TV news as a civic rot

Editorial standards at Forbes make it impossible to post my most recent Political Orphans piece over there. Instead, I’ve posted a somewhat sanitized version, focusing on the media environment. It starts with a look at that pathetic Trump supporter in Iowa who voted twice to keep her vote from being stolen, then examines the way entertainment has swallowed journalism.

A 24-hour news channel was a never a great idea from a journalistic perspective. There simply isn’t enough substantive, verifiable material to hold an audience’s interest while sustaining round-the-clock advertiser value. Making that model work required networks to amp up the emotional power while slashing the hefty cost of research and vetting. Imagine a TV anchorperson without any journalists, and that’s the cable news business model in a nutshell.

Dedicated, round-the-clock TV news has never produced anything more journalistically significant than the OJ Simpson car chase. Once the Internet arrived, the flawed concept of full-time television news was weaponized, devolving from mere entertainment into a form of civic poison.

TV news is the political equivalent of toxic industrial waste. No context, no depth, just minute-by-minute breathless panic, veering from one subject to the next like a dog in a field full of rabbits. Nothing good can come of watching news coverage on a 24-hour news channel. It is making people crazy.

The piece does cram in a reference to some of the bright spots emerging on the periphery, like John Oliver and Lawrence O’Donnell. It also points out the absence of any such credible journalistic engines emerging on the right, a subject I’ve explored elsewhere in the past.

65 Comments

    1. Tutta, at this point, it is all about the voters and the threats members of the Republican Party are making in anticipation of a Clinton win. I posted this earlier, but it is so sickening, that I will repeat the post. I have read about these tactics/threats in several news sources so this is not a “one-newsfeed” story. This is real and it is threatening the basis for our Democracy. It has to stop.

      http://www.salon.com/2016/11/02/clinton-white-house-plus-gop-senate-its-a-recipe-for-total-disaster/?source=newsletter

  1. Viking

    My concern about this election is increasing as I look at 538 and other sites and see Hillary’s chances diminishing. Even though pundits are still saying that her path to 270 is nearly unassailable I’m still uneasy. However, I am somewhat buoyed by this NYT article concerning the Dems inroads into the parts of the South and the Mountain West. But I think these trends will be more important in the next election than right now.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/03/us/politics/donald-trump-waking-a-sleeping-giant-helps-hillary-clinton-build-an-unlikely-firewall.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

    1. Right now, Black voters are not turning out. That’s fact, and that’s critically important. A POTUS win for Clinton without the Senate will be an exercise in futility. The threats coming from not only Republican members of Congress but major GOP donors and FOX news in brazen partisanship, are already calling for Clinton’s impeachment if she is elected. This is beyond the pale…ugly. It is sickening to see that the obstruction of the last 8 years is not only going to continue, it is going to be increased. When do the actions of the Republicans cross the line of malfeasance in office with these deliberate actions to sabotage the democratic process? Are they, in fact, impeachable?

      http://www.salon.com/2016/11/02/clinton-white-house-plus-gop-senate-its-a-recipe-for-total-disaster/?source=newsletter

  2. As we’re on the subject of integrity in journalism, this morning’s satirical modification of Comey’s announcement on re-opening the Clinton email investigation is a terrific read, spot on, conjecture as to what “could have been”. With polls following the release showing Clinton’s lead slipping nationally (ABC poll – more to follow this week), it’s difficult to find the humor in this situation, but I so admire clever writing.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/heres-the-honest-statement-comey-wont-make/2016/10/31/db81679e-9fa6-11e6-8832-23a007c77bb4_story.html?utm_term=.69fdf894c345&wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

  3. This article shared to comment to three different subjects covered in these discussions:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-27/inside-the-trump-bunker-with-12-days-to-go

    For good journalism I recommend Bloomberg for US news (I specifically read BusinessWeek) and for international The Economist. Bloomberg I can defend the journalistic integrity of on the level of, I have a friend who is an editor there and she says the biggest perk of working there is they give their writers time and space for research, follow up, and inquiry.

