I had some fun stirring the local media pot again this week. On Wednesday, the State Journal printed my letter to the editor about the difference between talk shows and news. And again, I heard from a lot of my friends in the media, but this time, unlike my rant against the extremes of the local weather mavens a week ago, they were unanimous.
People just don’t know the difference between news and opinion any more.
In the Saturday State Journal, there was a letter to the editor from a Verona man who was annoyed that Sly was loudly heckling Tommy Thompson’s speech at the tea party event, and the man wrote “how can we trust his reporting?”
My old pal Sly is many things…rabble-rouser extraordinaire; bad-boy; road-rager; and the most enduring talk-show host this market has ever known. But I know Sly well enough, after having sat across the glass from him in an adjoining studio for over a decade, to know that not even Sly would call himself a “reporter”.
So I wrote a letter to the editor of the State Journal pointing out that there used to be a fairly bright line between talk show content and news content, but blowhards like that braying ass Limbaugh, who egomaniacally calls himself “America’s Anchorman”, have dimmed the line. There’s a big difference between talk shows…which are entertainment and opinion….and news, which is fact-checked journalism.
Before you call me a hypocrite, please bear in mind that for all the years I was on WTDY, I was careful to label every one of my newscasts “news and comment”. And the newscasts I did for decades on Q-106, Magic 98, The Lake (rest in peace), and other Mid-West stations, were straight-down-the-middle reporting: no slant, no comment, nothing but facts, written and delivered in what I’d like to think was a lively and conversational fashion, but totally free of opinion and comment. Even when I would pinch-hit on JJO, doing news for Johnny and Greg, it was lighter stuff appropriate to the audience, but not commentary or opinion.
After the paper ran the letter Wednesday morning, my e-mail in-box started to fill up with comments from many of my friends in the local radio and TV news biz, agreeing heartily with what I’d said, and decrying the corruption of “news” by outfits like Fox. Some writer pals of mine on Linked-In sent messages commenting positively on my letter, and some Facebook friends sent messages saying, in essence, “Amen”.
Is there a liberal bias on network TV news? I think so. Dumb Dan Rather did a lot to drag down the credibility of network TV news in his tenure at the anchor desk.
But to think that Sly, Vicki McKenna, or Mitch Henck, all of them friends of long-standing, are doing “reporting” or “news” – please. Every one of them clearly shows their bias day after day on the air, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s ENTERTAINMENT. And every one of them is really good at it. Vicki and Mitch both have a solid background in news, and they’ll be quick to identify the difference between what they’re doing now, and what they used to do.
It’s just that so many people are so lazy, or just plain stupid, that they don’t know the difference.
That’s why we have the kind of politicians we deserve.