Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sleeping Late On Sunday

I used to love getting up early on a Sunday morning. I could make a pot of coffee, spend some quiet time with the Sunday newspaper, and wait for the news and punditry on the networks. One day a week at least, there would be a morning news show that was more concerned about Supreme Court judges than it was about the judges on American Idol. Better still, for the last half hour of these shows there would be well considered and polite discussion by those whose long experience in the machinations of politics could help those of us who were not so blessed understand what was going on in the separate reality known as Washington DC. Then cable news networks happened. 

CNN was first able to show us everything important going on in the world as it was happening. They were likewise able to interpret it for we who were not immersed in the cultural events of the Middle East or Eastern Europe. Media corporations, never the most most innovative or imaginative of people, eventually caught on and soon there were more (and spin-offs of the existing)

Unfortunately, while there were now more networks giving us the news 24 hours a day, there was not more news to give. This left these networks endlessly repeating the same 15-30 minute news show more often than the average "Seinfeld" or "Friends" episode in syndication; and soon leaving the audience just as numb. And as the ratings began to fall (and the advertising revenues with them), some brilliant executive realized that while there couldn't be more news, there could be more interpretation; and a whole new genre of cable pundit shows were born. 

These new shows were a boon to newspaper journalists that were having a tougher time finding work, and likewise to retiring broadcast journalists were looking for a lighter work load. What's more, these programs actually did a pretty good job of filling the void with a combination of interviews and punditry. Occasionally there was something new or exciting that came out of this new venue and those who wanted to delve deeper into what is often the cesspool of politics had somewhere to do so. 

As the number of shows grew however, the constant practice allowed the interviewees grow in their ability to stay on talking points rather than answer questions, and these show became less interesting. Again borrowing from other sources however, producers of these shows began to follow Jerry Springer guideline instead of the Jerry Seinfeld. If the news couldn't be more interesting, perhaps the sources and pundits could. If the story couldn't generate the excitement, perhaps a good on-screen battle of political pundits could add some spice. 

This media philosophy eventually led us to where we are today. While there are still a few voices of calm and reason out there (like George Will, Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer, and even Juan Williams occasionally) most of the punditry out there is blatant partisanship. This would be OK if the partisan discussion were about political philosophy, but instead it has become yet another example of bolstering the talking points of the two major political parties in this country and abandoning any other attempt at reasoned thought. 

Abandoned as well is the concept of discussion or debate where there is a give and take of ideas. Instead what we have is one side or the other attempting to monopolize the limited time available, rudely interrupting or denigrating their fellow pundits while they are trying to make a point, or ignoring the question and attempting to steer the conversation to a subject that allows them to return to their party talking points. 

These not only fail as reasoned debates, they aren't even debates. They cast no glowing light on the contestants, but instead a shadow of shame on the process. I would go so far as to say that these ungracious and pugnacious pundits can accept a great deal of the responsibility for the sometimes deplorable level of political discussion going on in this country today. How can they expect better behavior from we who are simple "hard-working Americans" (sorry, I couldn't resist that one) than we get from they who are the "best and brightest of a well-educated society"? 

And so I find myself sleeping later and later on Sunday mornings these days, for there is little reason to do otherwise. The Sunday paper gets smaller each week and contains less news in the pages that remain. The Sunday news shows rarely step beyond journalists interviewing professional politicians reading off of their talking point cue cards. The Sunday punditry has become little more than unreasoning disdain for the right by the left and vice versa. On the other hand, getting up so much later does relieve me of the desire to make a pot of coffee, which they tell me is not good for me anyway.

1 comment:

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...


Sadly, your evaluation of the state of (non)news is way to accurate.

I long for the days when REAL reporters wrote for the print and other media.

Now, to many so-called "reporters" are content to merely regurgitate the talking points that are dutifully fed to them from some very biased and agenda oriented "sources..."