November 14, 2010
Every day we are subjected to a form of “news” that is unlike anything we’ve seen or heard in history, in that it gets worse with every passing day. If God Almighty were to give us a “truth-meter” read-out device for the news media in general, the pointer would probably be at about the 20 percent mark — and falling. In other words, he’d be telling us that we could believe only 2 out of 10 in the so-called news media world. In addressing this problem, an elder news statesman nails the problem dead center.
Ted Koppel, retired ABC news anchor, just wrote on the subject. In part, he called it “the death of real news”, and he singled out Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly in his title as heavy contributors to that end. Probably because these two are likely the most recognized names on opposite ends of the politically-biased spectrum. However, Koppel names others in his article who are heavy hitters.
Right up front, Koppel exposes the real reason the Olbermann’s and O’Reilly’s of television are successful: It is highly profitable for the networks. As the old “Field of Dreams” movie told us, “if you build it, they will come”. And that’s the key: Tap in to what people want to believe — regardless of the truth — and you can make a (quick) fortune.
“While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s oft-quoted observation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.” [bold added]
MSNBC and Fox News: “[N]ews we can choose”
“They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.” [bold emphasis added]
“Esquire magazine recently found that men’s jeans from a variety of name-brand manufacturers are cut large but labeled small. The actual waist sizes are anywhere from three to six inches roomier than their labels insist.” [bold added]
“We celebrate truth as a virtue, but only in the abstract. What we really need in our search for truth is a commodity that used to be at the heart of good journalism: facts – along with a willingness to present those facts without fear or favor.” [bold emphasis underline added]
The most important thing Koppel said in his entire article has already been pointed out above: “the trend is not good for the republic”. Unfortunately, as he also pointed out, we won’t know that until it’s too late. When future generations ask what went wrong, dissemination of the news will be the number one answer.
Never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs [with] facts.
Economist Henry Rosovsky