Television News: Making Us Stupid and Cheating the Dead
I found out Betty Comden had died when it was announced on a cable news channel. Comden and her long-time collaborator Adolph Green formed one of the most versatile and successful musical comedy writing teams in Broadway history. They usually wrote a musical’s “book” (story and dialogue) and the lyrics, leaving the music to such greats as Cy Coleman, Jule Styne, and Leonard Bernstein. It wouldn’t be difficult for a TV obituary to select highlights of Ms. Comden’s career, for there were many of them. Comden and Green, for example, wrote the lyrics to classic songs like “Just in Time” and “The Party’s Over” from “The Bells Are Ringing;” “Neverland” and “I Won’t Grow Up” from “Peter Pan,” and “New York, New York” (“It’s a wonderful town; the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down!”) from “On the Town.” But no: the channel I was watching, ABC News and many others showed a clip of Gene Kelly from the movie musical “Singin’ in the Rain” and said something similar to what George Stephanopoulos said ( as the Kelly clip was on screen) in his tribute to Comden on his Sunday show:
“Lyricist Comden wrote classics like ‘Singin’in the Rain.'”
Well, yes, “lyricist Comden” wrote “Singin’ in the Rain” the screenplay to the film “Singin’ in the Rain.” “Lyricist Comden” did not, however, write the lyrics to the song “Singin’ in the Rain,” although about 100% of viewers who didn’t know otherwise now think that, thanks to the unforgivable sloppiness and incompetence of Stephanopoulos and his fellow TV news media incompetents.
Why unforgivable? It is unforgivable on several levels:
Thus do our television messengers warp history, dishonor the dead and the greats of the past, and make us collectively stupid and unaware. The most powerful and pervasive of all communications methods is in their power, and far too often they approach their responsibility with neither care, skill, or respect. Let the debates about whether television news is biased rage on; that it is inept and unethically incompetent is beyond argument.