Want to see what’s wrong with the conventional-wisdom memo circulating around CNN about the need to inject more opinion and passion into cable news? Watch Chris Matthews’ interview with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
Even if you agree with the MSNBC host’s points, his sputtering line of attack — and repeated interruptions — would leave any casual viewer feeling like the guest had been spit on by his host.
Moreover, the exchange was so uncomfortable the “Morning Joe” team turned it into a big joke, losing any content or context in the legitimate questions Matthews raised. And Tom Brokaw looked understandably mortified.
Like a lot of cable hosts, Matthews is in love with the sound of his own voice, and the guests are really there less for their responses or opinions than to give him someone to talk to. Most days you sort of wonder why he bothers with them at all.
Yet the very nature of the exchange ensured the clip would wind up posted all over the place, which counts as a “win” in the current twisted mind-set of cable punditry.
Are you watching and listening, CNN? Because if you want to broadcast in a “more compelling and engaging way,” as Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has suggested, this is an example of both. In the broad strokes, this sort of verbal slapfest makes for good TV.
It’s just that from a journalistic standpoint, Priebus was right. Matthews didn’t care about answers. For him, like so many of his brethren, it’s all about the monologue.