, they charged everybody for the one-time subscription.

False advertising. Shoddy business practices.

I expected content. I expected relevance. I expected exclusives. I expected breaking stories.

I end up with Parmesan cheese.

And it's not even the good kind, it's that dried stuff in the canister.


Peace, Maxine

I'm Full of Soup said...

You are such a disagreeable ass. Why do you just show up and throw an insult - if you did not watch the show, just say that. Or tell us how you get your news- websites, tarot cards, your neighbor's dog's barking? Smoke signals? Looking in trashcans on subway platforms for day-old NY Times?

Charles Giacometti said...


I get all my news from your blog, like your excellent call that Weldon would only lose your district by 1 point. You nailed that one. Damn, you are good.

I'm Full of Soup said...

That's good to know but give me some credit- I think I called almost all the Senate races except for McCaskill.

PatCA said...

Maybe CNN was trying to be hip and cool but didn't really want to give any ground to you bloggers in the pundit arena. Your conversations should have been taped--great idea--and then edited to fill in small segments of time during the election coverage.

Our local news tonight had Roger Simon and some other bloggers and the lame-o anchors ended with a worry about bloggers fact checking. But, Chuck, it's instant! The community corrects any errors!--but Chuck was having none of it and shuddered at the thought. Then he went on to his own biased version of what happened today that was important.

Anonymous said...

Blogging can be effective in real-time - I'm thinking of your simulblogs and Brendon Loy's pre-Katrina blogging - but how do you do that in the middle of a party with a camera in your face?

Also, what the hell happened to Wonkette? She really let herself go.

Maxine Weiss said...

The sad part of the whole thing is....had the 'Tryst' Bloggers actually knuckled down and produced, --- done a better job rallying the troops, and providing precise info..

...the Republicans might not have lost.

The polls in California close at 8:00 pm, but by that time, the champagne at "Tryst" was flowing freely, people passed out on the couch, Ann holding up her wine glass--seemingly without a care in the world......

Last-minute Voters were so angry at the sight of those drunken, and aimless Tryst bloggers, they raced to polls and all voted the Democratic ticket.

I would. Call me crazy, but if it's 7:30 pm my time, and I turn on Tryst, and see a bunch of Bloggers on couches cavorting and frolicking around, and I ----not having voted yet, or knowing who to vote for....

...the very sight of that 'Tryst' nonsense might be enough to push me over the edge and send me reeling over to the Democratic Party.

Voters thought it was arrogant, and vain....and voted accordingly.

Thanks for nothin' Tryst Bloggers! Hope you're satisfied.

Love, Maxine

Joe Giles said...

CNN is not new to the land of dumb ideas.

Heck, they might have earned upwards of a couple hundred bucks last night.

I'm glad Ann got a free trip to DC, but all we got was a preoccupied blog hostess and some pics of people who don't like her.

J. Peden said...

Maxine, I think your hormones are acting up.

Whatsa matter, baby - living on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine?

Or is it just you?

Ann Althouse said...

"They all--Althouse included--reflectively jump to the defense of their side and never come down from that position"

What side are you talking about? I voted about half and half for Republicans and Democrats. People who read my blog don't even know which candidates I voted for.

Maxine Weiss said...

We'll I'd say you pretty much outed yourself with the little tiff you had with Feministing.

Remember that little episode?

Your making an enemy of Feministing pretty much tells the story.

Peace, Maxine

Paco Wové said...

"If you can predict exactly what someone is going to say, why bother to listen to them?"

Mr. Giacometti – please complete the following sentance: The pot calling the kettle ______ .

Thank you!

Mortimer Brezny said...

Doyle or Green? Green or Doyle?

Ann Althouse said...

Don't you know?