Opinion: Why I Quit Cable's Political News Coverage, and You Should Too

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 - 01:42 PM

Having given up cable several years ago, and only missing it a few times since, I realize I'm not exactly in the majority. But news was really most of the reason I had cable, and as time went on I realized that much of the "news" I was getting on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News wasn't really news.

Between segments that might feed you a bit of actual unspun information about the goings on in the world, it was more accurately described as thinly veiled talking points walking around, pretending to be news.

The worst of this came from the shows that had interviews of politicians and other political figures. Politicians have gotten so comfortable with just ignoring questions they don't like, and using every opportunity given to them to spout their prepacked talking points, there just isn't much of a reason to watch them most of the time. Might as well just be reading the emails from the DNC or RNC.

Ironically enough, these thoughts came to me as I was watching a clip from CNN's Piers Morgan on Monday. Morgan's First point is right on the money:

When some figure comes onto a news show, the idea is they are supposed to trade answers to the questions of the host in exchange for exposure to the audience of that show. But hosts usually let dodging slide, and when they press the politicians, politicians usually come up with some childish reason to be offended.

Some of the questions at the Fox News GOP Debate in Ames comes to mind. Fox seemed to want to give people a general feel for the candidates, not just talk about hot button issues, which makes sense this early in the cycle.

They asked some very pointed questions that visibly irked candidates, and caught some flak for it. Newt Gingrich, for instance, distracted people from his refusal to answer a question sent his way by attacking the questioner.

Instead of getting booed, the crowd seemed to back Gingrich for the most part. People have apparently gotten so used to this coddling of politicians, that they don't like it when newsmen actually do their jobs anymore.

Morgan ties up the segment with the famous clip from a debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale, where he turns a negative question asking him about how his advanced age might lead to him not being up to some of the rigors of being the president into gold.

But this was no dodging. Notice that Reagan begins his answer with a short and clear answer of "not at all," before segueing into the joke that is likely to go down in American history as the best debate answer ever.

This is how debates and interviews should go. Hosts should allow the guest to expound a bit and speak their mind. But we all know that isn't what politicians do. I might actually come off the sidelines and get cable again if some network began holding itself to a higher standard in their interviewing.

But I wonder if both parties would start boycotting such a channel, and whether people would take offense more to politicians dodging, or journalists pressing politicians for real answers.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.


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Comments [7]

Ace Drummond from local

Lehrer and WNYC, why do you waste your resources, our pledge dollars,
on balderdash like this ?

Why not simply broadcast the VP debate at 9 pm and then give us some
some commentary after.

Why do you think you're a web site and no longer a radio station ?

Oct. 11 2012 08:31 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Q: Why won't the journalism industry clean itself up?

A: Painted whores make more money than unpainted ones.

Sep. 20 2012 05:48 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

"A bit late to the party, are you not?"

I don't know... I stopped buying cable about seven years ago. Is that late to the party?

Aug. 24 2011 08:12 PM

A bit late to the party, are you not? So much damage has been done by the infotainment networks that we have the most under-informed society in the industrialized world. We knew this at the outset of the Bush years, and have offered a view of news and views you don't get from the corporate controllers who air the same stories 24/7 at the exact same time....and then choose which lies to propagate.

Aug. 24 2011 11:15 AM

Politicians, especially in this period of 'litmus tests' and other silliness, have become adept at avoiding any statement which might actually cost them money*.

Curiously, they still continue to make absolutely hilarious comments whilst on the hustings.

Go figure ...

* Yes, money. Not votes. Votes can be bought wholesale with enough money. Another money 'cost' to a politician is a person or group who may use it to run 'negative' campaigns against him/her.

Aug. 23 2011 09:04 PM
Solomon Kleinsmith from Omaha, NE

With a few exceptions, PBS is the only TV news I've seen in years that is worth watching regularly. You can still get more news out of ten to fifteen minutes online than you can on any TV show, but some people prefer the medium.

Aug. 23 2011 06:52 PM
Chris H. from East Village

TV news is an oxymoron. PBS' Leher News Hour is the only program that I can truck with. The screaming heads, the sound bites, the hyperbole, the fear mongering ... kill your television. I have. And if you still need newsy comedy you can always watch The Daily Show and Colbert online.

Aug. 23 2011 04:44 PM

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