The Fix is an aficionado of three things: politics, sports and television. (Also professional wrestling but that’s neither here nor there.) The State of the Union combines two of those things together, making it a major moment in our lives.
And we always enjoy it. The pomp. The circumstance. The fact that every random lawmaker can find some reporter willing to quote him. It gives us hope for the future.
But, it could be better. Below are our suggestions on how. Caveat: Many of these things either can’t or won’t happen. We know that. But the Fix is a dreamer and, if they did come to pass, the SOTU experience would be that much better.
1. Start the speech at 8 pm. The Fix has always hated that baseball playoff games tend to start later in the evening. Ditto this speech. By starting the State of the Union at 9 pm, you are virtually guaranteeing that some decent proportion of casual watchers won’t see it. Plus, as the Post’s Wonkblog noted today, SOTU speeches are getting longer and longer — meaning that by the time President Obama, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul all speak, it’s going to be darn close to 11 pm on the East Coast. The Fix, like most of America, needs our beauty sleep. Start it at 8 pm! (This goes for presidential debates as well.)
2. Add more cameras/camera angles. If web television is the next big thing — and everyone we talk to says it is — then why not use it more? During the Superbowl, you can literally watch the game from two dozen angles and even zero in on a favorite player. What do we get for State of the Union? Usually just a shot of the President and one of the crowd. Tell us there wouldn’t be an audience for a camera that stayed trained on Vice President Joe Biden all night. (That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!) Or for one keeping an eye on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.)? How about one that let you watch how the Supreme Court was reacting? (Who could forget Samuel Alito’s “not true” during the 2010 SOTU?)
3. Get mic’ed up. One of the best parts of sports is how they mic up coaches and players on the sidelines. It gives the average Joe some sense of what is going on in the middle of the action and makes the experience of watching a game much more three-dimensional. There are any number of politicians who would l-o-v-e nothing more than the chance to offer some in-the-moment commentary on President Obama’s speech tonight. Gather it, edit it and then run a few of the best ones in the intermission between the president’s speech and the Republican response. (It’s usually about 15 minutes.) Then do the same during the Republican response and run a few of those in the post-speech analysis. It would make for a far richer experience for the average viewer/user.
4. Acknowledge the Twitter world: Twitter has emerged as the medium of choice for the political class — politicos, reporters, gadflies — to offer their in-game (and stream of consciousness) analysis of what they are seeing. Like it or not, the first cut of conventional wisdom emerges from Twitter and will have already begun congealing long before President Obama utters his final word tonight. In a world in which two (and even three and four) screen viewing is increasingly becoming the norm, why not offer a place — on the web presumably — where people are highlighting the biggest Twitter moments of the night, culling tweets from politicians, celebrities and the like and, generally, just helping to sort through the flood of 140-character thoughts being churned out. If you wanted to wait until the speech finished rather than doing it in real time, you could make the shows like “SportsNation” on ESPN – a roving interactive conversation on the hot topics of the day/night.
What did we miss?