The problem with politics today is a news media that prints and broadcasts everything but the news.
If you remember, the last meaningful instance of investigative reporting was the Watergate scandal of the 1970s that ultimately resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon just before his impeachment and possible removal from office in 1974.
From that day until now, a few minor cases of investigative journalism have occurred, but none has approached the scope and result of Watergate.
Today, the print news media seems content with a paragraph or two without follow up or, at max, a two day run on the inside pages.
The electronic media is even sparser in its hard news output. Most mainstream news outlets are content with a 30-minute evening news broadcast that seeks to compress news of world importance such as the recent nuclear proliferation treaty between the U.S. and Iran with the fluff and puff of entertainment world blather.
Cable news outlets aren’t much better. In truth, insofar as hard news goes, they may be filled with a few meager facts coated in endless opinions leaning toward a liberal or conservative point of view. Thus individuals usually tune in to the outlet of their preferred ideology to the exclusion of all other points of view. Such viewing habits fall far short of a well-rounded knowledge of what little news reaches us and even shorter of the other side’s viewpoints.
The primary reason for the evolution of news from reporting to opinionating isn’t clear. One possibility is the rise of radio personalities such as Rush Limbaugh who profits from opinionated talk that isn’t found in print media or in the more respected news outlets. More importantly, his sponsors reap untold profits from his style of talk. It seems most of us like his brand of free screech.
At any rate, one thing is certain, cable outlets and even mainstream news organizations have their share of controversial talk programs and roundtables that pass for 21st Century news.
In this version of news reporting, a moderator and his or her interviewees and analysts discuss issues of the day. Usually, the moderator is notable for asking softball questions without in-depth follow-up. The result is a program of false equivalency. That is, crackpot ideas are given the same prominence as thoughtful comments by scholars and other experts.
The producers of these programs often go to great lengths to invite guests and panelists who are known to make the most outlandish and controversial statements. For example, Newt Gingrich is well known for his pseudo-professorial statements. He once averred that President Obama can only be understood through the lens of Kenyan Anti-Colonialism. The basis for this statement: Obama’s father was born in Kenya. No moderator to the best of my knowledge has ever question Gingrich about his assertion despite its absolute political charlatanism.
One insight into the current methodology may be found in a recent comment by MSNBC news analyst Chuck Todd. When asked why he didn’t question the veracity of a statement made by a guest about Obama, replied, “That’s Obama’s job.”
Therein lies the weakening of investigative journalism. It’s someone else’s job.