    Furthermore, I recommend ‘business’ oriented periodicals in general due to this argument I once read in a similar comment section to this:

    News is an inherently ‘reactive’ medium, spending a lot of time waiting for something to happen and then doing the investigative reporting to try to parse what happened, oftentimes then discovering what people were doing that lead up to it happening. But by then a lot of what people were doing and what was incidental is mixed and it’s all confused, especially once you think about the journalists’ biases and narrow perspective for interpretation.

    Business news, however, is largely about what people are trying to do. Therefore it’s, albeit imperfectly, the news about what the newspapers are going to be talking about tomorrow. Only thing about business news is you also have to be careful you’re not really just reading a marketing or trade periodical.

    This BusinessWeek article is a good example of what Trump is doing rather than what has Trump done. It doesn’t ask “How did Trump rise and what does that mean?” It asks, “What is Trump doing with his campaign data right now?”

    Read it. It’s the game plan for the post-election cycle and it’s run, of course, by a person smarter and more effective and better than Trump. The foundation Brad Parscale (whose name sounds like a fucking Thomas Pynchon character, we’re in very truth-is-stranger-than-fiction territory here) is building the influence machine that Trump will ride for a few good years, but really will be the springboard to launch the career of a probably Trump-selected second generation of more powerful and disciplined alt-right candidates.

    “Now everybody –“

    1. The Wall St Journal used to be such a fine business newspaper. Their journalists are certainly capable writers and thinkers, but once Murdoch bought the newspaper, the articles about what people were “trying to do” became slanted. Your friend at Bloomberg is exactly correct – freedom of thought with time and space to develop a story is exactly what should be encouraged. I find The Atlantic consistently adheres to this philosophy, or, at least, it appears from the quality and breadth of the writing and opinions, that that license is indulged.

    2. I like your characterization of business news as news about what people are trying to do.

      I like Marketplace on NPR (marketplace.org).

      In 2016, they’ve done some great reporting on welfare and what actually happens to the block grants states receive from the feds. Hint: poor families who need cash aren’t typical recipients.

      Much of their daily work is available via podcast only. But the big topics they cover (sustainability, wealth and poverty, e.g.) have transcripts posted to their website.

      Unfortunately, the website’s navigation is a little confusing; interested parties may not be able to find the transcripts easily.

      On weekends, they radio broadcast is casual. Listeners are often invited to call in to discuss their personal finance issues.

  4. Chris, the current blog entry brings to my mind the previous thread, in which you and Aaron discussed the limits of personal choice when the available choices are limited.

    The current entry illustrates the opposite dilemma — when the available options are unlimited — and personal choice is possible but very difficult because so much information is overwhelming and numbing.

    1. “The current entry illustrates the opposite dilemma — when the available options are unlimited — and personal choice is possible but very difficult because so much information is overwhelming and numbing.”

      I would say the issue isn’t the choice consumers have, but the limited choice the news outlets have.

      Part of the problem is what they do works, they are in a highly competitive market, they are limited by advertisers, they are part of only four major companies, they don’t have a lot they can do about changing paradigms of information, their new competitors are hyper-partisan Facebook pages that publish memes rather than information, they don’t understand what’s going on, and they don’t have anywhere to look to answer that question, and they don’t know to ask it.

  5. I have to disagree with the idea that 24 hour news *can’t* do actual news, at least during an election season. There is a lot of policy that they could discuss – if they chose. With a small staff, you could produce 3 hours or so a day of real analysis – looking at proposals, what’s been done in other countries, expert analysis, attempts in this country, etc. That could be acceptably rotated through the day, the way a lot of the entertainment channel do it (Discover, Weather, etc.), mixed in with breaking/headline news every few hours and a talking heads show every few hours.

    If they were willing to tackle state and metropolitan-level stuff they would have plenty of material all the time, not just election season. Besides politics there’s a lot of ongoing stuff on economics, climate change, and foreign affairs to provide material every day, again. There *is* enough to talk about and the cost should be quite manageable compared to the hundreds of millions in revenue they get every year.

