January 29, 2006


Entertain Me

...Many people—myself included—have suggested that over the last six or seven years mainstream news has completed its evolution, going from investigative reporting to a ratings weapon akin to Jerry Springer or American Idol, where viewers tune in hoping to see that their hatred for a particular politician or ideological idea is supported. One more insider confirms such a theory.
...Former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, who found himself replaced with the hipper-looking Anderson Cooper in an effort to increase viewers, recently gave a speech and reaffirmed a cynical view of the media by saying, “Truth no longer matters in the context of politics and, sadly, in the context of cable news.”
...Brown’s NewsNight saw some of its highest ratings during a four-hour episode dealing with the arrest of actor Robert Blake, but experienced worse numbers when serious news stories were aired.
...Brown also mentioned a couple of other things which have come to mar mainstream journalism: the focus on arguments instead of the facts behind the arguments, and viewers who are more interested in having their viewpoints confirmed as opposed to the actual story.
...I can’t help but think that Brown is accurate in his observations. With regard to his confirmed viewpoints theory, we have more than enough proof available to us if we watch but one episode of C-Span’s daily morning show, Washington Journal. C-Span might very well be the most objective network available on cable television, but you wouldn’t think so if you relied on the opinions of callers on C-Span’s telephone lines.
...If the morning’s guest happens to be a Democrat, Republican callers will phone in to complain that a liberal guest is evidence of C-Span becoming a liberal network. If the morning guest is a Republican, Democratic callers will phone in to complain about C-Span turning into another right-wing channel. The truth is that C-Span presents various viewpoints; the perception is that C-Span is becoming “the enemy” because they don’t provide only one viewpoint—the viewpoint of the given caller.
...Hence, most political discussion has devolved into childish bickering that is punctuated with accusations of bias when a bias might not even be present. Add to that the incessant desire by the average American to be entertained instead of informed and we have the situation that Brown describes.
...Perhaps such a situation just goes hand-in-hand with an e-mail that Brown received by a viewer who was angry with the “inadequate” NewsNight coverage of an anti-war protest in Washington. The e-mailer concluded by saying, “I hope the violence visited on the people of Iraq will someday be visited on your children.”
...It’s a dark day in the United States when the peace movement has to get their point across by using violence.


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