Where’s Newsroom When We Need it?

Have you watched the TV series Newsroom? It’s instructive because the thesis is something many of us wonder about in this election cycle — how to inform the public. In the show, the station risks losing money, ratings, even the station itself over the decision to abandon ‘both siderism,’ dumbed down speech and pop stories in favor of in-depth and expose reporting on real issues.

In our non-TV world there’s no such animal. Of course we know to understand it, we only need to follow the money/ratings. But this is an extraordinary moment in reporting history. Dreaming up false equivalencies and both-siderism where they don’t exist is the media’s soup du jour. It’s all that’s on the menu, and while it may taste good, be familiar or to our liking it’s no more than brain-eating, soul-killing poison.

Some argue that even false equivalencies present opposing views in a meaningful way. Hell no! Not in my universe they don’t. Trying to make evensies where none exist only feeds misconceptions. It doesn’t inform. It doesn’t educate. And then there’s the small issue that it’s a media fantasy with no bearing on the truth. While it may be poison, no matter. It’s easy to swallow. Pre-digested. No chewing required. Real live alternative views? You’re joking, right? They don’t stand a chance. Not when the media thrives on what is, at best, a misguided quest for phony balance. In-depth, alternate views get drowned out by the constant drumbeat of endlessly repeated distortions.

Serious research into Trump’s current twisted financial ties with Russia and his and Putin’s build-up of right-wing ‘ist’ hate groups? Not on the menu. Constant looking back to Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails, both of which are not only long in the past, but have been over-investigated by Republicans and the right ad nauseum? Easy dude. I’m on it.

Well, the kernels are there. If the public can’t see through media distortions, it’s their own damn fault. And they get what they deserve. No, it’s not, and besides, no one deserves Trump(ism). Then again, maybe it is our own damn fault. Either way though, it’s not a helpful approach. It’s not because the public needs help, not pablum. Most Americans are under-educated and easily bored. They don’t need nano-second attention spans and salacious news habits reinforced. Which is all the stranglehold of the 24/7 news cycle has on offer.

I believe that mass media has profound responsibility to the masses. In the 2016 presidential race, the Republicans handed us an egregious candidate that is not only unfit for the job, but flouts every rule of honesty and human decency. He can’t even speak the word policy, no less come up with one. Yet the media has been unable to get past kindergarten-level journalism.

Unlike the Newsroom fantasy world, our media has failed miserably. They have been the prime mover in enabling a petty dictator in his Hitlerian approach to getting out his message. If he manages to win, mainstream media would never be able to repay the apocalyptic debt it created.