If there was anything remotely akin to what we used to call journalism left after the US election, it is hanging by a thread. Where does one begin to catalogue the ways the so-called rules of the journalism game have gone out the window. The biggest casualty has been the total removal of the line between reporting and commentary. How was a viewer supposed to tell the difference between a panel discussion on CNN featuring Democrat spokesperson Donna Brazile and say, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, and an actual reporter in the field covering the candidates? This problem is exacerbated by the fact that so-called “straight” reporters are being asked to tweet constantly from the field and often the tweets read more like commentary than factual descriptions. This practice has been going on for years, since the beginning of the social media explosion, but has hit a new high or low in this election. To be fair to the media the problem has exploded partly because of Donald Trump’s refusal to campaign by the rules– making all sorts of outrageous and politically incorrect statements forcing the reporters into an awkward position of calling Trump out on the factual inaccuracies. In the old days the safe place was to provide coverage to the two main campaigns on a more or less 50-50 basis. But now you are hearing more and more journalists talking about “false equivalency,” –the notion that no, there are actually NOT two sides to the story if one side is lying roughly four or five times as much as the other candidate (who, sadly, is nonetheless still lying).
How does the news consumer make the best of a bad situation? Probably start by avoiding the 24 hour news channels as much as possible. They have become a cacophony of rants. The half-hour supper newscasts are the least biased since they don’t have enough time for commentators and panels. I used to think of Fox as the conservative channel, MSNBC as the liberal and CNN somewhere in between. Indeed when Ted Turner owned CNN he took pride in providing balanced coverage, but that has pretty much gone out the window under the ownership of entertainment conglomerate Time Warner. Who knows, maybe the pendulum will swing back if the sale of Time Warner to telecom giant AT&T is approved, but don’t count on it. Speaking of CNN, they destroy their diminished credibility by constantly flashing “breaking news” after every commercial break. 99 percent is not breaking news, or even news—it is mostly just a continuation of an opinion-based panel discussion that was going on before the commercial break. Wolf Blitzer has become especially annoying in presenting this regurgitated nonsense in a broadcast they call, with no apparent sense of the absurdity of it—“The Situation Room.” The only “situation” in which we find ourselves as news consumers is one where politicians are reduced to gong show contestants, and the viewer is forced to puzzle out whatever reality exists in these Viagra-sponsored talkfests. What ever happened to the old TV news slogan—“We report…you decide”…?
Written by: John Best