Last night we finished watching season 1 of the HBO show The Newsroom. I totally loved it, not just because I'm a TV production nerd or guy with an unused journalism degree, but because it really stood for something (and the performances are amazing). I'll gush more about the show when we finish the series though. Right now I want to talk about reporting real news.
The first season takes place in 2012 at a fictitious cable news network. The evening anchor, played by Jeff Daniels, is a life-long Republican frustrated by two things. First, the GOP has been hijacked by the Tea Party into a nutty right-wing fundamentalist thing that is clearly hurting the country. Second, the news media indulges in the circus and never calls out the politicians for the shitshow that they've become. With his executive producer, they make it their mission to report facts, elevate the discussion and stop pandering to willfully ignorant people. The series starts with a bit of a meltdown he has when asked what makes America the best country in the world. (If you've never watched it, spend 8 minutes... it's a great reality check but there is an underlying hope that he conveys.)
That first season ends in a tear down of the Tea Party, based entirely on facts, and starting with the real reason behind voter ID laws. There are about a dozen things he uses to characterize what the GOP has become, and there's little question that it deals in facts. It makes you wonder, why doesn't anyone have the balls to do this? (Hint: Ratings, and it's a big piece of the story arc.) The closest thing we've seen to this over the years was John Stewart's The Daily Show, and that was supposed to be comedy.
Understand that I'm not suggesting that the Democrats are changing the world for the better either, but ask yourself: How does a president as mediocre as Obama get reelected? Obviously, he runs against a pool of candidates who have no policy positions and no plans, and are the very shitshow I described. The first season ends with the state of the GOP in 2012:
"Ideological purity, compromise as weakness, a fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism, denying science, unmoved by facts, undeterred by new information, a hostile fear of progress, a demonization of education, a need to control women's bodies, severe xenophobia, tribal mentality, intolerance of dissent, and a pathological hatred of US government."
No one calls them out for this. Why?
Ratings are certainly a part of the problem, but I've asked myself many times, why can't someone make a go of reporting facts and leave the bullshit behind? I'm sure there's a niche that could make a little money doing this, but I think the larger issue is that people aren't interested in hearing the facts.
If people really wanted this, I suspect it would be an end to "Facebook activism," politicians would all be far more centric than they are, and they would actually get something done.
Thinking it through, I always end up in the same place. We can blame the politicians, and the media that covers them, but ultimately the responsibility still lies with the people. Right now, the people choose nonsense. I pray that changes soon.