If you are concerned about the state of American broadcast journalism, you have every right. But the real problem may not be bimbos and mimbos who apparently got their journalism degrees from the University of Florida, but rather the fact that so many well-known figures in broadcast journalism today took as their model Geraldo Rivera. Geraldo presided over the go-to nightly roundup of the OJ Simpson trial during the mid-1990s. In many ways Rivera’s CNBC show redeemed him from his fall from journalistic grace that began with his ill-fated opening of Al Capone’s empty vault and climaxed with his nose bring broken on his Jerry Springer-like daytime discussion show. Of course, that redemption proved to be short-lived as Geraldo has since devolved into a Fox News fascist woolly-head who seems almost the exact opposite of the hip young liberal watchdog he was during the 1970s. Call it the John Stossel Effect.
Despite, or because, of the fact that Geraldo Rivera seems to have been replaced by one of those pods from Invasion of the Body Snatcher, no other figure in broadcast journalism today, arguably, can be said to have had as large an impact on the nightly viewing habits of the 24 hour cable news networks viewers. How can this be so? To begin with, just take a look at the people who are not broadcast celebrities who had other jobs before Geraldo gave them entry into the news business by making mini-celebrities out of them during his nightly round table that initially took OJ Simpson to task to murdering his wife and her friend before moving on to help make Monica Lewinsky a more important figure in American history in the eyes of Republican Congressmen than Karl Rove or Alberto Gonzales.
Were it not for Geraldo Rivera, we would not be subjected to nightly indictments without evidence proposed by Nancy Grace. Rivera is the one who turned Nancy Grace from bulldog Atlanta prosecutor into a face we all know and turn away from in fear. Over on MSNBC there is Dan Abrams, another lawyer turned broadcast journalist who got his start providing legal analysis on the OJ Simpson trial for CNBC. Abrams is not too terribly bad on MSNBC; he certain is a 100% improvement over the doofus he replaced, Joe Scarborough. Perhaps the single worst reporter get a boost from Geraldo’s coverage on CNBC was John Gibson. It is hard to imagine a broadcast personality with who could be any less useful than John Gibson, unless of course you mention any of the actors who play reporters on Fox News. The only broadcast journalist not on Fox News who might possibly compete with John Gibson for worst on-air personality is that special needs high school that precedes Nancy Grace on Headlines News. I mean, you know, it’s nice that CNN gave a special needs kid a break, but every night for an hour? Of course, the fact that an idiot like Glenn Beck has a showcase for his hate and ignorance every night is also part of the legacy of Geraldo Rivera’s CNBC show.
Even more so than the fact that Geraldo personally turned so many lawyers into broadcast personalities, the real legacy of that show is how it transformed the way 24 hour news network choose which stories to cover. The OJ trial proved to be an even bigger cash cow for the 24 hour news channels that the first unnecessary Iraq war. Following the coverage of OJ’s murderous rampage and the subsequent example of idiocy among the jurors who clearly had to know he was guilty but somehow were duped into thinking that acquitting him would somehow right all the myriad wrongs of the LAPD, prime time on the 24 hour news channels set the agenda for new coverage. The real legacy of Geraldo Rivera’s coverage of OJ Simpson can be summed up in looking at the stories that American mainstream news chose to overkill rather than pursuing actually important news like the bottomless pit of lies told by the Bush administration to justify and gain support for their private little war. The legacy of how Geraldo Rivera has had more influence over broadcast journalism than anybody else can be witnessed in the fact that most Americans know more about Scott Peterson than they know about how Bush and Cheney hide intelligence from the American people and Congress that directly and incontrovertibly contradicted every single assertion that they made about the existence of WMD in Iraq.