Ethics Dunce: Bismarck, North Dakota’s CBS Affiliate, KXMB

will Farrell

Actor and comedian Will Ferrell donned his  Ron Burgundy persona from “Anchorman”  and delivered the news for KXMB in Bismarck Saturday night. It was a promotion for “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” the sequel to Ferrell’s  2004 hit comedy about a fictional news team in the politically incorrect 1970’s. The station’s sales manager, Tammy Blumhagen, explained that Ferrell’s agent contacted her in May and asked if he could anchor or co-anchor a newscast as part of the promotion tour for “Anchorman 2.” “When they called us, we kind of jumped at the opportunity,” she said.

Well, why wouldn’t she? Since U.S. journalism has abandoned all but the wan pretense of being a legitimate profession, perhaps all TV news broadcasts should just go the route of Bismarck’s local CBS station, and let clowns, reality stars, high school athletes, citizens picked at random, talking macaws and trained seals deliver the news. After all, neither the news judgment, integrity nor competence of what passes for journalists these days can be assumed or even expected. Why not just turn over the broadcast of the evening news to a comedian who plays a idiotic anchorman in films? It’s not like informing the public about what’s going on in the nation and the world is important or anything. The public doesn’t have a right to know. The public has a right to be amused.

Come to think of it, why stop with TV news? Let’s have someone like Steve Martin sit on the Supreme Court during oral argument sometimes. He could take the place of Clarence Thomas—he never says anything anyway, and certainly never says anything funny. Now, Justice Scalia, he’s funny. He can stay.

The Will Farrell stunt is right in line with Democrat Steny Hoyer’s decision in 2010 to have Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert engage in fake testimony before his committee, instantly turning the elected legislators of this once great nation into vaudeville straight men, and amateurish ones at that, not that they are any great shakes at their real duties either. And again, why not just turn the halls of Congress into a comedy club stage now and then? It’s not like there is anything serious happening in the country, so lets just admit that those low-information voters, ignoramuses and and mouth-breathers who can’t name which coast California is on, don’t have the slightest idea what’s in the Bill of Rights and think the guys on Mt. Rushmore are the Marx Brothers are right: it’s all crap, nothing matters, and the country will just run itself. That seems to be  more or less the President’s theory these days.

Want to hear something really funny? Here’s a line from the Minneapolis Star Tribune story about Ferrell’s stunt: “Blumhagen said Ferrell was on board with maintaining the integrity of the newscast.” The station turns its news broadcast into a movie promotion and has a comedian reading the news, but wants to make sure the broadcast still has integrity! Whatever integrity means to today’s news industry, it isn’t what it once was. Bismarck citizens were just insulted by their CBS affiliate, and neither they nor the affiliate realized it.

Bismarck may be the bellweather of our increasingly ridiculous and dysfunctional culture, and I’m the one who is out of step. Also in the news this weekend was the startling story that that Kris Jenner, the monster mother who created the Kardashian brand and who has raised five, count them, five young women to sell her dubious values of venality, narcissism, materialism, sexual exhibitionism, ignorance and fatuousness to the nation’s young through reality shows, sex tapes, low-cut dresses, phony marriages and People Magazine features, was reportedly furious that primo daughter Kim appeared more or less naked in her fiance’s (that’s fellow-narcissist Kanye West) latest rap video.

Yes! The New York Daily News reported that Mama Kardashian felt that this exposure wasn’t good publicity like the leaked  sex tape featuring a younger Kim and Ray J, her pre-Kanje rapper-sex partner that originally made her a mega-celebrity, and that the video was so degrading (it shows Kim straddling the father of her infant son “North West” and simulating sex with him while he pilots a speeding motorcycle—the Motorcycle Safety Board is also upset, and who can blame them?) that the video would “destroy all of Kim’s credibility.” Let me repeat that, so you get its full import: it will destroy all of Kim Kardashian’s credibility. Meanwhile, the last time Kris Jenner was in the news was after she persuaded her just-turned-18 younger daughter Kendall to have a nipple-bearing shot of herself distributed to news outlets. Kris knows credibility, Kim—listen to your mother!

Wait! This just in ! Kris says that the Daily News story is false, and that she’s “incredibly proud” that her daughter is shown riding naked on the handlebars of Kanye’s cycle doing, well, something to him that sounds squishy. I guess the reporter who filed the earlier report was really Whoopi Goldberg, who was being a Daily News journalist  for the day—with integrity, though, and credibility too. And see? She did as good a job as a real 21st Century journalist! She got the story wrong.

Stay classy, America.

(You’re right: I’m in a bad mood this morning. Watch out.)


Facts: Star Tribune

Sources: Radar, DNA

48 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Bismarck, North Dakota’s CBS Affiliate, KXMB

  1. This is awful — not just because it mocks the concept of the “news,” but apparently news programs are now outright promotion vehicles for movies. I can’t watch any of the inane morning news/entertainment/would rather stick a fork in my eye programs (like GMA) for this reason, but now the evening news too?

    On the other hand …. do the people we see reporting the news anymore actually investigate and write their stories? With a few exceptions, my guess is no. Maybe this is just a network being completely honest that it doesn’t really matter who is delivering the news anymore …..

    • Regarding your SCOTUS comment, I’ve actually pondered the same thing from time to time. There are a lot of judges — federal and state — who heavily rely on their clerks to research and write their opinions. Some judges are active writers and editors — others are not. If you can find a truly lazy judge who just turns the entire exercise over to his or her clerk, why not hire an actor to deliver the verdict — and even make funny comments and gestures during oral argument? If the whole process is a farce anyway, we might as well make it more entertaining for the public. Sort of like selling rotten fruit to the populace to throw at the condemned man on his way to the hanging!

