Sit Room: More Thoughts

Day One Reviews of 'The Situation Room'

With the first day of “The Situation Room” all wrapped up and work beginning this morning on episode two, everyone appears to be clear on one thing: We. Are. In. The. Situation. Room. With that settled, please stop reminding us.

Just about every write-up, including the CNN fan forums and blogs are noting two things: (1) at three hours, the show is reaaaaalllllly long and (2) Wolf reminds us alot what the name of the show is.

We couldn’t do an entirely accurate count because CNN hadn’t posted the show’s transcript as of last night, but in the first hour alone Wolf said the name of the show no fewer than 22 times, including eight reminders that “You’re in the Situation Room” and one “This is the Situation Room.” Let’s hope that what Alan Greenspan might call a case of “irrational exuberance” was nothing more than first day excitement and branding. Thus a plea to whomever is running the teleprompter: please delete two out of every three references to the show’s name in future airings.

More thoughts and more blog comments after the jump.

Our biggest complaint about day one? For a three-hour show, there seems like there should be some sizable meaty packages–if CNN wants to tout its ability to focus on ‘hard news,’ let the correspondents sink their teeth into a few subjects each show. Instead everything came off breezy and light today, meaning that despite there being MORE time, we came away feeling like we got LESS news. A quarter of the show seemed to be spent doing teases for upcoming segments.

For instance, we wrote about six weeks ago that “Inside the Blogs” was just beginning to get its groove thang down. It was working because the four-minute segment at the bottom of the hour in “Inside Politics” allowed reporters Jackie Schechner and Abbi Tatton to actually tell a story, not just read one blog from the left and one blog from the right. The shortened blog segments in yesterday’s show saw a regression back to what made “Inside the Blogs” suck for its first few months.

[Oh and just for the record: The overnight promotion of Abbi and Jacki from “blog” reporters to “internet” reporters is probably a very smart one for CNN in the long-run as blogs will become only one of many forms of online citizen journalism. The promotion is a sign that CNN is taking its charge as the “only network with a team dedicated solely to cyberspace” seriously.]

The “Inside the Blogs” segment, though, wasn’t the only place we wished for more meat. As one blogger wrote, “Keep in mind that the White House Situation Room is designed to allow a _few_ people who are good at providing contextual information an opportunity to take in and digest information for the purpose of providing the President a contextual briefing.” If it wants to live up to the lofty visions laid out by CNN/US President Jon Klein, the show would do well to maybe cut back on the cutaways and MTV News graphics and hone in a few “hard news” subjects during each hour.

Of course, these are only the first day’s comments. We’ll see how the show develops, whether viewers latch on, and how CNN tweaks it over the coming days, weeks, and (probably) months. What is clear is that the battle lines have been drawn.

Other blog comments:

> D-Day: “Also, they’ll continually tell you that ‘You’re in the Situation Room!’ As if it’s a magical space where I’m in the heart of the news cycle, watching the ‘Political Stories’ butter churn, and the ‘World Affairs’ spin vaccuum.”

> Media Overlook: “So it’s like reinventing breakfast cereal: it’s made with grains, is crunchy, and tastes good in milk. Gosh, that sounds new to me as well.”

> Jack Myer: “Oh, what an awesome sight it is to behold the Blitzer in his element–standing around a studio with a gazillion television monitors behind him, virtually no context whatever for any of the pictures flashing around him.”

> A reader adds: “Wolf unplugged! Oh, that ought to be a treat. I can’t stand the guy when he’s plugged. It is amazing that the Dems and CNN have the same problem. They have yet to identify the problem. Until they do, they will never solve it. Here is a catch phrase and a hint for CNN: ‘It’s the talent stupid.'”

> Another viewer says: “I thought the ‘Welcome to the Situation Room’ greeting used by Blitzer to remote guests a little cheesy, but the overall approach to the show was interesting and definately unique.”