What Happened to the News?—Guest Post by the Blonde Bombshell

He even looks a little like Dustin Hoffman
He even looks a little like Dustin Hoffman
My father was a wire editor of our local paper. Even though the paper was “local” and covered a few counties, there was much more news than who married, who died, and whose house was on fire. There was a smattering of national and international news, and in the distant dim days of the 1970s, a regular reader of the local paper could be reasonably well informed about not only about what was going on at city hall, but also at the state capitol, in Washington, D.C., and around the world. Incidentally, my father strove to be an independent soul, and only on a remarkable news day would he tune into Walter Kronkite. My father wanted his take on the news to be unaffected by the opinions and sensibilities of others.

As such, I’ve always had newspapers and maintain many subscriptions. When I’m home, I like to keep the radio on, and I check the headlines on the internet twenty times a day. I know it’s been a hard day at work if I can’t recall taking time to see what’s going on in the wide-wide world. I love the headlines just as much as I love breathless reports of unusual appearances of double-yolked eggs.

Not too long ago was the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Perhaps notable, and worthy of a “Well, well, how about that?” over breakfast, but this was radio headline news twice an hour for hours. It bothered me that the moderator took pains to note how the act did not actually free slaves. I certainly hope that the average listener would not be surprised or horrified by hearing that information had they had US History in high school. It isn’t “news” in the sense that it deserves the lion’s share of radio time. (It does, perhaps, merit some space in the paper or online.)

Last night (Wednesday, January 9) the radio news wasn’t news at all. A great deal of time was taken to describe the hearing of the man who shot up the theater in Colorado last summer. That isn’t necessarily news. We know what happened, and we know it was horrible. (There was no time to talk about his psychiatric condition or medications that may or may not have been taking.)

Another chunk of time was spent on speculating what Biden or Obama may say today (Thursday, January 10) about guns. Biden or Obama hadn’t said anything to report on at that moment. The story was that they might say something, and the news was about reporters fruitlessly pressing Jay Carney to speculate about what they might say. Once the president or vice-president speaks, well, then, let’s call that news. Relating some vague demural by a press secretary isn’t news.

And the last story of the news-break was about an unveiling of an iPhone statue in Russia to honor Steve Jobs. I do not have a transcript, but I swear that the newsreader said, “Apple products are popular in Russia even though most people cannot afford them.” Interesting, a little, but with the myriad of little crises burgeoning stateside, I am a little curious as to why the “news” last night wasn’t more relevant.

Try a little experiment yourself. Next time you hear, read, or see what purports to be news, ask yourself if it is. Would you firmly put the story in the category of news? Celebrity tittle-tattle? Outright propaganda? The results, I assure you, will be depressing.

Where are the newspapermen? Where are the men and women who sniff out and chase a story? Where is this generation’s Woodward and Bernstein? They were heroes of their day, and inspired a record number of hopeful students to apply to journalism schools. Where are these once-idealistic men and women who desire to seek the truth? Where are those who want to elevate the human experience? Where are those who said earnestly and without irony that they wanted to “change the world”?

There is a school of thought that maintains that today’s media is changing the world. By not critically reporting the actions and policies of the current administration, by not insisting on transparency, and by not demanding accountability from office holders, the media may believe that they are heralding a new era. The media may honestly believe that passivity is a virtue, and their collective action—or rather non-action—will usher in deeply needed “change.” The media aren’t doing the changing. They aren’t driving change. They are just along for the ride, sitting in the backseat. It’s a little windy back there. Maybe someone should put the top down.


  1. Speed

    Much of what passes for news today is fortune telling … who will win what election; what the economy will do; what the unemployment rate/inflation rate/ten year treasury rate will be; how Putin will respond to something; what horse will win the Kentucky Derby. Mostly wrong.

    Many years ago I had a subscription to a small town newspaper that arrived in the mail a day or two after publication. Most of the front page national and international news had been resolved into non-events by the time I received the paper. Lesson learned. I haven’t subscribed to or read a “news” paper since.

    On the other hand, I enjoy spending a morning with the Saturday Wall Street Journal which is mostly in-depth analysis and information that is useful, interesting and not terribly urgent.

    If the New Yorker would hire a few writers from the other side …

  2. Gary

    I think Tim Russert was the last of the true journalists in the sense that he actually pursued the facts and held his interviewees to a standard — their own words from previous occasions. The MSM had largely turned propagandistic by the end of the ’70s and now the remainders with any competency are all gone. You can find a few opinion and editorial essayists with some grasp and depth with the inclination to make a fleshed-out argument, but they’re not reporters.

  3. George O'Har

    There are many bothersome trends in news reporting today, but perhaps the most troubling is the agenda-driven reportage that bedevils such papers as the New York Times. The Times has never once published an article about illegal immigration that seriously addressed the downside of said immigration; nor has it ever published, to my knowledge, an editorial critical of the hysterical global warming crowd. And just yesterday, on the front page, the Times ran a news story about how California had solved the problem of its deficits. Really? In one year? Alas, I’ve come to the conclusion that many reporters are simply not that bright. They may also be lazy, choosing to print what amounts to little more than left wing talking points: e.g., witness their coverage of the gun control debate. Reading the Times, you’d come away thinking that any American who supports the Second Amendment is a baby boiler and overll fiend. My solution? I’ve pretty much stopped reading the Times.

  4. Ken

    Most formal media/news organizations are getting economically hammered by the internet. Newsweek’s move away from print to a purely on-line presence is one example of a reaction to this trend.

    Blogs often have dramatic influence as do ordinary citizens armed with cell phones who post on YouTube, etc. Stossel recently reported how Brietbart (one guy!) compiled inputs from spectators at an event where Tea Partiers were accused of shouting racial slurs…and camera phone records, with audio, from just about every angle proved the Congressman/men making this allegation fabricated it.

    Big Media/News organizations & how they control the news is a an old paradigm that is changing…giving way to more open communication to & from more people.

    That’s good & bad — as misinformation, distortions based on part-truths/facts, etc. likewise spread at the speed of light….and human nature being what it is, when people become convinced (make up their minds) on something it is very hard to get them to change regardless what the facts are and how well they’re subsequently presented.

  5. Ray

    Today we don’t have reporters, we have journalists who are advocates for some cause. Reporting the news, as such, is incidental or even accidental. I remember a survey of journalism students years ago and they said they wanted to be journalists so they could make a difference. Not a single one said they wanted to report the news.

  6. revGDright

    We don’t have journallists any more. We have “communications” majors who are not trained to report actions and policies but to develop a narrative instead.

  7. Doug M

    “Where is this generation’s Woodward and Bernstein? They were heroes of their day, and inspired a record number of hopeful students to apply to journalism schools.”

    To what degree are journalism schools responsible for the decline in the quality of journalism.

  8. margaret berger

    We don’t have journalists we have pr people.

  9. john robertson

    The media has demonstrated that they are willing to lie to us, either directly or more often by omission.Trust is gone, we can check on the web and as a consequence do not even bother with the MSM anymore.

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