Last year, during the Republican National Convention, when Sarah Palin criticized the Eastern media elite of biased reporting, her accusations were met on the convention floor with chants of “NBC! NBC! NBC!”
Roughly 11 months later, NBC News’ sibling cable channel MSNBC remains the bête noire of many conservative TV viewers. But in recent weeks a handful of conservative media watchdogs have at long last found something at NBC News that they can genuinely cheer about: namely, The Wanted, NBC News’ controversial foray into paramilitary journalism.
“How often is it that one hour of TV viewing can annoy terrorists, The New York Times, and Human Rights Watch?” Mary Katharine Ham of The Weekly Standard wrote on Monday. “Take advantage of this infrequent confluence by watching The Wanted.”
“The Left is predictably squeamish about the projection of American moral authority via flashy extra-governmental investigations, and the unfairness and psychic pain such uncouth behavior might cause murderous terrorists and the Euro-wimpy bureaucracies that harbor them,” Ms. Ham added. “They’re not nearly as concerned about terrorists and accused perpetrators of human rights violations living freely in Western countries with impunity.”
Elsewhere, the conservative Web site Hot Air named The Wanted “the best show you’re not watching.”
“In a sense, the men of The Wanted exemplify the power of investigative journalism at its best,” noted Hot Air. “They use an aggressive documentary style, but at the heart of their effort is a dedication to openness and accountability and its ability to prevail over terrorism.”
“[I]nstead of the droning sanctimony of PBS’s Frontline or the political ax-grinding that passes for investigative journalism, these guys are out in the world confronting terrorists and war criminals and delivering accountability,” noted the Enterprise Blog, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
“Needless to say, insiders report that handwringers at NBC’s sister ‘news’ organization MSNBC (not to speak of critics at The New York Times) fret about blurring the ‘line’ between law enforcement and journalism (huh?),” the Enterprise Blog added. “But the show’s fans say the real fight is about the political correctness of outing terrorists and war criminals living in Western countries.”
Unfortunately for conservative fans of The Wanted, to date, few TV viewers have rallied around the series.
To wit: The premiere of The Wanted on Monday, July 20, drew a scant 2.99 million viewers, dead last among the broadcast networks in the 10 p.m. time slot. The second episode, on Monday, July 27, did even worse, attracting only 2.17 million viewers, and again finished last in its time period.
As a result, the honeymoon between conservative bloggers and NBC News’ programming looks like it will be short lived.
On the eve of the series’ premiere The New York Times reported that six episodes of The Wanted had been shot. But in the aftermath of Monday’s ratings dive, an NBC News spokesperson told David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun that, “as of now, NBC doesn’t have any future episodes on our schedule.”
One of the episodes that has yet to air was reportedly going to focus on Leopold Munyakazi, a native of Rwanda, now living in Baltimore.
Today, The New Republic published a long, in-depth feature by former Observer reporter Andrew Rice about what has happened to Mr. Munyakazi, in the months since The Wanted first set sights on him and subsequently touched off an academic controversy that quickly spilled onto the front page of The New York Times.
“What was happening was a collision of two different worldviews: the investigative mindset of journalists and prosecutors, with its normative emphasis on evidence, guilt, and verdicts; and the academic mode of inquiry, which is more discursive and wary of definitive judgments,” writes Mr. Rice. “The disdain between the two sides was mutual.”
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