News Programs Aren't

I used to watch the political shows like "This Week with David Brinkley" and "Inside Washington" believing that this would help me to understand what the government was up to. The problem was, I kept expecting the hosts to ask questions that mattered to those voters and taxpayers listening. I was constantly frustrated at the submissive attitude shown towards these guests and the softball questions asked. Why weren't these elected and appointed officials being asked the hard questions, the ones that would make a difference in our lives?

I have finally figured out the explanation. These shows are not produced in order to clarify public policy or to keep politicians honest or even to pass along information. If you want any of that, you'll have to read the few magazines and newspapers that still do investigative reporting.

No, these supposedly political programs have a much simpler and sadder purpose, one that they attempt desperately to keep you, the viewer, from figuring out.

The basic focus of these quasi news productions is not to discuss the issues but rather to insure that those in power have the ability to set the parameters of the discussion. This is the government's opportunity to speak about what they want you to know, about what they want the media to report and what they want you to feel is important. The government is well aware that there is no such thing as a "liberal press", anymore. The executives that control the airwaves and presses have been browbeaten into becoming mere stenographers, hastily writing down whatever the mouth piece of the moment says and then reporting it verbatim as if it were real news. These media executives are also scared to death that if they actually ask important questions, the political parties will just stop providing talking heads and their ratings will drop.

Anyone who watched even five minutes of the "reporting" from the Gulf War remembers the costumed military man telling the roomful of reporters what was happening and these same reporters writing it all down as if it was true. Have you wondered just how much of what was originally reported as fact has now been proven to be pure lies and double talk?

Would the amount of factual information been greater and the voter's reactions have been different if the media still employed the courageous reporters that covered the last three real wars? (I say "real wars" to differentiate WW II, the Korean and Viet Nam wars from the made for TV, one-sided military maneuvers in Grenada, Panama and the Gulf.) Would we even have gone into that place if the media had the courage to ask why the American Ambassador to Iraq told Saddam Hussein that America didn't care if he invaded Kuwait, a fact that the government then worked day and night to deny? Would the whole episode been necessary if the media asked earlier about the logic of arming a dictator for years and then going to war against him?

Is there really any doubt that the government did not want the spectacle of body bags being loaded onto trucks and helicopters, something that you knew was happening but were kept from seeing? It made the whole affair so sterile, as if we were just playing a video game where the bad guys die but not the guy with the quarters. The government even refused to divulge the massive amount of "collateral casualties", what used to be known as dead civilians.

The same is true every Sunday morning when the majority of these programs air. The hosts look somber while they ask only the questions that will not cause the discomfort in their guests that all of us in our living rooms are screaming for. "Please explain how your new program will benefit America" is asked when it should be "Why have you and your fellow officials allowed the economy to deteriorate to the point that a program such as this is now necessary?" "Please tell us what you have found in your investigation of the Democrat's fund raising activities" is asked when it should be "Please explain why both parties are engaged in illegal fund raising activities and why is the subject of Campaign Finance Reform no longer even discussed and when can we expect that to change?"

The truth is that neither the print nor the television media have any interest in putting out the energy needed to find and publish the facts. They prefer to act like two legged tape recorders and political lap dogs and print whatever information is easiest to find and offends the least number of politicians. When given the opportunity of a news program with guests who supposedly are on the inside of decisions that affect all of America, they take the easy way out every time. How sad. How very useless.

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Copyright 6/20/97