Opinions and Rants #34: News Channels and How Awful They Are

What the hell happened? Headline News is now nothing but a snarling Nancy Grace.  Fox News is basically a Republican megaphone.  CNN does absolutely no journalism; it specializes in senseless conjecture and witless talking heads.  MSNBC is just more talking heads trying desperately to counter Fox, and failing miserably.  If they were at least failing flamboyantly a la Keith Oberman, things might get interesting.

Sure, you dig deep enough, watch long enough, you're bound to come across some kernels of real investigative hard hitting reporting that doesn't insult the viewer's intelligence.... right? Don't answer.

How did we go from Cronkite to Glenn Beck at a chalkboard? Say what you will about Cronkite's political views, it was still "just the facts" with very little in the way of gimmicks and sensationalism.

I remember when talking heads were found on Sunday mornings via shows like Meet the Press, Firing Line and The McGlaughlin Group.  I seem to recall Crossfire with Pat Buchanan and Michael Kinsley being somewhat of a "new thing" by having the left and right battling it out.  No one emerges from the conflict enlightened and changed.  Instead, year after year, left and right fight it out, with no one EVER conceding that they were wrong. Never.  It's just a battle of wills. Not news.

I try to give these channels the benefit of the doubt, but I keep walking away disappointed.  Today, television news is just an unholy amalgamation of Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Glenn Beck, Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly, Nancy Grace and other non-journalists. And given the financial difficulties some of these networks are experiencing, it is evident that people are not tuning in any more (except Fox, of course).

This is not a good thing IMHO.  As people turn away from the boob tube, they either become completely removed from world events or they flock to blogs which compliment their views rather than challenge them.  Instead, a staunch conservative is NEVER going to hear a counterpoint or an unbiased report (likewise for the liberal).  The division between the two will widen as both sides migrate to blogs of similar perspectives instead of meeting collectively together each night in front of the TV.

No. You can keep your niche news blogs and Glenn Beck for an hour at a f***ing chalkboard. Give me Cronkite, Chancellor and Huntley-Brinkley for 15 minutes each evening and I'll be happy.


  1. Amen Brother! I miss those days as well. SInce Paddy Chayefsky saw this coming maybe he knows the answer to that elusive "why" question.

  2. While all your points of tele-journalism are quite valid, what is nagging me more is where those german newsroom proto-ponr shots you illustrated the story with came from?!

  3. where'd the pictures come from? Well, I made a pact with myself years ago that I would not post ANY contemporary images on Retrospace. It sort of takes you out of the retrosphere, if you know what I mean (just like Ted Dansen took me out of WWII in Saving Private Ryan).

    As to the pictures, the only ones I had of a newsroom in my vast vintage image database are from 70s German porn. Sad but true.

  4. The first poster was dead on. Paddy Chayefsky showed us almost 40 years ago where things were headed and he was dead on.
    News is not news anymore, it's entertainment. A fantastic example is Sarah Palin. She offers nothing at all of substance and is entirely unelectable but the media falls over itself following her every move because she's such a dingbat, they're just waiting for the next thing to fall out of her mouth so they have something to run with.

    The worst one out there these days is the nonsense about the liberal media elite. The media is anything but liberal - there is nothing out there in the states that really challenges anything about the status quo. I read better news about the States on the Guardian, the Telegraph and the UK Independent than anything here.

  5. AnonymousJune 03, 2011

    For the news that nobody else dares or cares to report:


  6. AnonymousJune 03, 2011

    "Quote" ~ Television isn't the Goddamn Truth, Television is a Damned Amusement Park - full of Side Show Freaks - Spin Doctors - Liars - because you people and 62 million other people are reading this right now - because less than 3% of you people read books - less than 15% of you read newspapers - the only Truth you know is what you get over the Tube - there is an entire generation that didn't know anything that didn't come out of that Tube - this Tube is the ultimate Gospel , the ultimate revelation , this tube can make ot break Presidents, Popes, Prime Ministers , this tube is the most gutless force in the whole goddamn World - and if it falls into the hands of the wrong people, and when the Biggest Media Company in the whole Goddamn World Controls the most Awsum Goddamn Propaganda Force who knows what Shit will be Spread over the Networks , Television is NOT the Truth -Television is a Goddamn Amusement Park, Television is a Circus a Carnival, a traveling troop of Acrobrats - Story Tellers , Dancers ,Singers, jugglers , side show Freaks , Lion Tamers , football players , were in the board room killing business - the only place your going to find any real truth is yourselves , you'll never get any Truth from us, we;'ll tell you anything you wanna hear & believe, we'll lie like hell, we'll tell you any kinda Shit you wanna hear , we deal in Illusions none of it is True , but you people sit there day after day, nite after nite,all ages, colors, creeds, were all you know , your beginning to believe the illusions were Spinning here , you think the tube is Reality, you do whatever the Tube tells you, you Dress like a Tube, think like a tube eat like a tube, its mass madness you Manics, in Gods name you People are the Real thing, WE are the "Illusion" !!! For those that must know, this is from the great Movie of 1976 NetWork !

