Al Jazeera Blogs


Toy Barn but no Taliban

US breakfast news shows cover cartoons, Marilyn and Christmas trees – anything but Afghanistan.

Last modified: 3 Dec 2009 01:26
Photo by Reuters

You'd have been hard pressed to find much coverage of the Obama troop announcement on Wednesday's American breakfast TV.

They did cover the story, but it was mainly very early, long before most people were up, and then only in fairly short sound bites.

I know this because our North America editors had asked me to watch the US breakfast shows, in case there was a story in it for our audience around the world.

To be honest I thought it was probably going to be a waste of time, but I was wrong.

As I sat there in my PJs with Al Jazeera English's wall-to-wall coverage from the night before still in my mind, my mouth fell open with amazement as a top rated TV early show failed to manage even a single mention in the opening sequence at the top of the eight o'clock hour.

That's pretty amazing when you think that exactly 12 hours before President Obama had committed another 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan, becoming, as the left-wing film maker Michael Moore put it in an open letter to the White House, "A WAR PRESIDENT"!

Anyway, here's the menu from that show which comes live partly from a studio and partly from the street outside were its presenters are surrounded by fans who tend to wear too many warm clothes on a hot day or are missing quite a few front teeth. 

Many wave banners saying things like: "Happy Birthday Brenda from Tishomingo, 96 today!"

The opening shot was a slow zoom from atop a New York skyscraper down on to the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Plaza. It's a big deal if you're on holiday in New York or you live there but it does happen every year folks.

The next item was a preview of some heartbreaking revelations from a TV starlet, the programme's special guest.

Then - and this was the best bit - they showed three men inside giant cartoon character costumes who looked like they were from Toy Barn, not Taliban.

The only uniform in sight belonged to a Canadian Mounted Policeman who appeared to have left his horse in the hotel room.

It's odd because these TV breakfast shows have BIG budgets and are made by the HUGE news departments of the big US broadcasters but sometimes they have hardly any news in them.

I strolled over to the White House to meet Americans vacationing in Washington and hoping for a glimpse of the first family. 

They told me why their country's major TV networks had gone over-easy on the big Obama news at breakfast time.

One man from Ohio who'd emigrated to Australia to get away from it all (seriously) told me:

"The United States media is in cahoots, I guess you could say, with the government and they kinda keep those kinda things under wraps."

A woman from Florida said:

"You heard it all last night and every 10 minutes, every 15 minutes probably it was interrupted by the news highlights so between Tiger Woods and Marilyn Monroe you did still hear the president's message and the soldiers' message."

And another man in town for a business conference suggested Americans are bored with all the war talk. "Maybe this has been going on for so long and you know it's nothing new."

CNN, which bills itself inside the US as having, "the most news in the morning", led with the Obama announcement. Of course they did.

But my favourite was CNN's rival Fox News which is not known for being Obama friendly.

Fox wrapped coverage of Obama's troop announcement with these two gems.

A story about a $3m diamond studded bra for sale at Victoria's Secret  and pictures, recently discovered from the 1950s, that show Marilyn Monroe smoking pot!

I made a pot, of tea ... and turned over to Al Jazeera English, which thank goodness is available in the US now and where we were leading the bulletin live from Doha with a story about turning on the White House Christmas tree lights!

No, actually, I just said that to be annoying (oh really John how unlike you). Of course, it was Afghanistan.