By: Jonathan S. Hogue ~Opinions & Editorials Editor~
There was a time when the media was important. Americans could turn on the evening news and see balanced, straightforward reporting from men and women who saw their jobs as a vocation for the public. Sadly, the era of concentrated reporting is over.
Following the introduction of 24-hour media, the news now looks more like a circus than a dignified place for debate and discussion. News reports regurgitate facts and take little time to find the issues in stories that are important to the public.
Without making people think, media outlets use misleading titles, flashy sets and useless polling tactics to make a situation more newsworthy than it is. An example of this mediocrity can be found whenever someone watches a political segment.
Bluntly, Americans are lazy citizens. We have spent trillions of dollars on foreign wars, lost thousands of lives and changed political parties over the fight to spread democracy around the world. Yet, Americans won’t vote for representatives, attend a town hall meeting or even speak with campaign volunteers at their doorstep about civic issues.
It is a shame that stubborn attitudes are acceptable with the lowering of political goals, but it is partly because media pundits encourage the buffoonery.
The 2016 presidential race will not be decided by issues. It will be decided by polls and misguided rhetoric. Before a candidate can even speak on television, stations run hundreds of polls gauging how Americans like a person’s hair, their tone or a speech a random “expert” deems a gaffe on several news outlets. Instead of provoking dialogue on the issues that matter, media outlets use these tactics as the only way of deciding what the public thinks.
Polls, like the electoral process, are unreliable. Media pundits should use their platforms to discuss issues that will not fade away. A poll is a limited resource that guides public thought, but is not the only factor in citizens’s deciding process.
People should hear about a candidate’s record, how their experience will aid in their ability to govern or how the public must act in order to make intended reforms a reality. Americans should not care about who a candidate slept with in college, what illegal drug they tried in the 1970s or what voters in Iowa think about the color of Hillary Clinton’s pant suits. They do not matter at all to the issue of governance.
In countless instances, media outlets discuss a person’s flaws, but they rarely discuss the good in leaders and public institutions. I blame a lazy citizenry for most of our country’s ills, but I also blame a complacent media for encouraging behaviors that are not befitting of a 21st century democracy.
Walter Cronkite was respected because he told you the news. If a person wanted tawdry details about a person’s life, they picked up a “National Enquirer.” But, if an individual wished to hear about the issues of the day and properly inform themselves, they watched the news.
Not everything in the public should be commercialized. Discussion about important issues should not be determined by ratings and online subscriptions. Reporters have an obligation to leave the hysteria to reality shows and inform the public about the things they need to hear and do not want to hear.
As educated citizens, you have no excuse to live a life in ignorance. The digital age brings information, good and bad, directly to your fingertips. It is the role of competent adults to distinguish credibility from crap, and retain information that creates a more realistic view of the world around us.
Sadly, I do not see the media changing anytime soon. Americans are creatures of habit and will not change unless something bad happens. Until a scandal occurs that causes the media to internally reform its habits, we will continue to hear crap from talking ideologues that present little substance to existing debates. It is sad that as the nation progressed, we lost our sense of credibility in the process.
Walter Cronkite has passed, but there are some individuals who see reporting as an important job to the public. Do the job our media outlets will not: Take the time to review the information that is given to you. You will find life is better lived.