    That the news channels choose not to do this is a reflection on either the channels or their audience – I’m not sure which.

  6. Well, the deed is done. My boyfriend and I voted this past Saturday, canceling out each other’s votes. Anything I read in the news no longer has any bearing on my decision. The worse that can happen at this point is that I will have voter’s remorse.

    We’d originally gone to his part of town but the line was out the door, so we went to the Moody Park Community Center, which is in a predominantly Hispanic district, and there was no line at all.

    The funny thing is that the lady who greeted and guided us spoke to my boyfriend in Spanish, so it’s a good thing he knows what AQUI means, and I was addressed in English, even though he’s White and I’m Hispanic.

    He and I like to joke about how he can pass for Hispanic and I can pass for White.

      1. Tutt, it would be fun to get 23andMe DNA testing done. One of my friends is of Mexican heritage, but she looks more European. We were talking about ancestry and she is mostly Spanish and French even though all of her ancestors came to the US via Mexico.

        Her son is dark, like her husband, and he is constantly annoyed that people automatically speak Spanish to him. My friend and her husband’s family have lived in the US for generations, so her children don’t speak Spanish fluently.

        Who knows … Cap may have more Native American ancestry than you do. 🙂

        I’m glad that you’ve gotten out to vote. I still haven’t gone. I don’t like either candidate. I’m 99% certain I’ll vote for Trump, but we never know what’s going to hit the fan next. :/

      2. OV, good to see you! 🙂

        Cap and I are both fair-skinned, but his complexion is ruddy, and with his hat, jeans, boots, and unshaven face, he looks like a Mexican rancher.

        His parents showed me the information sheet provided by the adoption agency, which does mention Native American ancestry, among a string of other things, so I don’t really know which is his dominant heritage. It even says one of his grandparents was “dark-skinned,” so who knows.

        I’ve never researched my own genealogy very thoroughly, but I’m pretty certain I’m mostly of European descent, and many members of my family actually look Jewish.

  7. V L

    Here’s a question, are there any news sources or journalists whose writing people on this site would recommend?

    We hear so much about how bad the media is I think we could possibly help each other if there are people you think are doing a great job.

    I’ll start. I’ve been impressed with Sarah Kendzior’s work. Her work has been especially valuable as she has a knowledge of Uzbekistan’s dictatorship and that has lead to her bringing light to Trump’s particular narcissism.

    She can be found on twitter at @sarahkendzior.

    I would also recommend Charles Blow of the NY Times, Jamelle Bouie of Slate and Imani Gandy who writes about legal affairs and reproductive rights at Rewire News.

    These three may not people who agree with the political views of the folks here but all the more reason to read them.

    If Gandy’s pro-choice writing isn’t your taste I would still recommed her Boom! Lawyered series where she explains legal terms that often come up in high profile court cases.

    1. The Atlantic is consistently fantastic. The Washington Post has produced some amazing work, including the best journalism of this entire election cycle from David Fahrenthold. That’s all I’ve got. It’s a tough landscape out there. Even the NYTimes has struggled to maintain any credibility. And honestly, FiveThirtyEight has kind of sucked. This is a very challenging election to cover.

      1. Rather than tough, I’d call it illuminating. It’s not so often that we get a climate that pulls back the curtains on so many and their respective quality.

        How many Republicans still had a fair bit of claim to their popularity and “seriousness” before Trump came along and showed them all to be a parade of clowns?

        How many in the media stood this adversity in the face and consistently failed to hold it to account, instead opting for what was best for them and their bottom line, instead of what was in the country’s interest?

        True, mitigating circumstances abound and nothing is ever truly black and white (save for what awaits Trump in November), particularly in this climate, but it’s been nevertheless illuminating. Many won’t soon forget those who stood the test and who failed.

      2. “Rather than tough, I’d call it illuminating. It’s not so often that we get a climate that pulls back the curtains on so many and their respective quality.”

