By DOUGLAS T. REILLY
I grew up in the era of Edward R. Murrow and the Murrow Boys. This was also when the radio and TV networks considered the news-room a loss-leader. That meant journalists could report the news without considering whether it had profit attached.
William S. Paley had a long career at CBS in many roles. He was a colleague of Murrow for many years, including many when he headed the News Department.
Paley is usually given ‘credit’ for changing the news-room to profit-center. The news-room as a profit-center brought an emphasis on ratings, color, what the listener wants to hear, and AD-revenue most of all. The news becomes biased toward WHAT SELLS, rather than WHAT’S IMPORTANT.
My family got its first TV when I was about 6; it was a 6″ RCA, B&W, table model. At the time, there were only three stations, ABC (channel 7), CBS (CHANNEL 2), and NBC (channel 4). Today, with satellite and cable, we have hundreds of station options; it reminds me of “Boss” Springstein’s great song, “57 Channels, and Nothing On.” The 24/7 news channels and the hour’s long coverage of mass shootings, major political events, and Talking Heads who analyze events and predict the future without Tarot cards, are necessary to fill all the broadcast hours. Yes, as a lifetime news junky, I listen to more of this than the normal listener. I wish to remind you of Niels Bohr’s famous quote: “predictions are difficult, especially about the future”.
In my opinion, our present situation means that the broadcast media MAKE some of the news, along with reporting it. Of course, all news organs do some of this by what they choose to report. I believe that the best of the print media still follows the older model that allows the news-room to report without an obvious profit concern.
As an example, consider the 2016 presidential election. In my opinion, media coverage created Trump and Sanders; they were both new, different, and much more colorful than Hillary Clinton. They sold more ads. Bernie Sanders was completely unelectable in the General Election; the labels Socialist and Communist would doom him in the election, even though he is neither one. Our country has been bombarded so long about the evils of those systems that the GOP could simply pound on these two words. In the name Democratic-Socialist, the Democratic- part would be ignored. I’ve lived in countries with Democratic-Socialist economies and politics; they are far better than the Capitalist-Oligarchy the USA has now.
James Comey put the Silver Stake in Clinton, who never mishandled classified information in spite of Comey’s claim to the contrary. Of course, the Electoral College finally chose Trump; it also gave us G. W. Bush who, along with Cheney, gave the world 2+ wars that led to the deaths of several million people.