Was the sudden demise of The News with Shepard Smith on CNBC a symptom of cancel culture creeping over from social media into network television?
Or was cancelling the program so swiftly simply a case of realizing it was inappropriate content for an audience interested mainly in just financial news?
Perhaps Shep was just a bit too cosmopolitan, too general, too kindly out of kilter with the horde of hard-core financial news hounds he inherited on CNBC.
In other words, maybe it wasn’t too smart to start suddenly serving international cuisine at a Wall Street Deli.
It also makes me think how unlike today we were surer of ourselves centuries ago about our decisions, epitomized by Michelangelo’s David standing so serenely contemplative in Florence since the 16th Century.
He’s been contemplating his upcoming Biblical battle with a goy named Goliath.
The opposite is sadly true today with our quick tempers, short-fuses, and capricious tendencies to axe first and ask questions later.
David also is the ideal depiction of something missing today, humanism. And he depicts something foreign to many, rationality. The sculpture shows David after deciding to fight Goliath, but the actual fight is still many stone throws ahead.
Today we see news from starkly different angles depending on what newsrooms or Newseum’s we frequent on Internet and TV or what we see posing for news on those outliers, social media.
Viewers were flowing into his slot still intoxicated with stocks price surprises and prattling predictions and all figments of financial news across the squirrelly spectrum, hardly ready for real breaking news of a shooting of a Pakistan leader, an election in Israel, more mayhem in Ukraine, overcrowding on planes, drought on plains and politicos’ taking aims.
You can view The Muse by Michelangelo’s David differently depending on what channel in which you’re swimming, whether from the vantage of a flirtatious FOX or a cunning CNN. If you’re on David’s right, you see at the end of that long arm down to his thigh an enlarged hand holding a rock destined for a Middle Ages sling fight.
From the left you see no sling but a Biden-type pouch full of money to hand out to throngs of needy while David’s whimsically youthful face contemplates what lies ahead for his adversary Goliath whom today the January 6 tribunal often refers to as Trump.
David’s face strikes a serene pose. Given its size, any stronger action risks compromising what newscasts seldom have today, balance. At all events, it was an extraordinary accomplishment to have extracted so nobly and animated a figure out from that disproportionately flat rectangular endangered mass of marble we sometimes call democracy.
Supporting his 12,000-pound body with the right leg and carrying the left leg forward, the almost divine young hero lets his right-hand fall to thigh level as he flexes in the other to shoulder his 17-foot height. His face is bold yet thoughtful as he defiantly awaits his adversary, calmly sizing up his chances as he plans an attack, probably soon to be called by CNBC planning an investment.
Shep was a lot like David in that respect. While excited to deliver news, he had a calmness in executing, sometimes even with a twinkle in his eye and a refreshing sense of humor, unlike the brief, intense, rapid-fire bursts from fast-talking reporters in the field on mothership NBC, each of them ending in one word with a question mark–“Lester?”
Michelangelo’s David not only embodies the aesthetics of Renaissance art, the politics of feisty Florence, and the technical virtuosity of Greek sculpture, but has become one of the most recognized works of Renaissance sculpture, a symbol of both Elon Muskian strength and Mariah Carey talent and beauty.
Unlike so much of our breaking news today coming after events, Michelangelo broke with artistic tradition by portraying David before the event.
Following Lester’s “take care of yourselves and each other,” a whole hours’ worth of News by Shepard Smith was another Renaissance for news aficionados like me who’ve been waiting so long for a full hour of national and international news.
Now like David we’ll have to still wait and see.
Tom Madden is a former vice president of NBC and today the CEO of TransMedia Group, a public relations firm serving clients worldwide. His latest book, WORDSHINE MAN is about how to make writing inviting.