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Amanda C. Needs Some Direction

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If all you knew about Amanda Congdon was that she hosted an awkward infotainment show on, I guess it might surprise that the same Congdon once shined as the dynamic anchor of the videoblog Rocketboom.

Before showing up at ABC, Congdon wowed the Web as a dynamic citizen journalist, and it’s largely for that role that Congdon received the #8 spot in the Forbes Web 25 list.

Here was a woman who was both pretty and smart, a counterpoint to the dumb blonde cliche and a marked evolution from Web 1.0 fare (remember The Naked News?). But now that Congdon is reporting weekly for ABC News, her stunts seem forced. Recent pieces about methane farms and naked art projects are too juvenile for the network. At Rocketboom, she was an ironic foil to network news. But now that she’s at ABC, it looks like she’s playing dress-up.

If you’re looking for a reason why Congdon’s reporting has taken a turn for the retarded lately, scuttlebutt has it that she’s still shellshocked from her move to L.A. And while it’s true she did the same type of sophomoric reporting for Rocketboom, there are different expectations for a vlog. So far, Congdon isn’t producing the smarter stuff she said the move would allow for. Clearly, she needs some direction that she’s not getting yet. As for ABC, the network is obviously trying to make itself relevant to the online conversation, but the truth is they simply don’t know what to do with their new talent.

And then there’s the tasering. Beyond the porntastic quality of the stunt, it also felt derivative. I immediately heard my third-grade teacher say “Well if Erik Estrada jumped off a bridge would you do that too?”

So I guess what I’m saying is I feel disappointed. Congdon made a serious career jump going from Rocketboom to ABC News, but the quality of the work hasn’t changed for the better. At the time, she said she was interested in doing more in-depth reporting with better fact-checking, but I haven’t seen the evidence. And with those network resources behind her, she could be covering anything — how online video is affecting the awards season, why the nation is or isn’t ready to elect a female president, whatever — instead I just watched one minute about how to microwave bacteria on a sponge.

Yeah I know, Congdon’s irascible personality is part of her charm. But she also represents, in a very real and tangible way, citizen journalists and the rise of the amateur videoblogger. So drop the dumb blonde act, Amanda. Network television has plenty of those. It’s time to start acting like a reporter.

Steve Bryant is a New York-based writer. His work can also be found on the Reel Pop blog. This is his first contribution to NewTeeVee.

11 Responses to “Amanda C. Needs Some Direction”

  1. I’m not sure why Ms. Congdon has received so much credit as a pioneering personality the online space, when Rocketboom or videoblogging was never her idea in the first place. Andrew Baron clearly came up with the idea for R’boom, hired Ms. Congdon and laid the groundwork for her current fame. Nonetheless, Ms. Congdon has attempted to usurp credit from her former partner when without him she would have otherwise been like any other out-of-work actress, scrambling for roles by leveraging her good looks. Despite their falling out, she does owe him a debt of gratitude, because if she would have never met Mr. Baron, she wouldn’t have her current career.

  2. “Hmmm, maybe Andrew Baron was right when he claimed that he had a lot to do with the “look and feel” of Rocketboom.”

    Yes, yes, and yes!! Just like a producer can make or break a movie, so too can a producer be the real engine behind a tv/video blog. Amanda has been getting way too much credit. Somehow, the fact that she just responded to a Craigslist ad as an actress to land the Rocketboom gig doesn’t seem to register with all the people expecting great things from her. PEOPLE, she’s just an actress! Actress doesn’t equal great producer/director.

    So yes, she’s needs a good director. Which is another way to say, yes, she needed Andrew Baron. Which is to say–thank you NewTeeVee for telling the truth, this is my new favorite blog.

  3. The abc site is pretty user-hostile too…you get a video ad without any warning, then a delay when everything goes dark, and then sound and no picture in my case. One doesn’t go back after an experience like that, because frankly you don’t need to.

    btw Valleywag has some scurrilous views of Ms C’s talents :)

  4. Hmmm, maybe Andrew Baron was right when he claimed that he had a lot to do with the “look and feel” of Rocketboom. He mentioned this repeatedly in their public breakup. Of course Amanda “poo-pooed” his claims saying it was all her talent and sweat that made Rocketboom so great.

    Now that she is on her own, you say that the quality of her stuff is not as good… Hmmm, must just be a fluke. I am sure it has nothing to do with her not working with Andrew anymore, because according to Amanda, Andrew did not do much, and it was her that did the writing, story ideas, etc.

    All I know is that she used to do the “Turn to Camera Two” thing so well at Rocketboom, and now at ABC, the same move just looks so contrived.

    In the words of Fred Willard’s character in “The Mighty Wind”…

    “Ah wha happened?”