Peter Cavanaugh

“Missing Mister”

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”

“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” -- Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer (1944)

Mister In-Between is not only missing, but the first two lines of that Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters classic have been flipped like a flapjack. “Gotcha” carries the day – good news gone away.

It’s a money thing.

When I started my broadcast career back in the late ‘50’s at WNDR in Syracuse monitoring police scanners, checking updates from a Western Union teletype machine and writing local copy, virtually every station in town had a full time newsroom, staffed around the clock.

Providing extensive local news coverage was seen as a critical public service, serving the community as an important consideration in being granted a license by the Federal Communication Commission to operate over limited public broadcast frequencies. This was true for both radio and television. In the pioneering days of “free market broadcasting”, anyone could go on the air on any frequency with any power they wanted. The predictable result was a chaotic cacophony of unintelligible gibberish. Can you imagine a busy intersection without traffic lights or stop signs? Same idea. Regulation was required.

Subsequently, the business model for radio and eventually television allowed enormous profits to be generated from paid advertising in return for presenting a certain amount of public affairs and public service programming, particularly emphasizing news. This was spelled out by competing entities that pledged specific percentages in their license applications and renewals. An informed electorate was seen as essential to democracy.

Alas, all of this is long gone. Such noble intent has now been swept away by the prioritization of profit over public policy. “News” must score ratings. Only this directly and immediately impacts revenue.

Here human nature takes over. What sounds better? Vegetables and vitamins or candy and cookies? Me, too! But our current diet of journalistic jam offers little more than immediate gratification at the expense of critical thinking, a recipe for the triumph of ignorance over information.

Negativity reigns supreme. Its alluring attraction is hard-wired in us all. Do we secretly prefer Gospel or gossip? Truth or trash? Salvation or sin?With indifference to integrity, performance takes powerful precedence.

The new darling of FOX News, the attractive and vivacious Megyn Kelly, snarled her way past both Sean Hannity and Bill O’ Reilly in the recent November ’14 ratings sweeps to become #1 and Queen of Cable TV. She’s brutally candid about what it takes. According to a profile in the New York Times Magazine, Megyn enthusiastically states she would have gladly gone to work for MSNBC, her current progressive competitor, ten years ago when she was seeking a network position. “I’d have done O.K. there, too”, she unabashedly states – humility taking a back seat to honesty.

Last year’s 43-8 blowout of the Denver Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII scored 111.5 million viewers on Fox TV. This year’s Presidential State of the Union Address was watched by only 33.3 million on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, Azteca, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC combined. That’s less than one-third of those football fans and barely 10% of our overall population.

Why worry about unemployment, foreign affairs, immigration issues, the national debt, an outrageous and shocking disparity in wealth distribution and our collective future as a nation when there’s a “Deflate-gate” to debate?

That’s not to say we won’t be discussing the results of this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX at our February Meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club on Saturday, Feb. 7, at Denny’s. But we’ll also be hearing from our new California Highway Patrol Commander, Jason Daughrity, as we welcome him to the area. He’ll have some important things to say you won’t hear on the radio.

Breakfast is at 8:30 and the program starts at 9:30. As moderator, I keep things moving along. You don’t have to be a democrat to attend and/or actively participate in discussions. It’s a democracy. Whatever your political persuasion, you’ll do O.K. with us, too.

See you at Denny’s.

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