Still, one cannot fault a network with no significant traction of any kind for trying something new, so for that reason critics and anonymous online comment-makers alike should cut “Farrow” some slack and stop trying to kill it before it has a chance to develop into something.
Ronan Farrow himself is something of an asset, and unlike the twenty-something “news people” on Pivot and elsewhere, he appears to have some knowledge of and respect for the world as it existed prior to his own arrival on it. And his interests clearly extend beyond those that directly impact his generation. It’s as if he understands that, today as always, we’re all in this together. That sets him above his youthful TV peers.
Farrow has been roundly attacked online -- by many members of the press and a significant number of those problematic anonymous haters who increasingly and shamefully gain power and influence over journalists of every kind -- for something he said Monday when introducing himself to the home audience at the top of his first show. He noted that he “grew up watching the greats of TV news,” then mentioned “Murrow, Cronkite, Colbert.” I’m reasonably certain this was an attempt at humor, since Edward R. Murrow died and Walter Cronkite retired long before he was born. The inclusion of Stephen Colbert in his comment was no doubt a jab at television critics and ordinary citizens alike who regard Colbert and his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart as journalists who host news programs.
Some people went to so far as to label Farrow “a liar” or to assert that he didn’t know what he was talking about. That’s just absurd.
It’s entirely too easy to dismiss a young person like Farrow, who is 26, as being too inexperienced to contribute to news in a meaningful way, other than as a cub reporter. Twenty years ago, when MTV had serious news chops, then-twenty-something reporters like Gideon Yago and Tabitha Soren offered consistently interesting reports on the stories of the day. Yes -- they put a youthful spin on things, but not in such a way as to alienate other age groups or to skew what they were saying one way or another. If MTV still had a news division of any consequence, Farrow would fit right in as a young person building a career in television news.
Instead, he’s been tossed into the big leagues (if one can refer to MSNBC in that capacity) with no training and no experience at doing what he is suddenly expected to do. Given those circumstances, he’s doing a fine job, but in a larger context he comes off as someone who has no business having the job he has. I only know him as a voracious tweeter and the son of fantastically famous parents who isn’t above feeding the media comments about whatever scandal his family might find itself at the center of. He’s had a privileged life so far, with the best education money can buy and all kinds of grand opportunities most people can only dream about. But he hasn’t worked his way up in television news, so I’m unclear as to why MSNBC chose to give him a shot at something other people work years for and never get.
That is, of course, a network issue -- one of many that speak to the ongoing choice-challenged management at MSNBC. I’m not suggesting Farrow -- or anyone else -- should turn down such opportunities when they present themselves. And they certainly shouldn’t be put down for trying new things.
Farrow’s delivery is flat, his voice almost cracks when he tries to make a point, and he’s sometimes stiff in the way a high-school kid might be on a closed-circuit or public access production. But he’s eager, energetic and seems to be on top of the stories he’s reporting -- and he’s learning how to do all of this live on television in front of thousands of people. He strikes me as a fast learner. I’d like to see how he develops, and how his show develops along with him. That will make me one of the very few watching, at least for now.