        Fault lines that have been inactive tend to get covered over, so that you can forget that they are there. This election has been blowing off the dirt and burning away the brush that has overgrown fault lines in our society. We see the rifts developing between the Evangelicans who see that Trump is a 180 opposite of that values they claim, and reject him, and those who have tossed those values aside for a promise of power. We see the educated, professional conservative women who have staunchly defended their party against accusation of a “War on Women” discover to their dismay that their make colleagues do not have their backs. We see the people who want to believe that racism and discrimination have already been adequately dealt with confront the alt-right feeling empowered by Trump, and the uncomfortable questions raised by BLM. We need responsible journalism now more than ever because of these exposed fault lines.

    2. For broadcast NPR and Public Television are just about it for me. I still subscribe to the print S F Chronicle mainly for local stuff, but my big favorite is the New York Review Of Books. Great reporting on current events around the world, economics, science, literature. Frequently there will be an article discussing 3 or 4 books on a related topic with lots of background. The current issue has 13 essays about the presidential election and much more. I always want to read the whole magazine but rarely can.

      For anyone in the S F bay area tomorrow (Tuesday Nov 1) the Mechanics Institute will have two authors of recent books on the cultural/political divide: J. D. Vance “Hillbilly Elegy” and Arlie Hochschild “Strangers In Their Own Land” (which is reviewed in the current N Y Review of Books). 12:30 pm 57 Post St. San Francisco free- $15. http://www.milibrary.org

      1. I listen to a lot of NPR too. Diane Rehm and her guest hosts have done a very good job of discussing the issues- they’ve even managed to get an although-righter on to explain his views without any shouting matches. The Houston NPR station also carried several hours off BBC World. My other main news source is the internet, where I go to sites like this one (i.e. with a track record of intelligent discourse) to read the links people share. I only watch TV news for local stuff – weather, traffic, sports, etc. I don’t expect any real in depth coverage from that source.

    3. I agree with Chris that the Atlantic is an excellent resource. I also like the New Yorker and the New Republic. I think Politico has done some excellent reporting this election season as well. NPR is my pre-set radio station. I watch Charlie Rose (NBC/NPR) for personal interviews that have great depth and breadth. I have learned about the writing of Avik Roy (Forbes, etc) through Chris’ recommendation, and have been a long-time fan of Thomas Friedman, NYT. WaPo has been excellent this election season and generally offers thorough and well articulated articles on a broad range of topics. Brett Stephens with the WSJ writes well and when I want a sassy article that is also smart, I read Gail Collins, NYT. I’ll keep thinking and start a list. I agree with Viking that Linda Greenhouse is a terrific SCOTUS source.

    1. Mary, The Guardian is publishing some kinda weird stuff. I got a FB post claiming that AG Loretta Lynch “is taking the fifth” somehow, which turns out to be all over Breitbart and other wacko sites. I looked for mainstream reporting on that and found only The Guardian, which basically went along with the story. Needless to say the reporting is irresponsible. How did an accusation of “essentially taking the fifth” (by apparently not answering questions to the accusers’ satisfaction) turn into “is taking the fifth”?

    2. V L

      That article is straight garbage.

      1. How is Clinton under investigation when the emails aren’t even hers.

      In order to actually believe what’s written here you would have to ignore everything that has since come out after Comey’s letter.

      2. Where is there panic among Democrats? If anything Comey’s action has become a motivator to get people out to vote.

      And people say the Guardian’s a left wing rag. Sheesh.

      1. It doesn’t matter whether the emails are to, from, or about, the effect of Comey’s decision to re-open the investigation is damming….and the leaks, totally irresponsible and thus make the investigation seem even more partisan. Clinton’s campaign is put in the position of having to defend against allegations that haven’t been articulated in the public arena, leaving an aura of suspicion in the minds of the voters. Comey has horribly mis-managed this latest announcement.

