Monday, November 08, 2010

Olbermann's Return Won't Restore Sanity

Two weeks of media melodrama bracket a tumultuous election that shook up American politics, putting a spotlight on the people who presumably report on the spectacle but more and more are out there strutting on the stage.

Keith Olbermann will be back from the on-camera dead tomorrow night after his constituency, and many journalists, showered NBC with Tea Partyish rage. But there should be no unalloyed joy over his resurrection, which only confirms what critic David Carr calls "the Foxification of the cable universe."

Olbermann's return will correct an absurdity but do nothing for what Jon Stewart calls Sanity. As Carr points out:

"The shift of audiences toward cable news outlets--with their manifest agendas--as sources of truth and transparency may have something to do with a credibility gap that now confronts more mainstream news outfits. Lately, the idea of objective journalism has been on a pretty rough ride (that means you, CNN), with viewers deciding to align themselves with outlets that share their points of view--warts, agendas and all."

Stewart's rally was held on the weekend before the voting. Significantly, when the President appeared on the Daily Show just before it took place, he ruefully suggested that the reminder was coming two years late.

Looking back on 60 Minutes yesterday, Obama remarked that "this country doesn't just agree with The New York Times editorial page...I can make some really good arguments defending the Democratic position, and there are gonna be some people who just don't agree with me. And that's okay. And then we've got to figure out a way to compromise."

So Olbermann is back, which is all to the good as balance for the growing Fox dominance of the tower of babble, but the underlying problem is worse than ever.

In a cameo appearance on Election Night, the ghost of Journalism Past, Tom Brokaw, observed that "almost nothing is going the way that most people have been told that it will. And every time they’re told in Washington that they have it figured out, it turns out not to be true."

On cable news, "true" is not the highest priority.

Update: Olbermann apologizes to his viewers but not to his bosses for all the furor. Just so. Now we can all get back to watching the PBS NewsHour to get the news of the day.

1 comment:

Rich said...

PBS NewsHour is a poor source for the news, unless you favor Lehrer's iron hand and elitist inclinations. At least with Olbermann you know the spin -- and there's probably less obfuscation.

PBS did not dare to make points against the wars, or even the ketchup-as-vegetable Reagan. If they were ever serious about including intelligent critics, they would have hosted Chomsky at least intermittently.