  7. AnonymousJune 03, 2011

    I absoultely agree. I suggest going to Youtube and searching "CBS Newsbreak" or something like "NBC News" "ABC News" "CBS News" and then add a year from the '70s. (such as "NBC News 1976") and check out the wonderful footage from when news was taken and reported seriously.

  8. Screw TV news. Don't watch it.

  9. I dunno I think the Naked News is kinda keen, er raw, revealing. This is why the web must remain free. The news now comes from the bloggers, Vloggers, tweeters, who watch it happen. No one of these is enough. Todays truth in reporting comes from the amalgam of information and we can no longer trust one source (we never could) and must decide for ourselves what is really going on. I hope we can....History tends to repeat itself, etc.

  10. nanette rJune 04, 2011

    Gilligan, you are spot on about journalism these days, but you down shifted with the german porn :) as soon as i saw the pic i wanted to ask if she was wearing a mini! lol

  11. TV-news (and TV in general) is a three-year-old jumping up and down saying "Watch me! Watch me!"

    Gave it up for Lent one year - you'd be surprised how alien and strange it looks when you go back to it.

  12. "Fox News is basically a Republican megaphone"

    I always here this but have never seen any evidence of it. It is almost a liberal mantra that you must chant to keep your Kennedy Club Card. It is almost as if all you have to do is say it, for it to be true.

    That said, I agree with your conclusion. CNN fell down shortly after the first gulf war. MSNBC has been worthless on all subjects and has been reduced to just whining about FOX and not just trying to make themselves something to watch for its own sake.

    The problem is that 24 hour news does not mean you have a lot to talk about in that time. A story breaks, but it will take hours to get information, and hours still to the next piece.
    You will have nothing to talk about but keep talking anyway.

    They have not learned that it is OK to move on to another subject until you have something to talk about.

  13. That was supposed to be "HEAR" not "here."


  14. AnonymousJune 06, 2011

    "Fox News is basically a Republican megaphone"
    I always here this but have never seen any evidence of it.

    Exactly. No evidence. Except for Bill O'Rielly , Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Sheperd Smith, Neil Cavuto, Chris Wallace. etc, etc, etc.

  15. AnonymousJune 06, 2011

    And if FOX isnt the conservative voice in media, then who is?

  16. AnonymousJune 06, 2011

    " It is almost as if all you have to do is say it, for it to be true.

    You mean like here?:

    "I always here this but have never seen any evidence of it."

  17. AnonymousJune 06, 2011

    For those who Don't know - FOX NEWS CHANNEL is Owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns News Corp. Rupert Murdoch the owner of FOX NEWS is a very Staunch GOP Republican and back in 2000 was a heavy financial contributor to the then Bush / Cheny Presidential campaign, and the same news channel who already had Bush / Cheny declared the winners, before we found out how many votes weren't counted, and found out there were voting machines thrown in the river and more votes not counted and people being turned away from voting for all kinds of Hanious reasons ! Rupert Murdoch , Ken Lay (ENRON), Dick Cheny all have financial ties to the Diebold Corportation who makes the voting machines, which have been found by various investigations to be Hackable and change the votes to one side or the other ! If somebody can't tell that FOX NEWS, is Republi-goon Dominated News Channel - with their cast of characters, from Hannity, to O'reilly, to at one time Col. Oliver North, and other only Republican Zombies on there, than it definetly appears theres some un-intelligence and outright ignorance in somebodys brains, If you can't tell that the light is bright Red, and you run thru it anyway, thinking its yellow, green, or purple, you probably shouldn't even be driving in the 1st place !