        I have no problem with legitimate email investigation but this seems terribly timed and nebulous. In essence, it makes Clinton guilty until proven innocent, and with 11 days before the election, that is patently irresponsible in an election of this prominence and proximity. I haven’t felt very sorry for Clinton over her issues with the private email server, because it was stupid and avoidable. This Comey action reeks. I do feel she is being targeted and in a way and time frame that leave her little opportunity to confront her accusers…over, what?

        Still, Clinton (if she wins, and even if Dems take Senate – far from assured given the tightening of the race), will face immense Republican obstruction, is going to face a Republican Party that is once again, determined to obstruct a Democratic president in all areas, using whatever power they have leaving us with a bleak and infuriating situation.

        “… a more accurate way to describe what they’re seeking is to hold together their broken party for long enough to make another run at complete control of government in 2020. Republicans are no longer seeking any substantive ends in the interim—just the power to obstruct and the power to manufacture scandal. And they will be aided in this effort by many of the same conservative intellectuals who have spent more than a year lamenting the rise of Donald Trump.”

        https://newrepublic.com/article/138179/republicans-inventing-clinton-scandals-save-shattered-party

      2. Viking

        I’ve come to the conclusion that this latest e-mail kerfuffle is a bridge too far. Hillary deserved criticism for failing to keep personal and professional communications separate. But this 11th hour move is so transparently partisan. My hope is that Comey’s move will backfire and further motivate Democrats to get out and vote.

      3. Per the reports tonight on Maddow, they are not getting out to vote across the board…which is problematic…OH & IA Repubs are leading…In FL, thousands of mailed out ballots to registered Dems have not been returned….

      4. Tonight on the Lawrence O’Donnell Show, the Moodys’ Analytics election prediction was released. Clinton is projected to attain 332 electoral votes to Trump’s 206. What was more striking, in exit polling in early FL voting, 28% of registered Republicans are voting Clinton. That’s good news, especially as Black people are not turning out as they did for Obama. This model places a great deal of emphasis on the economy, which low gas prices are helping, and the popularity of the sitting POTUS, which of course is 52% for Obama…There are other factors included in the report.

        http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/01/news/economy/hillary-clinton-win-forecast-moodys-analytics/

      5. Hate to throw cold water on that, but the notion that a quarter of Republicans are breaking for Clinton is, let’s just say, suspect. She’ll probably win Florida, but I’m not seeing anything to suggest that a large number of Republicans have suddenly grown a conscience over Trump. It would be a great outcome, but I’m skeptical.

      6. Early voting, exit poll….Moody’s sterling reputation….I usually fall back on the tried and true: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

        Sadly, the ABC poll is probably the more accurate one.

  8. This is sort of off topic, but it is worth posting anyway.

    I notice that Chris will be out of the country on election day. Being overseas during the US election is an eye opening experience. The US election is covered as thoroughly overseas as in the US. Twice I have been overseas on election day. I had voted prior to departure in both cases.

    In 2000, I was in the Philippines at a construction camp. The entire local engineering staff watched the news more closely than the Americans. The returns were being reported during the day there as it is 12 hours ahead of EST. The post election drama was followed very closely as well. There was no definite favorite, but generally Gore was preferred. The next day the Manila newspaper had big front page coverage of the election results.

    In 2008, I was in Ecuador at an eco-lodge in Amazonia. This lodge was owned and operated by the local village. There was a cheer that erupted from the local staff when Obama was declared the winner. They definitely did not want McCain to win. Ecuadorian time is the same as EST.

    The US election affects the rest of the world as much as it does the US. In both the above cases I knew the election results in real time. Chris, have good travels, wherever you may be.

  9. I used to work in television news. Major market tv. I was lucky enough to work for a news director (no, I was not a reporter) who won some Emmys.

    I’ve been so disappointed with television news I stopped watching it a couple of decades ago.

    I see the biggest problem with watching only ‘news’ that suits you, that matches your viewpoints, is that it can make it very difficult to get along with others who don’t share your views.

    Stewart, Maddow — those people make me laugh out loud. They reflect my views to a T. But I made a decision not to watch those programs.

