Gore on democracy and media. People who have read Earth in the Balance know that Gore is a smartypants name-dropping son-of-a-bitch. Really, it just floors me that we could have had a president who could freely quote German philosophers and economic historians and 1930’s commentators. Not that it would have made him a better executive.
Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to “glue eyeballs to the screen” in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what’s on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on.
And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation’s fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America’s industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people.
One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn’t see was news.
Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie “Network,” which won several Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.
The news divisions – which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network – are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do.