  18. Name calling is an effective weapon for liberal minded individuals Crazy. I'll be the first to acknowledge that. If you can't come up with a decent argument, then calling a person a name, justified or not, seems to be the best form of attack. But that, in itself, does not make it true.

    I can call you Crazy, or Clown, but that, alone, does not verify your mental status or occupation. If you had presented a rational argument, I could then call you a chauvinist, or communist, or raciest, what ever social slur is in favor with political groups this week. But still, there would be no facts to augment the argument.

    "Anonymous" made three posts that I am sure would more than satisfy any group he normally would address. Yet in none of these posts did he support a single opinion.

    "Crazy" presented "facts" that I am sure are enough to justify his feeling that FOX is somehow more slanted to the right than is socially acceptable for a broadcast media.
    Yet not one "fact" could be used to say that Fox news leaned in any direction or that they have a specific history of leanings at all.

    Both Crazy and Anonymous simply made statements, and in their circles, that is supposed to be enough. Tell the story, tell it often enough, and people will just accept it. If asked for some sort of proof, just denounce the asker and shout louder.

    That is liberal discourse today.

    Fortunately it IS NOT the discourse of THIS site. As witnessed (proven) by Gilligan's latest Podcast.

    Well done Gilligan.

  19. AnonymousJune 07, 2011

    "Anonymous" made three posts that I am sure would more than satisfy any group he normally would address. Yet in none of these posts did he support a single opinion.

    Except here where I said: "No evidence. Except for Bill O'Rielly , Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Sheperd Smith, Neil Cavuto, Chris Wallace. etc, etc, etc."

    Thats more than opinion. It's fact. if you care to dispute it, than do so.....anytime you're ready.

    And here is where I asked you a direct question which you also have yet to respond to: "And if FOX isnt the conservative voice in media, then who is?"

    You can answer these any time you like, yet all you have done so far is make claims like this: "........Anonymous simply made statements, and in their circles, that is supposed to be enough."

    Who exactly are "my circles"? Are you claiming to know me or know my mind or who my circles are.....sure sounds like it.

    So now I am asking you two things: If FOX isnt the conservative media voice then why are the majority of thier hosts conservative?

    And if they are also not a conservative voice then who is?

    Those are questions. Not statements. Im not denouncing you, or shouting louder as you claim. I am asking you direct questions.

    It would be great if you could respond with answers and not avoidance.

    Thank you.

  20. AnonymousJune 07, 2011

    Actually, Lacey, I wanted to ask you another question...........what makes you think I'm a liberal?

    Looking forward to your answers.

    Thanks again.

  21. I generally agree with this blog post, although I'm inclined to give Jon Stewart a pass, seeing as much of The Daily Show is a critique of what a lousy job TV news does. Yes there's a liberal leaning, but the show does hold both sides' feet to the fire and for a comedy news show, they do quite a bit of fact checking. If nothing else, it encourages people to be wary.

  22. AnonymousJune 08, 2011

    A horrendous example of current problems with news occurred the other day when someone phoned in a "tip" about a mass grave of dismembered children in Houston. There was an aerial shot from a helicopter on Fox, "breaking news" alerts, and there was nothing (no graves or bodies) there. I'm surprised a lynch-mob didn't show up at the "non-cooperating" guy's house that was being shown on national tv. He was probably sitting in front of his tv looking at his own house as viewed from the skycam and saying "wtf???"

  23. Listen to ON THE MEDIA on NPR (or listen to the podcast like I do). The hosts admit to a left-leaning bias, but they allow all points of view on the show and they even brought people in to critique NPR News. It is the best mass-distributed media watchdog around and very entertaining.

    And I think it is unfair to lump Rachel Maddow in with the rest. She does the research and gets the facts. You may not agree with her interpretation, but she doesn't pull stuff out of her butt like most of the talking heads.

    The problems are not the hosts, but the executive editors who make the basic news decisions. Somebody says "Gravity is only a theory!" They put them on the air. Then they bring on a scientist who says, yes, scientists call gravity is a theory, because the word "theory" means something to scientists that is different from-- and then the host cuts them off and says, "Is there gravity or not? I guess we'll never know." That's journalism today.

  24. TrimegistusJune 14, 2011

    Walter Cronkite wasn't presenting "just the facts." He was giving the New York liberal spin on the news, but there was no alternative voice back then so he went unchallenged.