Thesis: It’s amazing how much crap we put up with from our alleged news “outlets,” including the word “outlet,” which sounds like a spillway, a faucet, or a mall.
In this instance, I’m focusing on television-outlets and the sheer volume of time the outlets spend praising themselves. All the networks create and broadcast advertisements about themselves in which, in a variety of ways, they implicitly assert that they are the best “news organization.” Think about the rhetorical situation here. If, in fact, we rouse ourselves from our tele-hypnotic stupor, we will realize that whatever outlet is advertising itself has to be fudging if not lying outright, for what does “the most watched” or “the best political team” (etc.) mean, and where’s the data? Now that we know they will lie about themselves, why would we trust them to report news competently, choose the correct news to report, and so on?
It’s rather like a fellow in a bar who’s obviously lying about himself to make himself look good to persons he wishes to impress romantically (if that’s the word) before closing time. Then he gives you his card, and you’re supposed to consider doing business with him one fine day. The news outlets are that man, and yet we continue to do business with them.
A slightly subtler type of self-aggrandizement is practiced by the myriad anchors, many of whom–and I’m sorry to sound so mean–are stupid. Some can’t even phrase a question properly, let alone think of a good question to ask. Almost all seem to be hired from modeling agencies, although I’m sure they have some kind of journalism certificate. At any rate, much of their job consists of creating a sense of urgent, hard work.
So they will say, “And these are the stories we’re working on [or covering for you] at this hour.” And then they list the stories, accompanied by (they hope) seductive video. But then they cut to commercial (maybe a commercial about themselves), so they’re not covering the story. Moreover, so much camera-time is spent on the anchor and so much chit-chat occurs between anchors and other fashion-models on the set, that when we actually get to hear from a reporter who’s covering a beat, we think we’re seeing a mirage. Then, of course, the news-outlet-computer is calling for another break to commercial, so the anchor has to say something completely idiotic like “in the 30 seconds we have remaining.” Good lord, if you’re working on an important story “for us,” take more time.
The thing to do, I suppose, is what the so-called millennial generation (we must discuss this naming of generation another time) and people who are younger than they are do: not watch. Go to the Web. Or embrace the wisdom of remaining uninformed.
Thus, a massive audience for cable news is a million viewers–in a nation of more than 300 million. The outlets may think they’re working on stories, but for whom? People who like to sleep with the tube on? The outlets are a part of the political spectacle, but they really can’t even “do” spectacle well. And, economically, they are moles on the feet of conglomerate giants. Keith Olbermann works for General Electric. He should wear coveralls with “GE” on the back and “Keith” sewn on the front. Bill O’Reilly works for Rupert Moloch or whatever his name is, the Dr. Strangelove of News Outlets.