Sunday, December 29, 2013

Retired anchor affirms what's wrong with the media

Its become standard fare these days to complain about the media. And like almost everything else, those complaints have become politicized with liberals complaining that the media is controlled by conservatives and conservatives complaining about the liberal media.

I personally think that both accusations are wrong. What's wrong with the media is the same thing that is wrong with much of the corporate world...everything is about the bottom line of profit. Here's David Simon talking about that in the larger context:
If we don’t exert on behalf of human dignity at the expense of profit and capitalism and greed, which are inevitabilities, and if we can’t modulate them in some way that is a framework for an intelligent society, we are doomed. It is going to happen sooner than we think. I don’t know what form it will take. But I know that every year America is going to be a more brutish and cynical and divided place.
And so it came as no surprise to me when a retired anchorman published a fascinating op-ed in our local newspaper. Don Shelby was the news anchor for the Twin Cities CBS affiliate for 20 years. Recently he went to a premiere of the movie Anchorman 2 - a comedy starring Will Ferrell. But his review of the movie was no laughing matter.
The movie was filled with funny lines...I laughed, too — until the shame began to cover me like a wet blanket.

This is why I felt ashamed — the comedy might as well have been a drama based on true events.
Shelby goes on to describe some specifics of how Ron Burgandy (Ferrell's character) actually mirrored his own experience - like killing a story because it would have hurt an advertiser and the whole process of focusing on unimportant stories that drive up ratings. And then he ends with this:
We are watching a comedy about our own careers in a business that used to be about finding ways to make us all better informed. But something went haywire...

Anchors are granted a wonderful gift. They are believed and respected. In return, they must read the tough lines and tell the truth, good and bad, about our communities and our country. It is not, as television management sees it, a popularity contest.

After you see the movie and laugh at the ridiculousness of television news as Ron Burgundy portrays it, go home and ask whether what passes as journalism today really is journalism.
Of course its easy for Shelby to say this now that he doesn't have to depend on television management for his paycheck. What he's basically saying is that he and his fellow anchors sold out to a business that sold out a long time ago. And as long as we are stupid enough to believe and respect them for it, they'll continue to sell us out.

In the meantime, all this makes our job of finding the truth quite a bit harder. Thanks to the internet, we're able to piece together what's happening by looking beyond the linkbait and asking the hard questions. That's what I'll continue to try to do.


  1. Off topic, but I lived in Minnesota (graduated high school in St. Paul) for a few years in the 60's. My dad worked for KDWB back then, but you're probably too young to remember those days (I am an old person). Excellent post as usual. I've created some satiric pieces called "Sub-Text News", in which the anchors divulge the real agenda behind the stories. It helps me constructively channel my rage.

  2. "Thanks to the internet, we're able to piece together what's happening by looking beyond the linkbait and asking the hard questions. That's what I'll continue to try to do."

    Thank you, SP! It helps those who are searching for the truth to know the one or two venues dedicated to asking hard questions and trying to provide truthful answers. .............. VC

  3. In a rare moment where Hollywood foretold the future, the '70s movie, "Network" perfectly sums up what has happened to the news media today.

    I still believe that conservatives have more power in the media today than they have in the past. Their complaints about a "liberal media" are simply not true. However, corporate control is a greater threat. This is why "Network" is a stunning movie, which despite all of the accolades and acclaim it got when it was first released, it's clear that nobody took it seriously.

    Despite it's major shortcomings, I'm glad the internet is here.

    1. I agree. Network was brilliant and prescient. One of my favorite movies.Glenn Beck is today's Howard Beale.


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