Cable News Switcheroo

Friday, August 13th, 2010

New York criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield riffs on my post about Wendy Murphy yesterday and tells this amusing tale from the cable TV trenches:

Way back when MSNBC used to do 6 hours stints with lawyers doing the color commentary on the court case of the day, I was a regular doing the defense side.  Once an hour, we would be expected to sit at a desk and do a five minute stint, me and whoever was doing the “former prosecutor” job that day.  Our five minutes would consist of a two questions, each taking up about 90 second and including some mischaracterization of the nature of the legal issue, and concluding with the words “how do you feel?”  We had ten seconds to respond before the talking head turned elsewhere.

One slow day caught up with us.  The “former prosecutor” and I got bored playing cards, waiting for our next stint, and there was absolutely nothing worthwhile to say on the case du jour.  We had just finished our stint with Ashley Banfield (back when she was blond and didn’t wear her “interested” glasses), and some unknown kid in a peculiar Caribbean-green-colored shirt was the next hour’s anchor.  We decided to goof with the kid by switching sides.  I would take the prosecutor side and the former prosecutor would pretend to be the defense.

The anchor, Rick Sanchez, was very nice and solicitous, as they sat us at our desk, and we nodded nicely back, knowing that there would be someone else we didn’t know there in an hour.  He ran through his question and we responded.  Just backward.  Rick didn’t skip a beat, and we filled our five minutes like good little lawyers.  Just backward.  Nobody, not Sanchez, not a producer, nobody, even noticed.  Our sound bites were good.  Our time was filled.  And everybody was happy.  It meant absolutely nothing.

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14 Responses to “Cable News Switcheroo”

  1. #1 |  Dave Krueger | 

    It’s just all for show? Well, fuck ’em then. From now on I am no longer going to yell at the TV when they say really stupid stuff. I mean, what’s the point if they really don’t give a shit? I’ve clearly just been wasting my breath all these years.

  2. #2 |  MacGregory | 

    In the words of Kyle Broflovski: “That’s just fucked up right there, dude.”

  3. #3 |  Marty | 

    ‘the prince and the prosecutor’?

    funny stuff!

  4. #4 |  pam | 

    Bet Nancy Grace would have neeeeevvver let that happen

  5. #5 |  shg | 

    You’ve got no idea. Some of the “experts” used on TV are so utterly clueless, or totally full of shit, that it’s beyond belief. Yet their “expert” opinions are spread over the airways to unsuspecting viewers, and the nice TV news people neither know nor care how absurdly wrong they are. As long as they fill the air time and make for good TV.

  6. #6 |  Bill | 

    Cable news is horrible. No critical thinking, no hard questions, just fluff and bull shit. The BBC is pretty good. I get most of my information from books and the internets.

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    at work, our boss BREATHES this stuff. it’s hilarious, because he’ll mix up different pundits’ bullshit and try to pass it off as his own. I’ve never seen someone who can directly contradict himself so much and not realize it. he couldn’t tell you who keynes or hayek is, but he tosses economic catch phrases around like they’re baseball scores.

  8. #8 |  Mo | 

    Is this that surprising? If you’re a good lawyer, you should know the best arguments that your opponent would come up with so that you would have a counter. A defense attorney should know what a prosecutor’s POV would be and vice versa. Actually, the same goes for Team Red and Team Blue or libertarian vs. a statist.

  9. #9 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Agree with Mo, it’s almost cliche to hear from an attorney: “I could argue it either way.”

    It’s all show biz. Even the “real” courts. Bread and circuses.

  10. #10 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Adam Stoddard gets a new punishment:

    Maricopa County Detention Officer Adam Stoddard

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    New Punishment for Deputy Found in Contempt
    Updated: Monday, 09 Aug 2010, 10:27 PM MDT
    Published : Monday, 09 Aug 2010, 10:27 PM MDT

    PHOENIX – A Maricopa County Detention Officer has received a new punishment, after he was caught stealing papers from a defense attorney’s desk.

    Adam Stoddard decided he’d rather go to jail, rather than make the public apology a judge ordered him to last winter.

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  11. #11 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Ack, I meant to post the last two paragraphs – sorry.

  12. #12 |  TC | 

    It’s very sad that any “news” outlet can’t focus on anything except the showbiz aspect.

    Fair and Balanced, becomes, that depends on what the meaning of “IF” is!

  13. #13 |  Craig, AR | 

    I don’t like defamation law, but if there is ever a case for it then it should be instances like this. If anybody in America has to pay for slander, that pig Nancy Grace should have had to pay out the nose to the Duke lacrosse team.

    This is the kind of case that tests my 1A absolutism much harder than Nazis marching through Skokie or Phelps protesting a military funeral.

  14. #14 |  On Cable News | The Agitator | 

    […] And then there’s what you might call the Wendy Murphy Problem, which is that in the world of cable news, things move so fast, the soundbites are so short, the news cycle so ephemeral, that you can pretty much get away with just making shit up. Odds are good that no one who knows better has been paying attention long enough to call you on your errors. And as long as you’re interesting, animated, and provocative, producers aren’t going to stop booking you just because you’re, well, wrong a lot. It’s a gig that rewards shamelessness. (See also this very funny story.) […]