Trying to be an unbiased reporter or neutral analyst on a heavily biased television program is incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. Either you end up fighting the host’s premises and rephrasing loaded questions, or you are tacitly accepting the way the host defines a situation, making yourself an accomplice to a political mugging.
For those of us who enjoy following politics and are interested in the news, there are fewer and fewer options on television. The Sunday shows and PBS programming – “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” for example – remain, and there are a handful of others worth watching elsewhere (e.g., “Morning Joe” on MSNBC is fun, informative and thoughtful, and CNN and C-SPAN have their moments). But too often, caricature and vitriol have replaced reporting and analysis.
The networks continue to present national news programs each night, but politics can’t compete with “American Idol” or “CSI,” so cable stations have filled the vacuum with endless hours of what cable executives seem to think constitutes “news” and “politics.”
America’s cable “news” networks have concluded – on the basis of considerable research and evidence, I’m sure – that most viewers don’t want straight news and analysis as much as they want to hear what they already think or to watch predictable partisan attacks.
The three big cable “news” networks don’t exist to provide a public service, after all. They have corporate officers and stockholders to answer to, which means they need more and more eyeballs to generate more advertising dollars.
Their answer: talk radio on TV.