Fourth estate fades

For Your Consideration

editorial@sierrastarDecember 3, 2013 

Recent coverage in commemorating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy a full half century ago sheds intriguing light on the astounding changes in American journalism we've seen evolving these last few decades.

As technological revolutions in the delivery of news content have combined with a pronounced national shift to the political right, the traditional role of the American press to act as unofficial watchdog in the preservation of democratic rule has undergone a powerful and radical transition.

With ownership reduced to three or four major players, radio and television broadcast and cable news operations, both locally and nationally, have been reduced to churning out limited coverage on almost everything with minimal investment chasing maximum profit.

Ratings rule the day — prioritizing potential popularity over mundane matters of genuine importance. Similarly, newspapers and magazines have slashed staffing across the board, their old business models shredded by Internet competition. What the public needs to know has been replaced by what it heeds to know – interesting and entertaining material presented in as titillating and emotionally evocative a manner as possible. Negativity dominates discussion.

The New York Times' classic promise to deliver, "All the news that's fit to print" has been replaced by virtually all commercial media entities with, "If it bleeds, it leads."

Consequently, the American public has generally become as intellectually fat and lazy as physically displayed on full public view by your average Walmart shopper on any given day.

"The American people" are easily bought. No wonder John Boehner constantly invokes this phrase with such confident conviction, especially with "Citizens United" having unleashed even more hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to enhancing brilliantly targeted thought control.

"One man – one vote?" Hah. What a sad thought.

Thanks to redistricting maneuvers performed with perfection in the aftermath of our 2010 census, the Republican party now controls the U.S. House of Representatives by a commanding majority — even though Democratic candidates for the House received a million and a half more votes than their GOP counterparts.

While Fox News fans remain thrilled with their tailor made, customized vision of the world soothingly being reinforced hour after hour by polished performers, even our somewhat more objective networks are now answering Wall Street's siren call for revenue through revisionism.

In the last few months, we've seen ABC's White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl, breaking an "ABC News Exclusive" unfavorable to the Obama administration that was quickly revealed to be fundamentally unsubstantiated.

"Sixty Minutes" from time honored CBS News suffered professional humiliation last month when now formally discredited and reprimanded correspondent Lara Logan carried a Benghazi report filled with lies from start to finish. Even Chuck Tood, MSNBC's political director, caused many an eye to roll when he proclaimed it wasn't his job to inform viewers when politicians spread misinformation, having also expressed his opinion that a proposed NBC special on Hillary Clinton was nothing but a "total nightmare" for him.

Perhaps the most irresponsible demonstration of media abrogation can be found in a mindless stampede against the Affordable Care Act triggered by initial launch of the official website – an admittedly major technical disappointment which was immediately and erroneously conflated by the press into cataclysmic failure of the overall act itself.

Guess what? We've proven "ObamaCare" can work like a charm.

By mid-November, while 27,000 individuals had been qualified for private health plans through the federal site serving 36 other states, "Covered California" alone had enrolled 80,000 applicants with more coming on board every minute. We are dramatically leading the nation in this and numerous other aspects of ACA implementation, but such success has been relegated to brief, minimal recognition rather than receiving the jubilant headlines such success deserves.

Locally, although KMJ's Ray Appleton has been known in the past to interject his own deplorable negative commentaries and/or grunts of disapproval during live presidential broadcasts, a new low was reached on Thursday, Nov. 14, when "John and Jen" interrupted President Obama in mid sentence while he was holding a White House press conference on "The Affordable Care Act."

John Broeske suddenly jumped into the broadcast without a semblance of traditional professionalism as he solemnly and arbitrarily declared, "That's about enough from this guy" – thus ending KMJ AM/FM coverage of the event, even as the presidential press conference continued for another half-hour on live TV.

Aldous Huxley envisioned a "Brave New World" would commence in 2540 AD.

Look what's getting here early.

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