Ratings Up, Journalism Down As Corey Clark Sings for ABC

I admit I am part of the problem. Even if I didn’t love the collisions of common sense that occur regularly at the intersection of Media Avenue and Culture Boulevard, I would have done what I did last night – watch ABC’s ‘special edition” of Primetime Live about former American Idol contestant Corey Clark and his alleged affair with show judge Paula Abdul.

Why? Because I am an American Idol addict. I am so happy Scott Savol is off the show I could plotz. For those of you not up on the Yiddish, trust me, it sounds as good as it feels.

Also, I think John Quiñones is the next Barbara Walters (I’ll let you decide whether that is meant to be a compliment).

But the “Fallen Idol” show also was worth watching for another reason – confirmation that May ratings “sweeps” are to journalism what Kryptonite is to Superman. Primetime’s standards have never pretended to be very high, but the Clark “bombshell” was little more than a retread of what has been reported in both the mainstream and online press for weeks, giving the show a definite air of “let’s see if we can suck on this pop culture teat for a while, too.”

And suck it did. First of all, if it wasn’t for Tivo, I would be dead right now. God bless the DVR, for it represents all that is good and holy, and that includes bypassing the cheesy melodrama of Clark recreating his late-night phone calls with Abdul, and Quinones verifying that Clark and Abdul had sex in her home’s guest room, not Abdul’s bedroom (yes, that sound you just heard was Ed Murrow screaming from his grave).

ABC waited until the final ooze-filled segment to mention that Clark’s account first appeared in The Globe tabloid and that Clark is trying to get a book deal. This doesn’t mean Clark is lying, but it would have been better journalism to mention these facts “higher” in the story so the viewers had a complete picture of Clark from the beginning. By doing it this way, however, ABC was able to lock in the high rating, while telling America “The story you have heard for the last 55 minutes may not be credible. Our bad.”

Nevertheless, the pseudo report did the job, drawing 13.8 million viewers and beating the competition (is it that hard to beat CSI:NY?) American Idol drew 24.5 million a half-hour earlier, and the ABC special will only help Fox increase its ratings during the Idol competition’s final few weeks.

So who were the biggest losers last night? Not the aforementioned Scott Savol, who can now go back home to Ohio and continue his career as the peanut guy at Indians’ games. Not Corey Clark, who if he’s lucky will sell as many albums as the follow up to Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love a Rainy Night.”

No, the biggest losers were us, who once again were reminded that television journalism-as-entertainment is here to stay. Pass the popcorn.

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One Response to Ratings Up, Journalism Down As Corey Clark Sings for ABC

  1. As an American Idol fan, I totally agree with you. I see the show as the ultimate marketing machine, creating some excitement where there is usually a void. But it’s more a slice of what America has become, mainly consumers of air filled snacks that keep you coming back for more because you’re never truly satisfied. While I stayed up to watch the “Fallen Idol” give his spiel, all I could think about was that my bed was a far more inviting place than watching teasing bits and pieces that will only make Idol that much more titillating for most. American television journalism has indeed become an oxymoron.
    The only redeeming thing about last night is that Scott is finally gone and now it’s Anthony’s turn and then the competition will really begin.

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