Friday, October 10, 2008

As Always, Columnist James Wolcott
Sums It All Up in a Brilliant Little Riff

'Journalism used to perform a higher civic function than it does today, so spanked up is it with gaffes, gotchas, spin-doctoring, celebrity pimping, crisis-mongering, minnow-brained punditry, drama criticism practiced from under the troll bridge (usually at the expense of Democrats—Al Gore’s sighings during the debate with George Bush, Hillary Clinton’s “cackle”), and instant amnesia. To watch archive footage of TV reporters from the black-and-white era with their measured intonations and ashen visages—before everybody burst into Michael Kors orange—is to crack open the crypt on a more responsible, somber, and, yes, duller era, when journalists still conducted themselves as a priestly caste serving the needs of an informed citizenry, as opposed to catering to cud-chewing dolts. Those days are gone and there’s no point in mourning them, the Walter Lippmanns and similar wise men (and women) having proved worse than useless when the Vietnam War sawed the country into two with its lies and delusions. But the intelligent drone of old-school journalism served to extend a support bridge through national trauma, the term “anchorman” symbolic of the media’s role in securing coverage of the news with weight and authority, a fixed point in a sea of raging foam. Now it’s all raging foam, a steady, indiscriminate diet of excitation to keep us permanently on edge.'
--from Wolcott's column in the November Vanity Fair. You can review earlier mentions of Wolcott here, and sample his blog here.


At 10:43 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Couldn't agree more.

The 900 lb. gorilla in the room that no one wants to seem to talk about is that journalists are no longer trusted because they're no longer seen as objective or non-partisan, much less as anchors in the flood. Even CNN has revealed lately how far into partisanship it's swung since Turner was ousted. Folks out here in the real world see this all as spin, as lies covering other lies, and the media as very very much complicit in the problem, and actively contributing to it rather than trying to overcome it.

At 12:52 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You said it. I find that idiot MSNBCer Keith Olberman as unwatchable as the idiot CNNer Lou Dobbs, for those very reasons. Just report what's happening and let me decide what to think about it, folks. You're absolutely right to trace CNN's slow demise to the ouster of Ted Turner, who cared more about democracy, good governance and the common good than he did about chasing after cheap ratings. When they got rid of Aaron Brown's wry intelligence and light touch, you knew things were headed downward. The sad part is, CNN is now the gold standard in cable news, and the rest descend from there. CNN does just enough right for me to remain hopeful: like keeping the laser-sharp walking encyclopedia of politics John King central to their coverage. He tends to keep the others honest, because I think they take their lead from his intelligence, intellectual honesty and plain-spoken truth-seeking and spin-resisting. Weak people inevitable take moral guidance from those with stronger character and greater moral seriousness, even if they don't necessarily recognize they're doing it.


Post a Comment

<< Home