Tuned In

In Texas Filibuster, YouTube Stands Up While “24/7″ News Falls

The ticking-clock late-night showdown over an abortion bill was riveting TV news. So why did it play out almost entirely online?

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Late Tuesday night, the hottest news network in the country may have been the YouTube livestream* of the Texas State Senate. Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis had spent 11 hours on the floor filibustering a bill put forth by Republicans that would effectively forced the closure of most of the clinics in the state that provide abortions. It was no mere procedural filibuster but an actual, old-fashioned, talk-’til-you-stop drama, in which Davis had to hold the floor—without bathroom breaks, rest, or even leaning on anything. (She wore a back brace to support her standing.) The clock was ticking toward midnight, when the special session of the Senate would end.

It was a drama made for live TV. But it played out almost exclusively online.

As protesters massed in the gallery, the GOP majority attempted to close debate and bring a vote, and Democrats maneuvered to stall after their rivals forced Davis to stop speaking on procedural grounds, well over 100,000 YouTube viewers were tuned to the channel–closer to 200,000 as zero hour approached. That’s a six-figure viewership, after primetime in most time zones, watching legislators argue over Robert’s Rules of Order and who properly held the floor.

You might think that this kind of ticking-clock politics drama would be a magnet for cable news. TV news, after all, devoted considerable coverage when GOP Sen. Rand Paul held a rare one-man-speaking filibuster on the floor of the Senate earlier this year. There was a deadline, an explosive social issue, some charged gender politics in the room–“At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” demanded Sen.Leticia Van De Putte to roars from the crowd–and rowdy protesters shaking the room with chants of “Let her speak! Let her speak!” Aaron Sorkin could not have scripted it better, though he may have polished up the dialogue a bit.

But the late-night drama exposed a reality of 24/7 cable news: except among the biggest of all news events, it’s really more like 18/7, maybe even 18/5. Past prime time, the major news channels turn to reruns or go essentially on autopilot. As midnight approached in Austin, political observers were watching a nailbiter on YouTube; but on cable, you could see an interview about Iraq on Fox, a climate debate on MSNBC, and, toward the end of Anderson Cooper’s CNN show, a report on an attempt to ban the wearing of saggy pants.

You can argue what this coverage says about the priorities or biases of the cable-news outfits, but it at least is a commentary on their structure and resources. Though they can raise their metabolism when there’s an ongoing story with the promise of big ratings, there’s also a lot of filler and slack in their schedules, especially in the off hours. For all their promise of live coverage, cable TV relies a lot on canned content. So Austin may have been awake, but the story fell in the sleepytime zone for 24-hour news.

It was online and in social media where the story really took off, and even played out. As partisans from both sides traded shots on YouTube, Twitter became an extension of the Senate gallery, with users weighing in (President Obama’s twitter account directed attention to the filibuster at one point), cracking jokes, and even offering unsolicited  advice to the legislators on the points of Texas parliamentary procedure.

The night closed with the kind of chaotic, acrimonious, tense finish you would think a TV news producer would love. There was a hurried attempt to pass the bill, Republicans initially claimed victory, and then they retracted the claim, as the vote was reportedly found not to have been completed until after midnight. (Again, social-media viewers eagerly offered their volunteer time checking the timelines and going to the video replay.)

In Austin, it was a late exhausting night, as it was for politics and news junkies online. Wendy Davis didn’t get much rest yesterday. You can’t say the same for TV.

*Update: Credit where due, by the way, to the Texas Tribune, which supplied the livestream that made this entire social-media episode possible. An earlier version of this post featured a screengrab image crediting the Tribune’s stream, but it was later replaced with the above video.

54 comments
studying_nomad
studying_nomad

Last night was the best TV I've watched in years! 

gene812
gene812

On of the most absurd expressions out there is the "war against women," allegedly by anti-abortionists.  It's common knowledge that many - if not most - opponents of abortion are, themselves, WOMEN! 

grape_crush
grape_crush

> You can argue what this coverage says about the priorities or biases of the cable-news outfits, but it at least is a commentary on their structure and resources.

