When News Readers Attack!

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A month ago, MSNBC's Morning Joe news anchor Mika Brzezinski famously refused to read a story about Paris Hilton, going so far as attempting to set her news script on fire. (Unfortunately, her partner's Bic lighter wasn't up to the task) And in doing so, she became a YouTube celebrity, with the footage now having been viewed nearly three million times.

And yesterday, CNN's lovable curmudgeon Jack Cafferty went so far as to - on live TV, mind you – ask/demand that the Lindsay Lohan story be removed from his teleprompter. On the grainy YouTube footage, he says "I wonder if we could get the Lindsay Lohan DUI arrest out of the teleprompter and put my script in. Is that possible?"

What's going on nowadays?

It's starting to feel like the final half-hour of "The Truman Show" when Jim Carrey begins getting suspicious of his environment and stops going along with everything suggested by his 'friends' and 'family' - who are nothing but performers hired to maintain his false and staged world – and succeeds in driving the director crazy.

Because it's not just Cafferty and Brzezinksi, either. With a major tip of the hat to TVNewser, here are more examples:

  • Fox News Correpondent Shep Smith growing frustrated by the Paris Hilton story and saying "If we're going to spend all day on this, I'm going to have some fun with it."

  • CNN's Kyra Phillips asking a guest "Are we just so pathetic and so lonely that we have to live life through people like Paris Hilton?..."

  • CNN's Heidi Collins openly mocking a celebrity reporter about the Paris Hilton story.

    And these are just the words the correspondents and anchors use. Imagine if we could quantify the number of shrugs and raised eyebrows and grimaces seen in the past few months as the on-camera talent has begun to rebel against their copy.

    What brings all this on? Has the infotainment pendulum finally swung too far for even the established cable professionals? Has the wink-and-a-nudge "Moment of Zen" awareness brought on by the Stewart/Colbert duo percolated up into the cable studios? Is this the hidden price tag of the cable networks' infatuation with 'personality,' that sometimes the journalists become so empowered that they defy orders? Or has the entire culture of cable news become so frustrated by the fluff that the anchors and reporters are beginning to side with their viewers against the people who make the news decisions? Is cable news -- dare I ask -- developing a conscience?

    Regardless … There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear. Whatever it is, it's promising.
    • Matthew Felling

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