December 26, 2008, 12:20 PM — If you watch CNN, you may have noticed some of the shows now include comments by viewers in the crawl section at the bottom of the screen. People send those messages via Twitter. Is this a brilliant tool for viewer engagement or the equivalent of drunks waving in the background when an athlete is interviewed immediately after a game?
I'm of the opinion this tactic leans toward the waving drunks than a valuable tool. Breaking stories have so much noise to signal from the news departments, authorities on the scene, and eyewitness accounts you can barely figure out the facts under all the â€œwe hate to speculate, but it looks like 87 people are trapped inside the burning building,â€ comments. So why do the news stations start asking random people their opinions? To fill air time. If the fire chief doesn't know what's going on inside the burning building, how does an auto mechanic who was two blocks away when the fire started know anything of value?
Now the pathetic appeal to ratings and the need to fill time when there is no information has gone higher tech on CNN. Even though an emergency may be in southern California, any idiot with a Twitter account is encouraged to send their comments, even if they're in northern Maine and have no clue about what's actually happening in California. I have yet to see anything valuable appear in one of those Twitter messages, but surely some relevant comments have been made. If you've seen some, write a comment below and share, please.
What I'm really waiting for is to see some fake names appear with the comments. You know, the names Bart uses on the Simpsons when he prank calls Moe's Tavern. Any day now, I expect noted news commentators Hugh Jass, I.P. Freely, and Seymour Buttz to comment on the issues of the day via the CNN-Twitter crawl comments.