Today’s broadcast and cable’s "chattering class" would do well with an injection of Murrow’s humility. Unfortunately, humility does not get ratings, and ratings are the lifeblood of profit.
"Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean
you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the
bar." Edward R. Murrow
Television’s iconoclast, Linda Ellerby, once described local reporters as having "blow-dried brains." Today, those blow-dried brains have fused with the loud mouth, inventing a new form of journalism, the opinion show.
Hosts ranging from Chris Matthews to Bill O’Reilly, Janeane Garofalo to Michael Savage are running game shows. The contestants are partisan pundits trying too win by being the loudest and throwing the most invective, never letting the facts get in the way of a good argument. The losers are the American public who faces a bewildering barrage of misinformation.
In its infancy, television news followed the lead of print journalism. Reporting, who, what, where, when, and why, while avoiding opinion and speculation. Reporters acted like "Dragnet" Detective Joe Friday who only wanted "Just the facts’ ma’am."
It was an honorable profession, trying to follow the dictum that democracy only works with an informed public.
News was considered a "loss leader" part of operating in the Public Interest, demanded by the Federal Communications Commission.
That all changed as local stations and networks were bought by large Corporations who demanded profit be the bottom line. News ceased to be a "Loss leader" and became a "Profit center."
Television news has gone from Edward R. Murrow’s "Harvest of Shame" to Martha Stewart’s "Harvest of Fame"
Fortunately, today we are not limited to three networks and any talk radio. Americans have a plethora of ways to get the news. Cable has brought hundreds of sources and the Internet millions.
Now the problem is the American Citizen. While we have all these sources of information, viewers would rather sit in their easy chair, a beer in one hand and a snack in the other, watching sports or mindless programing on what has truly become the "Boob Tube."