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Is today's news media really telling it like it is?

7/28/2011, 2:23 a.m.
Colony Records was my place for original Black R&B

"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."