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The Today Show Needs a Wake up Call on the Census

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Posted on January 9 2010 9:00 am

The 2010 Census road trip is now officially synonymous with simpering network news coverage…but of course! Jeff Immelt’s NBC was pandering to the administration without even a pretense of  actually doing an interview. Today Show on You Tube.

The 2010 Census “Portrait of America Road Tour” set off from New York City this week.  And the media types at NBC News and the Today Show ate it up with the proverbial spoon.

The Today Show glibly celebrated the exciting new project with all four of it’s news anchors standing outside of 30 Rock happily chattering about the importance of the new census.  To say that the 2010 Census didn’t get much journalistic scrutiny would be phenomenal understatement.  Given the opportunity to question the U.S. Commerce Secretary and the Census Bureau Director the Today Show was asleep at the wheel.

The four Today Show hosts braved the NYC elements to shill for the Census Bureau and talk with both US Commerce Sec Gary Locke and Census Bureau Director Robert Groves.  Note the use the words talk with and not interview because the segment was two and half minutes of anything but interview. News anchor Matt Lauer failed to demonstrate much journalistic prowess in asking  (not) hard hitting, pointed questions like:

“You’ve just done a really good job of answering the next question.  A lot of people hear census and they follow it with a yawn, right?  But this is vitally important to communities all over America!”

And when Groves said that:

“Americans biggest concern is that the census is ‘boring and long’…

The not-so-probing interviewers let that statement stand.   Wait a minute!   Since when did “boring and long” become the biggest concern?  No follow-up question about the change in plans about the use of  ACORN volunteers?  No questions about a reported 300 million dollar ad budget?  No questions about the nationwide road tour while 1 out of every 10 Americans is without a job? Not even a question about the Bureau’s hiring of temporary staff?

Nary a mention.  The mainstream media and in this case specifically NBC News owes the viewing public a better interview.

And if a superficial  story about the kick-off wasn’t enough, the good folks at NBC News also took the opportunity to announce their companion news series called The Changing Face of America.  A timely series of reports that coincide with the 100 day countdown to the census isn’t a bad idea, but failing to ask even basic probing questions is a bad idea.

Following this week’s hard-hitting news coverage, can a smiling back-slapping live news celebration of Health Care Reform be far behind?

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