    I live in a conservative state. I work with people who hold conservative views. If I want anything of importance — to me — to get accomplished, I can’t spend my evenings laughing at the kind of people I hope to work with.

    1. In the workplace, we should all keep our politics to ourselves. That doesn’t, however, mean we have to give up our personal viewing choices – Maddow, Fox, or whatever….Maddow’s style incorporates humor but her reporting is accurate, and if/when she makes a mistake, she apologizes in public and explains her apology.

      I actually like watching Megyn Kelly but I don’t like FOX. Supposedly, FOX is straight news until 5pm, after which they involve opinion. I watch a lot of PBS news…straight-forward, a little dull, but no hyperbole.

  10. I really miss the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Though formulated as cable news, I thought their comedic approach generated more incisive commentary and analysis of news events of the day. I love John Oliver’s weekly show for its short but in depth and creative approach to the highlights of the week’s events.

    I never thought about it Chris till you mentioned it… why isn’t there any similar programming from the right or right of center’s perspective? Certainly, they’ve seen how effective it is as a format.

    1. “I really miss the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.”

      I don’t, nor do I agree with Chris’s assessment in the Forbes article that Rachel Maddow is any better than Bill O’Reilly.

      It bothered me when I was in college and heard my peers and friends saying they got their news from the Daily Show rather than journalists, but back then there was at least some credibility to the idea that the Daily Show was really one long joke about ‘spin’, and thus sort of recentered or unspun things.

      However, at one point Stewart stopped and said, “I mean, this is so awful I can’t joke about it, so here’s a moment of sober consideration…” and then there were more points, and more and more until soon The Daily Show wasn’t really comedy about punditry but punditry with occasional comedy. By the time Stewart was on his last couple of seasons, there were hardly any jokes left. It was just a continuing session of “Jon Stewart reads the news and stares at the camera forlornly.”

      So, good, because we needed news? No, because it’s still opinion / editorializing masked with a certain inherent assumption that the ‘other side’ is not worth taking seriously — no different, in my personal accounting, than FOX News ‘spin.’ You don’t begin a rational argument by saying “These guys can’t be taken seriously.” They sometimes do need to be taken seriously so that you can understand what’s happening with them, even if they’re wrong.

      And that’s Maddow’s problem too. I vividly remember her piece on teabagging, and how it made me feel:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLsKt4O4Yw8

      At the time, I, like her, was laughing so hard I could hardly speak. This laughter and dismissal of the event and the argument due to the basically Internet meme-based inside joke about ‘teabagging’ literally made me feel like this group of individuals featured were silly minstrels not worth accounting for. If they can’t even do the minimum amount of research to understand why other people thought ‘teabagging’ was so funny, how could you expect them to build a coherent political movement? They’ll be laughed off of any political stage they walk on to!

      Six years later and forty something Congresspeople voted in by thin-lipped women like the one laughed at in Maddow’s segment have spent the majority of their time threatening the entire US economy with default risks, throwing wrenches in every moveable apparatus of the federal government, and purging the Republican party of its technocrats and intellectuals. Some fucking joke, huh?

      Sometimes I wonder if I’ve lost my sense of humor, but that’s the thing: venue matters. Presentation matters. People do, actually, go to Maddow, The Daily Show, and increasingly to all the nightly comedy shows for advocacy-with-humor of Late Shows and Night Shows and Tonight Shows rather than topical satire. Nobody considers Louis CK a pundit, but put Bill Maher behind a ‘news desk’ and suddenly this is about Politics and Current Events. The same would happen to Louis CK if he were given a show with the right kind of blue backdrop, spinny 3D graphics, and a pile of papers on a sleek mahogany desk.

      This may be due to the lack of resources for genuinely useful televised journalism, but now here’s where I bring in Bill O’Reilly.

      I only watched his show when I would visit my uncle during the holidays, and like many others I wasn’t particularly pleased with his brand of punditry. But one memorable moment stuck out for me, where O’Reilly was interviewing a sheriff of a Texan county. This was ages ago and I don’t remember exactly what the issue was, but it involved a crime the sheriff was investigating.

