Thursday, January 31, 2013
Donald Trump’s The Apprentice took the unpleasant employment process and made it a catch phrase. It was (for a brief moment) amusing television but never took the sting out of the reality. Terminating somebody from the way they earn a living is a difficult process – difficult on the employer, and the employee. I’ve been both sides, and know the angst that each situation causes. I must confess that at one point I got so good at it that I earned a moniker of “Hatchet Man.” It had its consequences where I’ve had things thrown at me, been threatened, tires punctured – and no doubt had my mug on dart boards. I’ve also saved dozens of companies and hundreds of jobs. This week there was little company savings or much drama in a number of high profile media firings.
CNN’s new chief Jeff Zucker, fresh from driving NBC into irrelevance, has been sacking on air talent, behind-the-scenes personnel and probably everybody in between. CNN certainly needs a make-over, but changing faces isn’t going to solve its fundamental problem. CNN needs to move back into reporting and run away from blather. For every 60-minute hour that Wolf Blitzer spends on the air, 22 minutes is commercials and another 8 is spent promoting what’s coming up. The rest of the time winds up being CNN analysts and reporters talking to each other about the subject of the day. Given Zucker’s penchant for fluff let’s not hold our breath that a huge investment in traditional reporting will be the direction the network goes in.
Fox News, the number one cable news channel by far, had its own firing this week. The conservative network did not renew Sarah Palin’s contract. This didn’t come as a surprise given how little she was actually on their air. Kudos to the former VP candidate for trying to spin it when she said that it was time to speak to audiences with a different perspective...as if she was voluntarily leaving. Shortly after she was hired it became clear to even Fox News that she had no idea what she was talking about. So little time that she spent on the air, it wound up costing $15 per word during her time on the network. (Can you imagine that job? Does you-betcha count as 2 words or one? No matter, she only uttered it twice.) Fox News without Palin doesn’t mean that the network will suddenly be bring erudite deep thinkers on the air.
Elections provide the single best opportunity to fire politicians. Congress, operating at nearly single-digit approval ratings, is re-elected at a rate nearly opposite – in the 90 percentile. Americans say they disapprove of those who run the government, but in the privacy of the ballot box continue to elect them. Maybe this is a job for the wild-haired man after all?