Sunday, August 31, 2008

I Hate TV News Channels, Part... I Lost Count

Okay, I don't spend all that much time vocalizing my contempt, but John Stewart got it right years ago.

Earlier today I saw an obviously partisan news anchor from a major cable channel toss softballs, no, really, marshmallows at a Presidential candidate. No cross-examination, no follow-up questions. He just tossed marshmallow after marshmallow, inviting the candidate to prattle, duck, weave, evade, mislead... whatever. But the anchor's partisanship isn't the real problem - if both candidates had to appear before the same anchors either this type of partisanship would have made the anchor look every inch the news-clown1 that he is, or to at least a modest degree he would have had to lay into both sides. The problem is that news anchors almost never lay into anybody they expect to ever want back on the show.

And to be fair to real news anchors, there's some of the same on the Daily Show (which, as I watch almost no commercial television, I almost never see). John Stewart traditionally treated John McCain with significant respect and deference. I somehow doubt that McCain would expect that to continue, given how much fodder his campaign provides for comedy, so I don't expect to see him on the Daily Show any time soon. And yes, it's unfair to hold up the Daily Show as the standard for news interviews. But despite its faults and comedic focus, at least they occasionally hold a politician's feet to the fire.

A "showdown" like Saddleback doesn't solve the problem because, again, there's no follow-up. I heard people talking about how McCain "won" because he answered difficult questions with irrelevant passages from his stump speech or with one-liners. Had he been expecting a tough cross-examination, or even one of modest competence, he would have been much less apt to try that and at the end would have been unlikely to have looked like a "winner". But if those were the rules, he would not have agreed to participate.

Television news media in this nation? Truly pathetic.
1. See the works of Phillip K. Dick, in which the news anchors had the honesty to actually put on clown suits before taking to the airwaves.

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