Monday, February 29, 2016

1609 There's No Tenure in Television

Not even if you’re Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite or Bryant Gumbel or David Brinkley or Keith Olbermann. But especially not if you’re a yappy little college professor with a 50 pound chip on your shoulder, subzero ratings on a near- zero rated channel in the middle of an election cycle and with the mistaken notion that you matter.

No lifetime jobs.  No guarantees.  This is business, not school.

If the networks want you out, you’re out.  And as long as they comply with the terms of your contract, that’s that.

All of which brings us to the case of Melissa Harris-Perry one of MSNBC’s hires made before it remembered it’s a news channel and started to winnow down the talk shows to those that work.

Apart from MSNBC, Perry has been bouncing from job to job as a professor of variousness, hopping from university to university and always leaving on iffy terms or worse.  

Perry has one black parent and one white, which makes her qualified to identify black if she wishes, which she does.

But does it qualify her as an expert on the black experience or black white relations, which she also wishes and wants you to wish?  

And she has the wrong idea about what it means to be a news anchor.  Part of what it means is that you have to make way for news. And during an election cycle -- especially the current one -- election coverage is news.

To hear her tell it, a temporary halt of her two hours on Saturdays and two more on Sundays makes her feel “worthless” in the eyes of NBC executives who are trying to return MSNBC to it’s not-all-that-glorious glory days.

Aw! Poor baby!

There’s worthless and then there’s worthless. She wasn’t worthless.  She was just less worth-ful than election coverage, which is a viewer magnet and generally lucrative.

Storming off like a great but temperamental operatic soprano is reserved for great temperamental operatic sopranos.  In this particular opera, Perry was not a soprano but a supporting cast contralto.

Great or not, there’s no room in grand opera -- or TV news -- for a temperamental contralto.  

For many decades now, TV news has had to meet its budget and that means finding advertising revenue and that means attracting viewers.

They wanted her to return to her time slots and present the news of the day.  They even offered to buy her a 50 pound chip for her other shoulder.

She wants tenure? She can continue her long walk from college to college, last refuge of the overeducated and otherwise unemployable. Surely one will recognize her brilliance, her enormous contribution to American culture… even if it’s the College of Hard Knocks.

But if she chooses to continue her TV career, she has to forget about tenure.

And if she wants to sing the role of  Aida, Salome or Brunnhilde,  she has to remember she ain’t Jessye Norman.

Things you won’t find here this week:

--Hillary’s win in South Carolina.
--The Academy Awards.
--The KKK rally in California.
--Crubioz’ tax returns.
--Anyone else’s tax returns.
--Zika.
--Warren Buffett’s letter to shareholders.
--The Michigan shooter.
--The Kansas shooter.
--The two TV shows about OJ Simpson.
--Gluten free gluten.
--Yugoslavia.
--FIFA.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2016

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