From journalism to “infotainment”….

ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper wrote the following article (March 02, 2011 5:36 PM), wherein he quotes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton: Al Jazeera is ‘Real News’, U.S. Losing ‘Information War’

…Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news,” she said. “You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.

I wrote a piece a long while ago addressing the effect that corporate ownership of news information bureaus is having on journalism and journalistic ethics called The Media protesteth too much…., which references an important speech by Dan Rather:

RTDNA Speech Archive: Dan Rather (RTNDA1993)
Dan Rather addresses attendees of RTNDA1993, in Miami Beach, FL, Dan Rather was the anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News as well as contributing to 60 Minutes.

…In the constant scratching and scrambling for ever-better ratings and money and the boss’ praise and a better job, it is worth pausing to ask–how goes the real war, the really important battle of our professional lives? How goes the battle for quality, for truth, and justice, for programs worthy of the best within ourselves and the audience? How goes the battle against “ignorance, intolerance, and indifference”? The battle not to be merely “wires and lights in a box,” the battle to make television not just entertaining but also, at least some little of the time, useful for higher, better things? How goes the battle?

The answer, we know, is, “Not very well.” In too many important ways, we have allowed this great instrument, this resource, this weapon for good, to be squandered and cheapened. About this, the best among us hang their heads in embarrassment, even shame. We all should be ashamed of what we have and have not done, measured against what we could do–ashamed of many of the things we have allowed our craft, our profession, our life’s work to become.

Our reputations have been reduced, our credibility cracked, justifiably. This has happened because too often for too long we have answered to the worst not the best within ourselves and within our audience. We are less because of this, our audience is less, and so is our country.

I encourage you to read Rather’s entire speech in full. It is quite illuminating.

I remember Katie Couric’s first broadcast as the news anchor for CBS, wherein she referred to how they were going to change hard news into “infotainment.” I changed the channel and never looked back. It was particularly distressing to see her sell us (women) out professionally after Barbara Walters and others had fought so hard to escape petticoat journalism in the fifties and sixties. See Bill Wyman (“former arts editor of NPR and”)’s article in Hitsville of Wednesday, April 23, 2008, 11:04 pm (

There are huge forces at work that Couric could not hope to combat: CBS can’t maintain a news division that can compete with a cable channel’s; and of course when you’re owned by MTV no one up top really cares about quality news coverage anyway. (Les Moonves is married to intrepid newswoman Julie Chen, the hard-hitting host of … “Big Brother.”)

The absurdity of it all is that comedians like Jon Stewart often make an effort to present a more balanced view than the idiot talking heads screaming at each other on the 24-hour news channels from either the Right or the Left. I often learn more there than I do on the 6:00 p.m. national news.

I’m tired of hearing “human interest” stories that do not illuminate larger national news issues. If I want puppies and kittens, I will turn on Animal Planet or NatGeo. I have heard more major news stories with more airtime regarding Brittany Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and, of late, the descent into madness of Charlie Sheen. And rather than influence our children to make better choices, it merely sensationalizes an already overly practiced fascination with the glitz and glam of the superficial existence of being famous for being famous. A real “hero” that has earned the right to acolades from the public by actually accomplishing something greater than a stylisti’s stamp of approval on a designer-labelled shoping spree has no chance in competing for our attention with the rich and famous-for-being-rich-and-famous crowd. And we wonder why our kids are ignorant and lacking in the kind of ambition that requires hard work and dedication.

But all this tomfoolery is designed to do exactly what the corporate CEOs want it to do — sell us more stuff.

A free and independent press is the cornerstone of a healthy democracy.

Make no mistake in believing that “We, the People” can make good decisions with greater and greater control of Big Business directing what we hear and telling us through the “screaming (not chattering) class” as to what it means: we cannot.

We use new “hip” words like “spin” and “controlling the message,” but when the Communists and Nazis did it, we called it what it was: propaganda. Corporate ownership of the media has transformed news from the search for truth to selling the message of the moment like soapflakes. It is destroying our country.


About Laura Schneider

Retired IT consultant (disabled), musician and animal lover. I support the constitutional concept of Right of Privacy and no discrimination against any person based on race, religion, ideology, gender, sexual preference or disability. I am very concerned about the erosion of our constitutional rights and protections under GWB (and even this administration). I strongly oppose torture, rendition or illegal search and/or seizure (without a warrant) and warrantless wiretapping. I believe that education is our best hope of a bright future for our children. Knowledge is power, and that's the kind of authority (Biblically speaking) that our children must have in order to be successful in a 21st century world.
This entry was posted in civic responsibility, democracy, freedom of speech, journalistic ethics, media, political corruption, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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