Media Circus and Freak Show

Freak Show Cable News

It must be remarkably hard to fill cable news air-time. All too often the broadcasts are filled with anchors asking reporters for their opinions about what the anchor just proposed.  The questions are almost as long as the answers, and those answers are all too often not very illuminating.

When the reporters aren’t asking other reporters for their opinions about what was just reported, we are treated to “analysts.”  What passes for analysis is generally little more than conjecture at best and hyperbolic rants at worst.  In the best of times we get a bit of fact-checking as the dueling analysts structure their responses to fit with the quick retort formula. Nothing too deep, nothing too long, just a nice punchy sound bite.

The national audience is treated to whatever topic has grabbed the attention span of the Villagers within the Beltway.  The Republican Party has played the cable news media like the proverbial harp.  Get “outraged,” get on TV, and stir up more “outrage,” all manufactured of either whole cloth or thin threads, and repeat as necessary to hold the attention of the producers and broadcasters.

“News” is supposed to be entertaining, and thereby attract ratings, and thereby attracted advertisers… erectile dysfunction medication, strange household gadgets, aircraft manufacturers, automobiles, prescription medicines for conditions that used to be solved with a dose of aspirin or  baking soda.

There were a few bright spots in the recent spate of broadcasting in regard to the Black Lives Matter campaign, the killing of two more African American men at the hands of police officers, and the attacks on the police officers in Dallas.  At least one network actually interviewed one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter organization. One offered air time to a professor who has made a study of policing reforms.  But all together too much time this week was devoted to the Freak Show Media Circus.

There is a difference between presenting “both sides” and broadcasting nonsensical polemics.

Case in point, for some reason, known but to the management of CNN, it was decided to put a right wing radio jockey with absolutely no expertise in race relations, policing, or evidently not much of anything else, on the air. And then “let him defend” his threats against the President of the United States and African American supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement. There is no rational defense possible. Nor did any of his comments enlighten the subject or provide historical context.  His air time was simply part of the Freak Show.    So much more could have been done if news were news and not merely vapid offerings for distraction and entertainment.

Perhaps if a cable news network were serious about broadcasting news there would be a higher standard for content?  For example….

Merely because an individual has an opinion on some matter doesn’t mean that the opinion is worthy of broadcasting.

Those who wish to place their opinions before the public have all manner of opportunities to do so in this technological present.  Write a blog, get on Twitter, Facebook, or do it the old fashioned way – stand in a corner of the park with a bull horn.  However, in order to be considered newsworthy the opinions must be supported by facts. Facts presented in context.  Adherence to this simple rule would banish many of the denizens of the Freak Show Media Circus to the margins they inhabited in the first place.

Fact checking is a fundamental part of good journalism.

It doesn’t take any great journalistic acumen or effort to do basic fact-checking prior to an interview with anybody.  News is supposed to be factual. The avoidance of fact-checking, or the assertion that fact-checking is someone else’s responsibility is simply LAZY.

A person allotted air time should have something relevant to say.

Unfortunately, this rule would cut off the microphones for several prominent current and former politicians. Not only should the commentary be factual, it should be enlightening.  Senator Sludgepump may believe to his core that global climate change is a hoax, but his position in government doesn’t necessarily mean he has anything either factual or relevant to say.  Though he may charge through a stampeding herd of bison to get to the first available microphone, that still doesn’t mean he has anything illuminating to reveal on the topic.

Speculation is not analysis.

If we want to have all the air time on a sports talk radio program filled to the brim – ask which major league pitcher was the best in the modern era.  Then, sit back and listen while the audience debates the merits of Bob Feller, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn, Randy Johnson, Bob Gibson….ad infinitum

If we want to fill up air time without actually doing much of any real work, ask “What will be the effect of a potential  great carrot shortage on the ______ campaign?”  Bring on the “strategists, analysts, and activists,” and let them blather on about the hypothetical to the hypnotic.

So, the television set was turned off again. I moved on, there was nothing much left to see.   And, I was never one for freak shows.

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