And that presents a real problem.
What I’m writing today, on my little blog, is opinion. But with so many people writing, it’s become increasingly hard for people to understand what’s news and what isn’t.
On one hand, that should be easy. News is what’s happening now and is reported free of any bias; just the facts, ma’am. (And no, Joe Friday never said that on Dragnet).
But by removing the barriers of entry, real journalism has been usurped by a blend of advocacy and opinion that masquerades as news. What’s worse, most cable news and internet sites don’t help their readers differentiate between real news and everything else.
Let’s take Fox News. As I mentioned in my last blog, the cable network has a number of very credible journalists. Then, it has Sean Hannity. Hannity is not a journalist – he says so himself – but his followers don’t know that. His show masquerades as news as it follows the same format as Fox’s news shows. The difference, as we know, is that Hannity is an avid cheerleader for GOP causes and makes no bones about it.
This isn’t to say Hannity is the only one at fault. Over at MSNBC, the wildly entertaining Chis Matthews, and Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell are in the same boat. Rush Limbaugh belongs there, too.
I have no problem with anyone doing their schtick. Free speech and all that. But I do have a real problem with entertainers acting as journalists, news shows or sites further muddying the waters by not labeling what is and isn’t news.
Again, a fairly simple definition. If your show reports without bias and presents both sides of the story, it’s news. If you don’t, it’s not.
These news purveyors would do everyone a favor by noting, in a scroll on the TV screen, or along the top of their website, that Sean Hannity, for example, is a talk show host whose views and guests favor a conservative audience. (It would be, of course, the opposite for the liberal and anti-Trump MSNBC).
At least viewers would know, for sure, that they’re about to engage in an exercise in tribalism because they’re about to listen to someone who parrots the views they believe in – and they’re not watching a newscast.
The issues of how media – especially social media – has increased tribalism and group think are ones we’ll tackle as we go.
But for now, we need a little change that no one will ever do.