23 April 2008

The ABC debacle

Reading about the latest ABC debate debacle, I pat myself on the back for not subscribing to cable. Journalism has devolved into such tabloid fluff that I rack my noggin trying to fathom why anyone would waste their time watching the self-styled pundits on the corporate news endlessly paw over the latest political pecadilloes while ignoring the truly weighty issues that sit like an elephant in the corner of the room. Of course, peak oil, rising food costs, an undeclared pre-emptive war, the erosion of civil liberties, and a crumbling infra-structure aren't especially sexy and involve too much sublety to be squeezed into a 30 second media soundbyte, but in something as serious as a presidential debate, we'd expect a bit more gravitas, dignitas, and intelligence.

Brendan Nyhan claims that the media fumble has three root causes:

1. The media's commercial incentive to entertain rather than inform;

2. Journalists' professional incentive to display voice, debate the horse race, and avoid "boring" policy issues;

3. Ongoing efforts by almost ever major figure in network news to avoid being accused of liberal bias (for example, Tim Russert going on Rush Limbaugh's show, George Stephanopoulos going on Sean Hannity's show, etc.).

#3 seems to be the most important factor explaining the difference in tone and content between the Republican and Democratic debates. Even Rush Limbaugh admitted yesterday that the questions were harsh.

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