I don't buy that, sorry. This event was tailor-made for the short-attention-span news cycle; controversial subject, limited duration, and with enough information about it available in advance so that the talking heads wouldn't have to grasp too much for background information. Cable news is structured to rapidly respond to newsworthy events. It's just that the powers-that-be didn't consider this to be newsworthy.

It's the topic and the political leanings of the people protesting and person filibustering that is the reason Cooper was talking about men's pants in the same timeframe. It's an editorial decision to not give an hour or so to matters like this. A month ago, two million people protested against Monsanto and genetically modified food globally, and nary a peep from the national media. Media coverage of Tea Party events was overly generous; a small group of 300 tea partiers got a day's coverage while several thousand showing up in DC for worker's rights is barely noticed. Network TV election coverage generally favors Republicans. Coverage generally favors conservative viewpoints, panel guests typically have conservatives and centrists (who are identified as 'liberal') outnumber people with lefty ideas.



MotelWarrior
MotelWarrior

This was all a ploy by Gov Perry to raise his credentials with the Tea Party for his run at the Presidentcy in 2016.

Watch out America!

cent-fan
cent-fan

[Though they can raise their metabolism when there’s an ongoing story with the promise of big ratings, there’s also a lot of filler and slack in their schedules,... ]

Brother, ain't that the truth.  I guarantee that come Christmas there will be a story on homeless shelters, on Ground Hog Day there will be a story about Ground Hog Day, on June 6 there will be a story on D Day, and the next sex/murder trial that comes along will eat up two news-weeks of prime viewing time.  Most of these stories are already written, they'll just do a voiceover and change the year or the names.

Pathetic.  Cable news is going the way of McLocal news... live on the scene in the dark where the murder happened then weather, traffic, weather, traffic, and America's Got Talent results... then weather and traffic...

practicalrider
practicalrider

Why are none of the major news media reporting that the vote was taken at 12:03- after the midnight deadline and was recorded that way on the Texas Leg website- then minutes later the timestamp was changed to before midnight? 

The Texas Republicans changed the timestamp on the vote - and that is a Felony Class II. After they realized that 180 thousand people, including the people there at the rotunda, literally watched them commit felony online- they finally conceded the vote was indeed taken after the midnight deadline.

gysgt213
gysgt213

The ticking-clock late-night showdown over an abortion bill was riveting TV news. So why did it play out almost entirely online?


Boy, this is a slow pitch right over the plate.

artemis5597
artemis5597

If someone believes that an abortion shouldnt be done, they dont have to do it, condone it, or like it. But as a woman, and a human being, I deserve the right to choose. That is my natural born right, and Thank you, Wendy Davis, for protecting it.

MisfitChick
MisfitChick

Women affiliated with religions make up 7 out of 10 who seek abortions. Conservative lawmakers should be asking WHY people who believe the same way they do USE these services THE MOST instead of trying to force abortion laws to change the ONLY WAY they can change them - by taking them OUT of the 'ignorant' hands of the people. Yeah, I was so mad I wrote a blog post about it - search: misfitchick's abortion post on blogspot. I grew up on a conservative home like that - they are insidious and incessant about shoving God down people's throats.

MrObvious
MrObvious

It sux when the new media shines a light on these abhorrent people but regular media can't take their eyes off all the squirrels?

Lola-TX
Lola-TX

Just as well it was online. If it had been on TV, we would have had hours of useless commentary from people who didn't know what they were talking about. As it was, you could just watch the proceedings and get updates from reporters on the ground via Twitter. No mindless talking.

StephenHurty
StephenHurty

I hope Wendy Davis is proud , she has defended the right to murder babies. 300,000 babies murdered every year by abortion  who will speak for the innocent children? Sad how murder is justified by your need for un-protected sex.

mrivera1119
mrivera1119

@gene812 Really? Can you boys have children? Has any law criminalized the guy that impregnates a woman and keeps walking while she is left alone to face the music? These hypocritical male legislators should condemn the man as well. It takes two to tango and with DNA testing the bad boy can be found. Let's make anti abortion laws that criminalize the irresponsible father and then we can stop calling it war on women. Until then, that's what it is and there are millions of Wendys to fight our Inquisitors.

bobcn
bobcn

@grape_crush

"Coverage generally favors conservative viewpoints, panel guests typically have conservatives and centrists (who are identified as 'liberal') outnumber people with lefty ideas."

