Nothing hammered home the shallowness of so-called in-depth reporting this week quite like the treatment of Director Mueller’s testimony before two Congressional committees. Here are a few reasons my television set is now turned off.
Breaking news is broken. First, if something was reported at 7 in the morning it is no longer breaking at lunch time. Breathless repetition will not endow the item with any more immediacy. Nor will splendid graphics, or dramatic music. It was news at 7 in the morning, it is not news at 7 in the evening.
Secondly, while I appreciate the need for the broadcasters to fill air time, I don’t need endless panels to explain to me what I just watched. For one thing, this all but invites gaslighting. For another, I really am capable of comprehension and some context is welcome, but speculation is often ridiculous.
Speculation should be left to the investment markets. Remember the video of the rat dragging a slice of pizza, the little clip that went viral? Going a step beyond the previous paragraph, why should a person ever get the sinking feeling that somewhere a pundit was opining on what the specter of the smallish rat with the large pizza slice portended for urban politics in a polarized political landscape? Mercy, was there a chatterer out there wondering aloud if the rodent were an analog for the gentrification of neighborhoods? After all, it was a large slice of pizza. Or, was it emblematic of urban blight yet unaddressed? Yes, it was a rat. Spare me. There are less imaginative instances.
I’m certain nearly everyone, including the boor at the end of the bar (perhaps especially the boor at the end of the bar) has an opinion on each and every topic possible during a domestic broadcast. Pack enough of these people onto a set, run the cameras, and there’s an Instant Time Stuffer. Pack a sufficient number of generalists and the time is filled with a light fluffy concoction analogous to a news version of cotton candy. There’s not even enough substance for our rodent to bother with.
If you like sports but aren’t terribly good at one, join a fantasy league. The obvious manifestion of this problem remains the horse race journalism associated with national elections. How many of us are there who really could go for one entire 24 hour period without receiving a single report of the latest poll? The one which may, or may not, have a large sample size; and, may, or may not, have a margin of error larger than the gap between the candidates included in the polling?
Walter Cronkite was no raging beauty. Telegenic is as telegenic does. The camera may love Bonita Bombshell or Howard Stalwart, but if they are delivering drivel…it’s still drivel. Here’s a thought: If you can’t book A-List guests for the afternoon grill, how about filling the time with…news?
There are things going on in the world not generally noticed by an increasingly myopic American broadcasting system. For example, there’s an Ebola outbreak in Africa, the Greeks have a new government, and Guatemala is experiencing severe drought. Death due to gun violence in the US has now surpassed that from traffic accidents, and Chinese economic growth has slowed down. However, the chances Bombshell and Stalwart are devoting time to these topics are fat and slim.
So, the television remains silent. I’ve no particular interest in game shows, or contests to see which individuals can make the greatest fools of themselves. I could watch a ball game, sports talk about sports makes sense. I could select one of the plethora of shows about ancient Egypt, or true crime…enough of that already. Or, I could, wonder of wonders, read a book, thus avoiding all the problems listed above.