Like a tapeworm leached onto the intestine of American culture, it eats away at the rare opportunity we have to educate our citizens.
Ideological slants on the news, coupled with maniacal talking heads aiming for shock value over substance, are dangerous and growing trends. The misguided notion that it is okay to treat news as entertainment -- as long as it captures viewers -- has far-reaching ramifications for our democracy.
What would Water
Cronkite say? (WWWCS)
This past July 16th, America lost the most trusted name in news, then 92 years old. Cronkite taught America about everything from World War II to Watergate, covering the assassination of Kennedy along with the Vietnam War.
Cronkite represented a generation of journalists who believed their "moral imperative" was to inform, not cajole. He was perhaps the last of a great breed.
Propaganda and racism are not new ideas
Propaganda has been around for as long as there are written records. In the 19th century, the American government took a cue from the British and began using mass media to spur its citizens to action. In the early 20th century, Woodrow Wilson hired journalists to help sway public opinion in support of the First World War. In recent years, our government has used propaganda to its advantage in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The search for balanced information is further challenged because bigotry and racism get magnified in economic downturns. It is all too easy for journalists to pander to an audience looking for someone to blame.
How is the average American supposed to get a balanced view?
Glenn Beck and other morons
I liked Glenn Beck better when he was still a drug addict. At least back then his absurd rants did not get confused with actual news.
Glenn Beck earns an astonishing $21 million per year by bombarding the American people via his radio talk shows, television's "Glenn Beck Show," his three books, and even a magazine he publishes. He is like Martha Stewart with a tear duct problem.
Childish pontificators like Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly on the right stand alongside guys like Keith Olbermann on the left, warping the credibility of journalists. They come to the table with an agenda.
News has become theater, and bad theater at that.
In a comedian we trust
After Walter Cronkite died, a recent poll named "The Daily Show"'s Jon Stewart as the most trusted newscaster, beating out names like Brian Williams, Katie Couric, and Charlie Gibson.
Satire is winning over "serious" newscasters. This speaks volumes about our nation's faith in the mainstream media.
How the hell does this relate to us?
My critics are going to have their fingers twitching to click the comment button and ask why this article is gracing the electronic pages of Online Publishing Insider.
The answer is really simple: we have the ability (and the societal obligation) to fix the problem.
The new, new community
We can fix the problem, because we control the audience.
Today's communities are no longer geographically based. The Web has brought together like-minded people to form communities centered on common interest and ideals.
We have an opportunity to use the Internet to educate Americans in unprecedented ways. We have the chance to use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to create small, trusted communities that can educate each other and serve as the filter.
The wisdom to protect our future
Allowing divisive, ignorant, and bigoted talking heads to control the public discourse is a huge mistake. To do so is tantamount to collectively accepting that we no longer value journalism.
As online publishers, we are the beneficiaries of the decline of newspapers and TV. In twenty years the overwhelming majority of communication via text, sight, and sound will flow through the Internet. Through our Web sites.
Soon, these idiots will be ouridiots. Are we going to choose pageviews over substance? Are we going to turn our backs on real journalism?
2009 is the year journalism died. Do we have the fortitude to bring it back from the dead?