Last week’s admission by Chuck Todd, the host of Meet The Press, was a recognition that he no longer makes any pretense that his show is about journalism. For those who missed it, Todd stated that he dared not challenge a Teapublican guest by challenging a false statement or by asking a difficult question. For, if he did, they would never again appear on the program. In other words, Todd is admitting that he is not a journalist and that his show no longer makes any attempt to follow journalistic standards. This is especially troubling since Politifact.com found that Teapublicans lie far more than Democrats.
And Todd is not alone. The Sunday morning shows have long been the megaphone for Teapublican leaders who can say whatever they want without being challenged. Indeed, studies have shown that the number of Teapublican guests on these shows dramatically outnumber the Democrats who are invited to appear. So rather than being news, with the exception of Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square, the Sunday morning shows are little more than propaganda tools for the Republican Party.
Such is the fate of most so-called news outlets.
One independent study of Fox News Channel found that those who rely upon the channel for news actually knew less about national and world events than those who watched, listened to, or read no news at all. Though it fared significantly better in the study, MSNBC is slanted toward the Democratic Party. And the American-based news organization cited as the most reliable? It’s none other than National Public Radio, which is constantly under attack from both Teapublicans and Democrats for being biased toward one side or the other.
So what happened? How did we go from the reporting of legendary journalists such as Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley to Chuck Todd? You can blame the Federal Communications Commission which caved to conservatives by eliminating the long-standing Fairness Doctrine. Within a year of the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, 92 percent of talk radio was conservative. A few years later, so-called “news radio” had degenerated to non-stop right-wing hate with no pretense of fairness. Things were further complicated by cable TV’s “news” channels who have a need to fill 24 hours of programming 7 days a week. They have an insatiable need for guests willing to contribute opinions and no desire to get at the truth.
The cable channels also increased the urgency of reporting events. Immediacy replaced accuracy as the primary goal of journalism.
By the time Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel hit the wires with the false claim of “fair and balanced,” conservatives had the ability to lie and propagandize 24/7. So why not threaten to boycott news media such as Meet The Press if they don’t like the questions? The Teapublicans have nothing to lose. If their lies are challenged, they can simply retreat to the media known to support their viewpoints and still reach a very large portion of the population who believe they are getting the news.
Of course, the blogosphere has further contributed to the death of journalism. It is now possible to confine your “news” exposure to only those sources with whom you agree. For conservatives, that means all conservative viewpoints all the time…on the Web, on Fox News Channel, on hate radio.
For all intents and purposes, journalism is a moribund profession. Conservatives have become a large group of ditto heads uninterested in other viewpoints. Many independents have given up on politics or they’re too busy to be bothered with anything outside their own personal lives. And, though many liberals are still exposed to other viewpoints through NPR and PBS, they are largely influenced by liberal-leaning media.
So RIP, Journalism. You had a long and important run as the 4th Estate. You made a difference while it lasted. Unfortunately, our national lack of curiosity and fairness led to your untimely death. Sadly, it was left to a political hack to unintentionally read your eulogy. Ironically, his admission on Meet The Press may have been the only time Chuck Todd ever resorted to actual journalism.