Notable time wasters: assurances the Affordable Care Act would be rejected by the Supreme Court, Hillary Clinton would be the 2008 Democratic candidate for president and CNN’s never-ending nonsense on “what might have happened” to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing since March 8, with continuous speculation being the “news” hook.
As a political and media junkie, I still tune in the daily and Sunday political programs. But I do so knowing that the overwhelming majority of what I hear has already been reported in the printed press and what I’ll be hearing from the guests on these semi-news programs will be replies from Democrats and Republicans that are right from their respective party’s talking points playbooks augmented by opinions from pundits.
The programs provide the Democratic and Republicans chances to spread their propaganda while the hosts and other media panelists pretend that they are Renaissance people, knowing everything about every subject and refusing when asked a question to ever reply, “I don’t know.”One of the most ludicrous example of the “infallibility” of the TV pundits occurred when Pope Benedict XVI resigned. Within minutes, on many shows usually devoted to American politics, the host and pundits became Vatican experts, expressing opinions on whom and why the new pope will be, as if they knew what they were talking about.
The sad part about the so-called experts on TV’s political programs is that too many people really think they know what they are talking about and accept opinions as facts, as less people read newspapers and rely on TV for news. (But David Brooks wrote in his New York Times, March 22, 2013, column, that pundits and other expert’s predictions are terrible.)
For years TV pundits have been all over themselves echoing politicians saying the U.S. is going out of business unless we look ahead 25 or so years and cut, cut, cut social programs now, now, now. Best to remember that not too many years ago these same prognosticators reiterated that unless America reduces its spending the U.S.A. will be reduced to third world status because China will stop buying our treasuries and Europe will cease investing in the U.S.
Well, foreign investment in our country is healthy and China hasn’t bankrupted the treasury. Perhaps pundit appearances should be introduced by playing the song “Oops!... I Did It Again," recorded by Britney Spears in 2000, which is probably the same year that a pundit last got something right.
A Pew Research report said that the regular audience of cable news programs has aged and that younger people are not relying on cable for news. The report also said that cable news stations’ live coverage of events fell 30% from 2007 to 2012. Interview segments were up 31% because they are cheaper to produce. And cable stations are further reducing production costs by using pundits. Most troubling is the report’s finding that journalists are disseminating “news” from sources without checking on its accuracy. The journalism credo for cable TV news is “Getting It First is More Important Than Getting It Right.”
Watching the political TV shows might also be detrimental to your ears because it has become primarily what I label “Argumentive TV,” as opposing guests often shout at each other with the hosts frequently bellowing the loudest.
As we near the 2014 elections, where will the voters who will elect our government leaders get their news from? Ideally it would be from reading the major newspapers and not from Web sites, bloggers, Facebook and other social media outlets, which provide “news” that is not checked for accuracy and by citizen journalists who are not committed to impartiality.
Arthur Solomon was a senior VP at Burson-Marsteller. He now is a contributor to public relations and sports business publications, consults on PR projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at email@example.com.