      • The same obviously goes for politicians who read speeches. I was making the same point to my wife after hearing Chris Matthews essentially say that the President’s only leadership skill is delivering speeches. I said, “Heck, then why doesn’t he just have Morgan Freeman read them? Obama’s good, but Freeman is much better.”

        • Good point. I think Obama does have some other positive qualities, but assuming that is his only selling point, Morgan Freeman would be a good choice. Or someone who plays evil characters well — like Alan Alda or Donald Sutherland. Quality actors command higher salaries than the POTUS though.

    • Some do, some don’t. I object to the whole newsreader concept. It leads to incidents like the one a few years ago when a young woman on a local newscast read “WWII” as “World War Eleven.”

  2. I don’t know that it matters if it’s a classically trained news reporter, an actor, a classicly trained news seal, or just a plain seal. What should be important is the quality and objectiveness of the material being presented, and not the person presenting it. I think that’s the difference between the Will Ferrel and Stephen Colbert examples, Colbert’s material was inherently dishonest in a place where honesty should be key, Now that’s not to defend the quality of the news nomatter who is reporting it, more and more I see this bias towards lazyness and flash that seems to detract from important issues on the best of days.

    • Good point—but the credibility of the messenger matters. A fictional character played by a comedian is reading the news—how is anyone supposed to be sure it isn’t a joke, or what is really factual and what isn’t?

      • The test SHOULD be that the material is being presented on a News program. The fact is that our discussion infers that out news carriers don’t have that credibility, and we might be looking at individuals as the last bastions of credibility. That’s a failure of the networks.

  3. Pingback: Ethics Dunce: Bismarck, North Dakota's CBS Affiliate, KXMB | Ethics … | Affiliate Bit

  4. Will Ferrell isn’t funny anymore.
    The fact that he’s still getting paid to make movies says something about American society.
    Something bad.

    • Ferrell makes me laugh still, but he doesn’t seem as funny as he used to. I laugh more from the absurdism of Steven Wright and the Onion. Absurdism is my favorite type of humor, going back to before Who’s On First (I’m not a humor consultant, so I call that routine [WOF] “absurdism,” no matter what the correct categorization is).

      What Ferrell and KXMB did should be obvious to both as a crossing of a do-not-cross line. But it’s too late. It would have happened eventually, what with the preparation of the masses for it, by way of Stewart and Colbert – and before them, by so many talk shows with popular guests. I believe that one of the “something bads” is that too many Americans place more value on getting entertained (and on being led to believe that in the course of getting entertained, they have become informed and wised-up) than on getting informed and wised-up.

      • In complete agreement with you there. I’d also add Jim Carrey to that list — and just about every Steve Carell movie. Carell is okay in a sitcom, but not as the lead character in a movie.

        • They are all talented (especially Carey) and can be funny with the right material. (You are exactly right about Carrell, Beth–terrific supporting comic, can’t carry a film as a lead) The problem Carrey and Ferrell share is age–silly comedians look pathetic and desperate once they get on in years, except for the very rare, great ones.

    • Since it appears Jack, Ablative and Beth have thoroughly discussed this it seems the best way to decide if a comedian is funny or not is not a list of “unfunny comedians” but simply create this razor:

      A comedian is not funny if they aren’t Leslie Nielson.*

      We had developed some basic rules of good humor awhile back. I think #3 or #4 was “If you aren’t funny, being loud doesn’t fix that” and it’s corollary “If you are loud, it is probably because you aren’t funny”.

      Will Ferrell and others violate that rule often.

      I think deadpan humor in the style of Naked Gun, Airplane and Fatal Instinct are probably the best.

      *Yes, there are exceptions to every general rule and on occasion Will Ferrell has elicited laughs from me as have other generally unfunny comedians. But that follows more or less the shotgun blast rule: keep trying and eventually something will work… AKA even blind squirrels find nuts on occasion.

  5. Just finished watching the entire newscast. I can honestly say that within the integrity of the broadcast they did, Mr Ferell did not bring it down. Someone from a bigger city, not being aware of where it came from may have already taken it to be satire.

    I guess one get’s used to the evening reports of city hall corruption and murders, but I actually found the broadcast completely refreshing in a very innocent, jimmy stewart middle america kind of way. It was almost all local fluff; reporters dressed as Santa, stories about blocked parking lots, etc… I’m a little happier for having seen it. There’s a part of the country that’s happy to be what they are.

    I have no idea how it came about, but it actually was a bit of an eye opener for me, regardless of its intent.

    • Having Ferrell do it inherently compromised its integrity–it can’t be a newscast and a spoof simultaneously and still be reliable. It may have maintained its integrity of production values, but that’s not the same thing.

      • The part that;s confusing me is that it didn’t seem like a satire, more like a a homage to a different era, or way of newcasting, The local over the national, the occasional fluff to balance out the negativity, that sort of thing.

        • Newcasts are to communicate news in a direct, useful, reliable manner as their top priority, not to sell movies, do parodies, or homages to years past. Mixed objectives create conflicts of interest. If the message is that broadcast journalism has become a joke, I quite agree, but the station should be improving that situation, not applauding it.

  6. Bismarck may be the bellweather of our increasingly ridiculous and dysfunctional culture…

    Weather = atmospheric environmental conditions.

    Whether = a conditional word helping to group a contingent case or cases.

    Wether = a gelded sheep, e.g. a bellwether or belwether, a wether fitted with a bell to help a flock to organise itself and to simplify a shepherd’s work by permitting efforts to be co-ordinated on such an animal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.