      O’Reilly kept asking the sheriff to make a declaration that he would do something about the investigation for the crime, and the sheriff, knowing that he could make no real promises, tried to use the usual fuzzy language of “Well I’ll take your concern into consideration, but for now the statement from my office is–” But O’Reilly kept pushing him: “WILL YOU do this? Will you do this? Sheriff, I need to know for my viewers, WILL YOU do this?” He kept digging and digging until the sheriff got this flat, “Fuck this” look to his face and said, “… Yes, I’ll do that for you Bill.” “Thank you,” O’Reilly said, and the scene was over.

      This completely violates journalistic integrity and is not better ethically than jokes that say they’re jokes that also have an opinion about politics and current events from the left. But, think about it from the perspective of my uncle:

      > If you tune in to what all these liberals are watching, all they’re doing is laughing at conservatives and calling them stupid.

      > If you tune into ‘mainstream news networks’, all you’re getting is a disassociated array of talking heads throwing out sound bytes without any investigative reporting or holding ‘the politicians’ accountable.

      > But if you tune into Bill O’Reilly, here’s a guy who not only says what he thinks about the issue, he’s willing to stare down a Texas sheriff and hold that man accountable to what he thinks is right!

      I can absolutely see how that type of journalism, if you want to call it that, makes more sense and feels more righteous than these rich New York Liberals pointing fingers and laughing at you. Just like how the liberals were turning to comedians due to a dearth of investigative reporting, the conservatives were turning to Culture Warriors (r)(tm).

      This to me means that a broader view of the entertainment punditry complex equally rests in the fecklessness of “Daily Show is more news than news!” types as it does to FOX viewers. And this drag is continuing: just as right wing nutjob cordcutters are increasingly turning to blogs-cum-newsfeeds like Breitbart (.tv), left wing moonbat cordcutters are turning to blogs-cum-newsfeeds like Natural News.

      This leads me to the conclusion that the “But we’re just joking, we’re not supposed to be taken for news!” line is no excuse. For better or for worse, people are turning to you for information. So now when some flyover country woman is rattling on about ‘teabagging the President’, it IS actually your responsibility to say, “What do you mean by that?” and “What do you hope to achieve for the nation in the future?”

      So far the best we have to offer in that arena is John Oliver, who does occasionally dispense with the Bill Cosby jokes to say, “Look, I can see why this would matter to somebody.” But you know, that shouldn’t be the best we have.

      1. Aaron,

        All good stuff, but I just want to highlight one detail that you might enjoy. You mentioned ‘natural news’ and ‘left wing boonbats.’ Well, guess what…

        The same rightwing publishing conglomerate I mentioned in the last piece, Agora owned by Bill Bonner, owns the publishing company that runs natural news. How’s that for breadth.

        Circles.

      2. It’s an interesting quagmire, isn’t it? It’s the journalistic equivalent of capitalism being taken to its natural conclusion of chaos without proper restraint.

        Because we venerate free speech (as we rightfully should, of course) so much in this country, we left an opening that was exploited for all its worth when people realized that there was a market to be made in it, and the real kick in the nads is that unlike capitalism which has a counterbalance in government to keep its excesses in check, journalism has no such thing. We’ve always left a free press to try and manage itself as best it could. We got complacent and were unprepared to mitigate the chaos we now see.

        So the question is how do you rein in a sensationalist media without trampling over free speech?

        Ideally, our goal here to simply get the media back to where they were before, but that’s not going to happen for the simple reason in that you can’t overhaul a business dynamic whose overriding focus is money. It’s like trying to separate milk and coffee that have completely mixed together. Small blips of pride may pop up here and there, but they’re an anomaly and not the norm.

        So then, if you can’t reform the media itself, then the second best thing you can do is to take away what’s enabling them, our political climate. Nothing has been better for this toxicity than the rampant madness and insanity that defines our politics on a day-to-day basis and it’s a vicious circle, one begetting the other and encouraging more and more bad behavior.

