Editorial: Time for Producers, WGA to Get Talking

Jan 13, 2008  •  Post A Comment

As the strike by the Writers Guild of America enters its 11th week and the impasse between the writers and the studios continues, we’ve seen the return to television of the late-night talk shows, along with the return of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to Comedy Central and the scheduled return of Bill Maher last Friday to HBO.
David Letterman and Craig Ferguson have writers, thanks to an interim agreement signed between the WGA and the show’s producer, Letterman’s company Worldwide Pants. The others have returned without their writers. Mr. Maher has said his show was going to forgo his opening monologue and his closing “New Rules” routine, confining itself to primarily his free-form roundtable discussion with guests.
But Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Colbert are doing segments that usually would be penned by their writing staffs. Significant numbers of viewers are watching, and a number of TV critics have applauded some of this work.
We’re not sure that this development weakens the position of the WGA, but what it does say is that viewers want their programs back.
Yes, NBC has surged with its reality lineup lately, but in the long term this impasse between the writers and the studios is not good for the TV business.
So once again we call for both sides to again sit down and hammer out an agreement. Besides all the collateral damage caused by the strike, neither side benefits from a work stoppage of significant length.
Bad News From the Polls
Many TV news outlets, along with many in other media, got burned last week when they did stories basically ceding the Democratic primary in New Hampshire to Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton before voters in the Granite state had even cast a ballot.
These stories were based on polls.
This isn’t the first time TV newscasters have gotten themselves into hot water because of polls. Back when Al Gore and George W. Bush were running against one another for president, some exit polling indicated that Mr. Gore would win the state of Florida, although in the end, officially, he did not.
Since that time, most TV outlets have been more careful about declaring the winners of political races.
What seemed to happen this time is that many in the media—and in the Clinton camp itself—disregarded two important facts: 1) That polls are a reflection of how people answer the pollster’s question at the moment it’s being asked; and 2) That some people might not truthfully answer about who they are going to vote for.
Those who disseminate the news on TV must make sure they communicate the limitations of polls to their viewers.


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