Thursday, July 16, 2009

Journalism's death rattle

Yesterday, The Colbert Report aired one of its funniest episodes ever, which opened with this segment about Stephen wishing to be named the "worst person in the world" by Kieth Olbermann:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen Wants to Be the Worst Person in the World
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorJeff Goldblum

This would have been completely hysterical, except for the hint of a very sad truth inherent in his satire. Namely, when Colbert remarks, "And why not hold me to the same standards as others in the conservative media. I'm just as much a journalist as Fox News." I wish that weren't true.

There's a really great scene in the film Almost Famous where Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character talks about the early 1970s as being the final death rattle of rock 'n' roll. The early 21st century may be the final death rattle of television journalism.

There's no question that Fox News is -- for the most part -- a mouthpiece for the right. It slants so far to the right that the Earth would tip off its axis unless MSNBC weren't there to balance the scales. What's worse is that such blatant pandering is becoming an excepted reality and, even more startling, this reality is not the most contemptible slap in the face to journalistic integrity.

Now programs airing under the guise of "TV journalism" are actually selling themselves to overt sponsors. Now we have Morning Joe: brewed by Starbucks and the complete relinquishing of an entire network to a figurative stroke job of Obama's healthcare plan. Ever since the Twenty-One quiz show debacle, not even game shows have had single, overt sponsors. And though I would not argue that understanding the healthcare plan is bad, airing what essentially amounts to an infomercial and calling it journalism is irresponsible as best and outright wrong at worst.

The death of television journalism coupled with declining sales in newspaper subscriptions leaves me to wonder where the hell we're going to get information in the near future. I'm not sure the Internet is always the best answer and I don't see radio making a comeback.

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