        With the Republican Party falling apart before our very eyes, that might offer a glimmer of hope that some of the insanity might recede some, but that would be a mistaken belief. Until lasting and meaningful stability is brought back to Washington and by extension our national politics, even attempting to curb our broken media culture is a dream within a dream.

      3. At my campus I’m running into more and more of the radical left types. I actually hate them. Like, I was just indifferent before but I actively hate them now. I know it’s not right to hate someone over politics but hey, they are the ones who say you shouldn’t be friends with people who politically disagree with you.

      4. “The same rightwing publishing conglomerate I mentioned in the last piece, Agora owned by Bill Bonner, owns the publishing company that runs natural news. How’s that for breadth.

        Circles.”

        That’s the really crazy thing. Doing the work of deconstructing all the conspiracy theories makes you sound like a conspiracy theorist:

        ‘No, the Big Pharma companies aren’t coupling with the government to give your kids autism with vaccines in order to bring about the New World Order because they’re owned by the Masons all the way back to the 1600s, Natural News is only saying that because it’s coupled with a media conglomerate that sells nutritional supplements and subprime mortgages and is inspired by the advertising power of pamphlets from the John Birch Society from way back in the 1950s.”

        Just tracing the degrees of connection from the various conspiracy shills is enough conspiracy to give you the howling fantods.

  11. I still get most of my news by print. Much deeper and detail news.
    Although that is now mainly over the internet. Reading many news sources helps spot untruth and bias. Blogs like this help catch mistaken information and bad reasoning because smart inform people read and post on them. You can gain a fairly accurate version of reality if you work at it

    1. Bingo, Stephen! That’s why it’s so important to read/view more broadly. It’s sort of like polls – most pundits recommend averaging them for greatest accuracy rather than latching on to the latest and greatest that helps your candidate(s). The same is true with media…Thinking people require cross-documentation to verify information. Certainly our interpretations skew to innate personal views, but that doesn’t absolve each of us from logical questioning of our own views and that of others – particularly when there is such a deficit of documentation and such a wealth of representation. I wish I had more time to read more viewpoints but have had to settle for respected journals and quality journalists due to lack of time. Careful reporting just like quality writing should fully develop a charge, story, idea. I try to find people who offer this type of thoughtful commentary and writing to help me sift through the deluge of information I see daily.

  12. Most local, national and world news could be effectively summarized and delivered in an hour or less at any one specific time.

    24 Hour News relies upon irrational emotion and outrage, and the internet allows someone to actually project their irrational emotion and outrage outwards.

    All of that said, 40% of Americans (I can’t speak for non-Americans) are literally brainwashed by hate radio and outrage television, and need their fix constantly streaming in. Like any kind of addict, the hate addict needs to be constantly infused with fresh product, otherwise they go through withdrawal (being exposed to objective, observable reality).

  13. Viking

    Bravo!

    What really irks me about cable news is what occurs during the aftermath of a “major event” (e.g., plane crash, mass shooting, political scandal). For days, nothing else is covered. We see that same video clips endlessly and listen to a rogue’s gallery of pundits pretending to have something relevant to contribute. I’ve deliberately avoided watching the news lately in the wake of the latest e-mail scandal. I can well imagine the endless drivel being inflicted on the American populace.

    Thank God we still have the BBC World Service. They are just about the only oasis of true journalism remaining. As I recall Tutta is a fellow devotee. I listen to them every evening.

  14. “These television celebrities do not experience any material consequences for reporting inaccurate or misleading information. They only face material consequences when their ratings decline.”

    I’m stealing this quote.

    “She might be might be…”

    Was saying “might be” twice intentional?

    Also there actually WAS a revelation from the email scandal, as Jon Cahit points out, which is that we’re lucky Clinton has Neera Tanden for an advisor: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/10/wikileaks-proves-clinton-adviser-neera-tanden-is-a-hero.html

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