Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not So Reliable Sources

NOT SO RELIABLE SOURCES

The media as a whole has been transformed by cable TV. It began with CNN being very middle of the road but when it began there was no competitor to drive CNN in either direction. Today with Fox News on the right of CNN and MSNBC far to the left, CNN has attempted to stake out the middle with some success, although I view them as a left of center news organization that tends to lean further left when pushed.

As cable news became more prevalent the mainstream nightly news organizations have begun to change with NBC really leading the way in taking a solid political position on the side of the far left wing of the Democratic Party. This has forced other nightly news organizations to compete with them for the left of center viewers.

To prove to you that I’m probably the most boring person on the planet (well at least according to my wife and kids) when I’m home I’ll let you know that with the help of my cable provider and recording device, I’m able to watch Fox News Sunday, Face the Nation, Meet the Press and This Week every Sunday morning with my coffee and Vanilla creamer (like the political shows a once weekly treat). I believe it brings me balance to hear all sides of generally the same issues. As fate would have it, I have one 30-minute blank period of time during which I take in the first half of the CNN media watch dog show Reliable Sources (a show I get when stuck watching CNN International on Sunday evening when I’m overseas). I’ve always found this show to be an excellent piece of information and entertainment that did a great job in looking at how the media is dealing with the week to week issues by brining on several guests of varying backgrounds but mainly from the most prestigious media outlets which is meant to bring creditability to the show and usually does.

When the media is too focused on Britney Spears or Anna Nicole Smith’s death Reliable Sources has stood up and harshly criticized their own, when they would go over the top in their one sided coverage of an issue typically the show brought back us back to balanced factual coverage leaving out the inflammatory speeches that come with political talk shows that bring on partisan pundits, but over the past two weeks I’ve seen a dramatic change in the tone to the show at least as it pertains to the election coverage, which is making me wonder about the host (Howard Kurtz) and his ability to avoid going down the same road as the typical daily or weekly cable news shows or even the nightly news broadcasts by the big three.

It really began last week with the focus on Governor Sarah Palin, I thought finally some factual coverage on the potential Vice President instead of the normal nonsense about what she’s wearing or whether or not she’s really the mother of her youngest child or if her son looked terrified before deploying to Iraq but what did I get? I got a panel of three journalists doing the exact same thing. Here were three journalists acting like partisan pundits, with the two female guests rallying against Palin and her stands on abortion and the male guest trying to point out that she’s a great Governor who would be a great VP. I was gobsmacked by the exchange and saddened that the host would allow this on his show. The point of the panel was to point out how the media were being distracted by fluff and away from facts but there they (the host and panel) were acting like partisan hacks.

I decided this week that I’d watch again to see if it was a blip but once again (on the coverage of the economic bailout and the candidate’s responses and how the media covered the events) the panel of three esteemed financial journalists were taking partisan positions on which candidate had a better record on regulatory issues and had responded better to the issues. Again it fell 2-1 against Senator McCain with both of those journalists acting like Senator Obama’s spokesmen while the third journalist was doing the exact same thing for Senator McCain tearing apart each sentence out of Senator Obama’s mouth without regard for context or facts.

I’m going to give the show one more week to get back to its roots before I tune out and continue my search for just one show amongst dozens that is not tainted by its own biases or the biases of the host / network. Can such a show exist in today’s partisan climate with voters almost equally split between the two parties?

I really don’t know if they can but if Reliable Sources continues to Un-Reliable Sources it will have one less viewer each Sunday morning.

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