Media Matters

*  “Hardball with Chris Mathews” is no more. Mathews is out after too many gaffes–from a bad Bernie analogy to misidentifying black politicians to confusing Fiona Hill with Anita Hill to awkward comments to female guests.

What apparently was not the determinative issue, however, is something that was a long-running “feature” of his 7 p.m. MSNBC slot. He was a serial, staccato interrupter who too often talked over his guests. He was on the correct, non-Fox side of the spectrum, served in the Peace Corps and worked for Tip O’Neill and Jimmy Carter, but he also, alas, personified the show-business niche that political cable talk shows blatantly inhabit. The format doesn’t encourage civil discourse on the issues of the day; it’s about conflict. Otherwise, they would be emulating PBS or C-SPAN, which are not ratings-and-sponsors driven.

* If you’re a journalist, you ask questions. Some of them are cut-to-the-chase: “Yes or no” or “Do you or don’t you … .” It comes with the inquisitorial, information-gathering charge. It also comes with caveats. Good luck trying to elicit a yes or no response from politicians with a lot to lose if they miscalculate with a response that’s too candid.

And there’s a sure vernacular sign that equivocal spin is on the way when the subject’s first word of response to “Yes or No?” is “Look, … “ or “Listen, …” It’s just that it happens all the time now–an exercise in buying time until pivoting to a self-serving agenda topic.

* We’re all too familiar with the financial challenges at the Tampa Bay Times. It’s reflected in staffing and content and pig perfuming. From proofreaders to news judgment to sheer volume. While it’s not the most important or glaring example, it was still surprising to pick up Sunday’s sports section and see the Tampa Bay Lightning’s big win–arguably the biggest of the season so far–in Boston buried on page 6 of the Sports section. The front page was already spoken for: features on basketball broadcaster Dick Vitale and Tampa Bay Vipers defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville plus a major auto racing piece on digital drivers. Priorities?

* There’s something inherently weird about a bunch of people laughing and applauding at the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on a day that registered a sobering, record loss. But it likely looked good on Facebook.

* Questlove is known in pop culture circles as a founding member of the Roots and the bandleader and drummer on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” I also know him as the son of Lee Andrews–of “Lee Andrews and the Hearts,” a Philly group from back in the Doo-Wop days. His father’s group also played at my La Salle High senior prom. TMI, I know.

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