The awfulness of cable news

With Donna Brazile being fired from CNN, Jack Shafer goes off wonderfully on the whole complete-joke-of-journalism to have paid partisan professionals from both parties as some sort of pretend balance.  There’s pretty much nothing less worth seeing in news coverage.  Shafer:

Her deceit reveals an ugly aspect of news talk that will probably go unremedied as Brazile is tarred and feathered by the ethics cops: That is, the whole show-business concept that places paid partisan yakkers on television is corrupt and venal and deserves burial in a shallow grave. The yakkers populate the news shows not because they add much in the way of substance to our political knowledge, but because they’re a cheap form of on-air talent for television’s 24/7 programming needs, and television has been over-relying on them for a long time. [emphases mine] A partial list of notable politicians or political operators who’ve worked their way into TV includes Tim Russert, Bill Bradley, George Stephanopoulos, Joe Scarborough, Van Jones, William Safire, James Carville, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, Pat Buchanan, Rick Santorum, Paul Begala, David Gergen, Chris Matthews, Peggy Noonan, Sarah Palin, Jennifer Granholm, David Axelrod, Tony Blankley, Mary Matalin, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Mike Huckabee, John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, Eliot Spitzer and Corey Lewandowski.

TV hires these people and their ilk not for their spellbinding political insights but because they’re known quantities who will provide safe and predictable idle talk. By dividing their partisan contributors between Republicans and Democrats, TV creates the illusion of impartiality and inclusion. The contributors take the job because it’s easy—anybody can fill the air with platitudes and generalization, and all that face-time makes them more marketable on the lecture circuit. Working as a paid pundit is such a good deal, the contributors tend to conform to the expectations of the producers putting on the show. They hit their marks, fill the dead spaces with palaver, keep the commercials from bumping into one another, and sit at attention until called on—or interrupt should the show stall.

Not every TV contributor moment is a complete botch. Most of these people, with the exception of Lewandowski, know something about politics. Much more than you do. Much, much more than I do. But it’s not in, say, David Axelrod’s interests to share a damaging insight about Barack Obama, the horse he rode to prominence on. Almost to a one, the contributors pull punches and dilute the political conversation to the weakest of teas so the people in the bar and riding the elliptical trainers at the gym don’t have to strain to follow the Punch and Judy of it all.

What transpires during the paid contributor segments isn’t journalism. It isn’t politics. And it’s rarely even entertaining. I’d call it the worst sort of tasteless soy filler, only that would be an insult to soy, which is nutritious. There’s no reason outside of pragmatism that justifies their continued employment on the news shows.

Yes, a thousand times, yes.  Not that I expect any of this to change.  But until it does, cable news will continue to be the absolute lowest form of “journalism.”

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to The awfulness of cable news

  1. Mike in Chapel Hill says:

    The “news” and “journalists” should inhabit the same circle of hell as Republicans for bringing the country to this point. Has anyone seen a single discussion of how Donald Trump intends to force companies like Carrier to keep manufacturing jobs in the US? Apparently it involves imposing a tariff on the air conditioning units coming back to the US from Mexico. How much is the tariff supposed to be? What if the parts are manufactured in the US but the unit is assembled externally? Does that warrant a different tariff? Who decides these things? What is the appropriate price for one of these A/C units sold in the US? Are we going to have a new government agency setting prices and quotas? Sounds a lot like central planning. And what are the ramifications of protectionist trade policies? Not a peep from “journalists”.

  2. rgbact says:

    Meh, guy’s just jealous. Yes, lots of ex politicos make good money as talking heads on cable news. They’re paying Megan Kelly $20M for heavens; sake…….guess what, its a very profitable business being a gabber. But, most of the people I see try not to be total hacks for their “team” (Howard Dean and Paul Begala excepted). Brazile just couldn’t stick to some basic ethics, despite the scads of money she’s raked in for easy work.

    • Steve Greene says:

      “just jealous”? Have you been hiding the fact that you are in 3rd grade? Even if they are not all total hacks, they are all at least 75% hacks and it does virtually nothing to inform viewers.

      • rgbact says:

        People usually prefer fluff over information. They like “gossip”/water cooler chatter/insults, i would think a liberal would understand the lucrative market for “making news entertaining”. (see Maher, Jon Stewart, Colbert, Bee).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: