Why the Television “Newsmen and Women” have Been Reduced to “Personalities”


The first amendment guarantees ‘freedom of the press;’ a noble and necessary right to preserve democracy. However, today the press is no longer free; it is expensive. The advent of television and the focus on advertising revenue has resulted in morphing good journalists into ‘personalities.’

When television news began the three networks offered a 10 minute segment once a week. Competition resulted in 15 minute broadcasts each evening, which eventually evolved into 30 minute nightly broadcasts in the 1960’s.

The ‘stars’ of these broadcasts were credible journalists, including Chet Huntley and David Brinkley of the Huntley Brinkley Report on NBC, Douglas Edwards of CBS Television News, and John Daly of John Daly and the News on ABC. They led to the CBS’s addition of legendary newsmen Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

These men offered the facts about the events of the day, and allowed the viewers to form their own opinions. This was the democratic way to bring information to the general public. In general these broadcasts lost money for their networks. Advertisers saw no advantage in spending their dollars for information, which many Americans displayed little or no interest.

In the 1980’s all three networks began using satellite feeds to offer viewers news as it happened around the world. In 1980 Ted Turner began broadcasting a 24 hour news network, offered on cable television, and called it CNN, the Cable News Network. The broadcast networks began to lose ratings, which had steadily increased, and was adding additional income to the network’s profit margin.

In my opinion, this is when the value of the fourth estate began to decline. Competition for advertising dollars created new “news” programs, and new “news” networks. No longer were facts offered without opinion and innuendo.

Then in 1996 Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes created FOX News, or as I prefer to call it ‘FOX Noise.’ From the beginning it was obvious that this was nothing more than a right wing propaganda machine. The President of the news division, Roger Ailes, had a single goal; ratings; and ratings meant profit. Facts were of little importance as pages of disclaimers followed each broadcast. FOX hired young, blonde women to appear before the cameras without concern for their journalistic integrity.

Eventually all news broadcasts followed FOX’s example and news broadcasts are now the most profitable segments in their daily television broadcasts.

The fourth estate was once a protection offered to the American people guaranteeing that corruption in government by our elected officials was exposed. Today, the television media refuse to offer all of the facts, and although ‘equal time’ is required by the FCC for both conservatives and liberals, the manner in which they manipulate this rule displays bias. Their primary goal is to increase ratings at the cost of the full and accurate truth.

Here is the truth; news broadcasts were far better when they were only 30 minutes in duration; and ’24 hour news’ is not “new.” The American people do not need “Good Morning America,” or “CBS This Morning” to offer us a 90 minute broadcast with multiple ‘guests’ who offer the opinions of their party’s leaders. This is not ‘news;’ this is entertainment.

Because ratings are the priority, these new ‘news personalities’ barely scratch the surface of the truth. During the campaign season I shuddered as the networks allowed Kellyanne Conway, Mike Pence, and other Donald Trump surrogates to refuse answering direct questions and use the time offered them to campaign for their master.

Television “news” has assets unavailable to me and other ‘homegrown’ writers. They know the truth about Russia’s interference in our election, and the fact the Putin and Trump have enjoyed a long-standing relationship. They refuse to offer the truth for fear that well-known politicians from the right will refuse to appear on their sad little shows.

Yesterday the “news” broadcasts indicated that the meeting of Putin and Trump in Hamburg was a first. They know that this is not the truth.

In 2005, Trump held the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. There is little doubt that they met during that event. Christopher Steele wrote the “Golden Showers Dossier” depicting the activities of Donald Trump during his visit to Moscow in 2013. Whether you choose to believe the information contained in the papers or not, the fact remains that Trump was in Moscow meeting with several oligarchs, and undoubtedly met with Putin. This has been unreported on the ‘television news.’ Omission is a lie, and the primary reason why I refuse to watch ‘television news’ any longer.

Please re-post; thank you.

Op-ed by James Turnage


Photo Courtesy of Peabody Awards

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