I spent a few moments this morning listening to the local talk-radio station. You probably know, if not this exact station, the sort of station I am talking about: little Limbaugh wannabes filling in time until the slug lurches his way to his microphone. But this isn’t about Limbaugh; he and his listeners are beyond hope.
No, this is about what has become of the “news” in the last decade or two. I cannot be the only one to remember when the news consisted of 1-2 hours in the morning (after most people went to work), a 1/2 hour at noon for local news, a 1/2 hour of national news in the evening, a 1/2 hour of local news, and a redo of the local news at bedtime. If someone wanted more, there were daily newspapers and a variety of magazines best kept next to the toilet for emergencies.
Then, someone got the idea “there is always something happening; lets create a 24 hour news cycle, and report on everything!” and cable news was born. Journalism students jumped with glee, as this greatly expanded the job market, since no one can be expected to work more than an hour in front of a camera. Eyebrows were plucked and grim tones were practiced all over the nation.
But lo, the truth did descend upon the brows of the masses: There isn’t 24 hours worth of news. Yes, things are happening all the time, but it takes much less time to report what has happened. The first solution was to put everything on endless repeat. The problem was, nobody could stand to watch the same thing over and over. Hours needed to be filled between the repeats. And thus was born the pundit show.*
*Disclaimer: this timeline is not intended to be an accurate representation of how things actually happened.
Ahh, the political pundit. They’re not a new creature. Most started in the printed world, sending in articles to the various newspapers and magazines. Some started in little radio stations. Some sprang from dank swamps, bloated with bluster and hypocrisy. All came with the idea that they, and only they, held the absolute truth about…something.
These people get paid big money to blow smoke up the collective American butt. They don’t work weekends, aren’t called to natural and human-made disasters, have a staff to help them with personal side-projects, are called on to write books, and get to act important during election years. Election night is a party for most of them, and they tend to get the next day off to recover.
Sweet deal, right? Hell, I’d take that job. Pick a side, wait for the other to stick their foot in their mouth, then gloat. It’s a simple formula. But now, every little putz radio fear-monger is doing what they can to get on the “Rush is on Vacation” list, so they can get their piece of the pie. And their method of doing this is to “report” more and more outrageous items.
All this is a lead-in to what happened this morning. As I said, I was listening to the local hate-station and they came up with the following:
Fear Monger 1: We received an email from a listener, asking about how Sharia law is creeping into the United States.
Fear Monger 2: Do tell?
FM1: Yes. The emailer states that Dearborn, MI is 70% Muslim and the judges and police there are all Muslim and they’re using Sharia law in all cases.
FM2: Well, IF that is the case, that would be pretty bad. Some Muslims are pretty scary.
[Conversation spent expanding the rumor, with not a single critical thought. Fear-mongering at its best]
Here is where I enter. I wrote on their facebook wall about how their story was full of shit. And their reply?
“We don’t have time to check things out, and, besides, it was the emailer who said it, not us. We said “if” so we’re excused from all responsibility.”
Excuse me? You just spent 5 minutes of airtime (a lifetime in radio) talking about, and expanding with “I heard” statements, an unsubstantiated rumor. There clearly was time for looking up further information, but they simply dismissed anything that didn’t pander to their audience.
Whatever happened to simply reporting the news? “This happened here today. This politician said this (play the clip). This happened over here, and that happened over there. Goodnight and good luck.”
What happened to the news? I’m not naive enough to pretend the old style was perfect. Far from it. But it was brief, it was to the point, and it was mostly fact-based. Now, when facts don’t line up to a particular political pundit’s POV, they are said to be “slanted” facts. Facts don’t slant, people.
Now I’ve got a headache.