During Reagan and George the 1st the talking heads shows justified having more gopers every Sunday by saying that since conservatives were in charge in the White House their point of view was more important to feature.  When Clinton was elected they claimed it was a matter of fairness to have more gopers on since Clinton had the 'bully pulpit' and they wanted to insure that both sides were represented.   The justifications kept changing but the unbalanced guest lists never did.  Nowadays, they don't even bother trying to justify it.

I thought it was particularly revealing to watch members of the cooperate media recently questioning whether Glenn Greenwald is truly a journalist.  Release secrets while you get your paycheck from Fox (e.g., Rosen) and nobody questions your bona fides.  Do it as a leftie and your membership in the club is cast in doubt.

mkc0124
mkc0124

@MotelWarrior Well he might just be stupid enough to think up such an idea but his days are numbered.  He has no future in national politics and his time is up at the state level.  He's actually too stupid to be taken on as a lobbyist so I'm not sure what Rick will do.  Take up painting, perhaps.

MotelWarrior
MotelWarrior

You are mistaken, Dewhurst was attempting to set the clock back to 1860.

gene812
gene812

@artemis5597    Someone must protect the lives of innocent, unborn and partially-born children from mothers who would slaughter them.  Don't they have a "natural" right to life?  And why would even a pro-abortion mother wait past 20 weeks to seek one? 



gene812
gene812

@MisfitChick    A better questions is, "WHY do those like you, even when challenged, contend that this is solely a religious issue?"  I'm not 'religious' and see it for what it is; a life versus death issue.  I grew up in a 'yellow dog' Democrat home but I still can't accept slaughtering fetuses as a form of birth control. 

MrObvious
MrObvious

By abhorrent I am talking about the 'wingers who try to push through this legislation without proper debate. It takes a real old time filibuster to try to highlight it.

MotelWarrior
MotelWarrior

It could have been great if CSPAN or CSPAN2 or one of the countless other channels had just broadcast with no commentary.

Jawja
Jawja

@StephenHurty Who will speak for the hungry unwanted babies?  Not right wing christian who only believe they need protection while IN the womb. Cut all programs to feed and nourish them after birth.  Greedy Guts.  Jesus Weeps.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@StephenHurty   Well, Steve, be sure and have the courage of your convictions if you're ever in that position.  And if I am, be sure to mind your own business.

I don't know how you delude yourself to think you have any say in women's bodily autonomy.  Women make decisions all the time and they don't include you.  Mind your own business and keep your pointy nose out of what is between me and my doctor.

gene812
gene812

@mrivera1119 @gene812      I'm all for punishing those bad boys - severely - but I'd never call it a "war on men."  There are laws which hold them responsible for supporting those children - if their mothers will so file.  If he's too sorry and broke to pay, then she used damn poor judgement in 'servicing' him.  Ultimately, women MUST take some of the responsibility for the consequences of consensual 'whoopie,' rather than blaming everybody else - and/or killing the unborn child.    

gene812
gene812

@studying_nomad @gene812     DISPROVE it!!!  Like I stated, it's common knowledge.  Furthermore, it's COMMON SENSE that most women don't subscribe to killing their own unborn.

PerryWhite1
PerryWhite1

@bobcn @grape_crush I agree. As someone who's worked in the media for more than 30 years, I have yet to see the liberal bias against which right-wingers fulminate. What I usually see is newspapers bending over backwards to appeal to conservatives. And CNN leaning as hard as it can to the right to attract Fox viewers. Our media, basically owned by five corporations, invariably presents conservative viewpoints as the norm, and gives right-wing protests and politicians more air time, bandwidth and ink. At my newspaper, small Tea Party gatherings were front page, while huge Occupy movements (and we had a local one) never made it out of the Metro section or the briefs.

So, to no one's surprise but apparently Time's, the Rand Paul filibuster vs. the Wendy Davis filibuster got different coverage. The right-wing man received breathless and adoring attention from the media, while the left-of-center woman was ignored. It's no mystery, Time, so stop pretending it is -- and maybe, just maybe, start reporting on the right-wing tilt of the media, including your own publication. 

Addressing the bias that dares not speak its own name? That would be real journalism!

mkc0124
mkc0124

@gene812 @practicalrider No, it's not a lie.  There were thousands of people online that witnessed it and there was evidence preserved to show that the GOP had, in fact, done this stunt.

You being so defensive about your party being caught doing unethical and illegal thinks really reveals as much about you as last night revealed about the GOP.  Have you no shame?

mkc0124
mkc0124

@gene812 @artemis5597 Ask yourself this Gene...why did Tennessee voters re-elect to Congress a man who ran on a platform of being pro-life, family values and a conservative Christian when the voters knew that he had multiple extra-marital affairs (some with his patients), impregnated one mistress and pressured her to get an abortion, and took his pro-life, family values, Christian wife (now his ex) to get two abortions during their marriage?

Why would the pro-life, family values, conservatives of Tennessee re-elect that man to Congress?  Give me your best shot.

mkc0124
mkc0124

@gene812 @artemis5597 Oh really, Gene?  Have you ever volunteered to be a human shield for the women, children and babies in Iraq?  Over 100,000 of them have been killed by American warfare with many of them murdered and some raped before being murdered.  Where is your outrage for them?  Oh right...you're selectively outraged.  One of those faux Christians.

Jawja
Jawja

@MrObvious It's hard for them to stand up with all the eyes on them. Funny to see that little pizza'nt Gov.lite sweat. He had no clue as to parliamentary procedure. Wonder who the woman in white was telling him what to do?

TyPollard
TyPollard

@MrObvious 

That was good TV. 

Republicans brought shamelessness to a new low.

mrivera1119
mrivera1119

@gene812 @mrivera1119 You are simply rationalizing the standard "victimize the woman because boys will be boys". Pro lifers are double hypocrites: if they are really "pro life" they must hode the father responsible instead if making excuses like you do. And while they are at it, you can't be pro life and for the death penalty. That's twisted Republican logic that betrays Christian ethics and common decency.

gene812
gene812

@mkc0124 @gene812 @studying_nomad    "Burden of proof?"  This is dialogue, NOT a trial.  I "don't get to insist...?"  Objection, your honor!    

Perhaps it would benefit you to look up the definitions of "common knowledge" and "common sense."

mkc0124
mkc0124

@gene812 @studying_nomad That's not how it works, Gene.  You made an assertion and so the burden is on you to prove the veracity of that assertion.  You don't get to then insist that others disprove your claims, that is not if you want to be taken seriously.  You don't seem to be a serious individual so perhaps it's a no-brainer where you are concerned.

I'm convinced.  You've rendered yourself entirely irrelevant to anyone looking for an intellectual or honest discussion.

gene812
gene812

@studying_nomad @gene812      What I'm "assuming" is that you haven't the slightest clue - or interest - in how nurturing women feel about abortion.  I'm done with your inanity; you may have the last word, such as it is.

gene812
gene812

@mkc0124 @gene812 @practicalrider     First, it's NOT my party; I am neither a Republican nor affiliated with the 'Tea Party' movement; just a Texan and a traditional American.  Second, in light of the huge effort the Democrats were making to avoid a vote on the popular bill, it's inane for you to make such an absurd charge.  You may have the last word in this exchange, such as it is; I'm done with you.

mkc0124
mkc0124

@gene812 @studying_nomad @practicalrider Gene, you are one of those people that can't quite make the distinction between communism and socialism, right?  This isn't an act, is it?  You're actually this poorly educated and ideological, aren't you?

gene812
gene812

@studying_nomad @gene812 @practicalrider    Typical response from a defenseless socialist.  Your mama should have instructed you N OT to "judge others by yourself;"  more specifically, not to 'brand' opposites with your own Marxist philosophy!  

gene812
gene812

@mkc0124 @gene812 @artemis5597     Answer the question for yourself.  I'm neither aware of what does - or doesn't - happen in Tennessee and don't concern myself with what they or "conservative Christians" do outside of Texas.    


gene812
gene812

@mkc0124 @gene812 @artemis5597    Off topic and absurd nonsense!  Furthermore, it would benefit you pro-abortionists to abandon the notion that only Christians oppose the killing of unborn and partially-born babies.  I'm neither a practicing Christian nor a Republican, as is true of millions of other anti-abortionists.