Is today's news media really telling it like it is?
Richard Carter | 8/31/2011, 4:54 p.m.
"What good is the truth if it doesn't sound true?..."-Rex Harrison, "The Long Dark Hall" (1951)
Do you trust the news media? Do you believe what you see on TV news and read in daily newspapers? Are you tired of ideological bias? Do they really "tell it like it is," as Howard Cosell urged his broadcast partners on Monday Night Football? Think about it.
It seems that everywhere we turn, news-wise, somebody is telling us what to think rather than what is happening. On TV news and talk shows, opinions often are presented as news. The same goes for newspapers, where they should be left to editorial and op-ed pages and to columnists such as this writer, whose duty it is to express a point of view.
In journalism school, I learned that the essence of news coverage is the who, what, why, when, where and how-"the five Ws and H." Provide this and you have the core of the story. As an adjunct professor at NYU and the New School, I emphasized and demonstrated this concept to my students in news reporting and other media courses.
That said, a few good things are happening. The Rev. Al Sharpton-one of my long-time heroes-has an expanded role as a "permanent" MSNBC talk show host at 6 p.m. Perhaps his regular presence can boost that cable network's ongoing anemic ratings.
Indeed, Sharpton is well-suited to the task. Over the last two decades, he has excelled at "telling it like it is" on any number of controversial issues-to the consternation of many in the news media. He knows the news, and my columns in the Amsterdam News and other newspapers have celebrated his expertise as an issues-oriented civil rights leader and firebrand Democratic candidate for president in 2004.
Sharpton is one of the few liberals able to hold his own with Bill O'Reilly on the top-rated Fox News Channel. As my special guest on CNBC's "Showdown," he also blistered the late Morton Downey Jr., with whom I shared the forum. This 1989-90 program was a rarity-a national, Monday-Friday prime-time talk show with Black and white co-hosts.
In other positives, CNN canned obnoxious ex-New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, as well as lightweight news anchor Kiran Chetry. MSNBC suspended Time magazine's liberal analyst Mark Halperin for saying of Barack Hussein Obama, "I thought he was kind of a d- yesterday." And he's one of the media's leading Obama sycophants!
Yet, despicable Keith Olbermann-who was bounced by ratings-challenged MSNBC-now holds forth on something called Current TV, a network owned by ex-VP Al Gore. Ugh! Olbermann and his phony "Countdown" show exemplify all that's wrong with TV news.
Indeed, the airwaves still reek with buffoons seeking relevance through bluster and bombast. A prime case in point is Chris Matthews, the pompous, loudmouth host of MSNBC's "Hardball." Matthews deservedly got his head handed to him on July 19 in a raucous give-and-take with U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), and I loved every minute of it.
After an animated discussion about raising the debt ceiling and a Republican bill proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, the ultra-left wing Matthews said: "Let me ask you three questions."
Walsh shot back: "Try one at a time, Chris."
Then Mathews tried to intimidate him by browbeating, which he always does with conservatives. Walsh countered: "I'm not an artist and this is not performance art.
"This is what you do on your show, Chris," he added. "You bully guests, Chris. You are so out of touch, Chris." When Matthews said Obama was trying to be reasonable on debt negotiations, Walsh countered, "The American people are beyond you, Chris. They want us to do something important."
As a flustered Matthews discourteously interrupted, as usual-and tried to change the subject-Walsh stood his ground and fired back: "This is why a lot of people don't come on your show, Chris. Because it tends to be childish, Chris."
Clearly shaken, Matthews asked Walsh if he will resign if the GOP's balanced budget amendment bill, which passed in the House, is defeated in the Senate. "What kind of silly question is that?" Walsh shot back, "Will you resign if it does pass?"
Walsh's coup de grace came by recalling Matthews' goofy comment about "getting a thrill up my leg" as he listened to a speech by Obama. He added, "Obama doesn't send a thrill up my leg, Chris. And if anyone should be accused of wasting time, it is the president, who did nothing on this issue for six months."
Walsh concluded by telling Matthews that he was more reasonable "before you got caught up in this president. You need to be more objective, but I love it."
Insight into the disgusting Matthews and the disgusting Bill Maher of HBO's phony "Real Time" appeared in a recent letter-to-the-editor in the New York Post: To wit:
"Chris Matthews didn't think it was a big deal that the Army knew that the Fort Hood shooter was emailing Anwar Al-Alwaki before the attack and did nothing about it. Bill Maher thought that his friend, the unprincipled Arianna Huffington, was the answer to all the corrupting influences in American politics. Neither Palin nor Bachmann ever said anything this stupid. If Bachmann is a 'balloon head,' her IQ must still be about 80 points higher than Matthews and Maher's."
Bottom line: While there's a lot wrong with today's news media and its people, the high-profile humiliation of part of Rupert Murdoch's empire should offer everyone hope.