Checked-in over the last coupla days with an old friend, a book I hadn't re-read since 1983. & it showed me that no matter how high-tech we R now, TV news hasn't changed much.
I 1st read Michael Arlen's LIVING ROOM WAR (1969/1982) in journalism school, when I was researching how the media covers the military 4 a "term paper" I hadta write. Arlen's book shows clearly that TV news never got much of a handle on the Vietnam war, & we still don't really know What The Hell Happened. Maybe somehow we didn't WANT 2 know, cos we keep making the same kinds of mistakes in Iraq & Afghanistan. (Michael Herr's Vietnam-era psychedelic/autobiographical masterpiece DISPATCHES was my other research book -- I'll probly B re-reading it next.)
Arlen points out that TV news is VERY good on details. Where they mess up is the overview -- showing what all the little pieces added-2gether MEAN. TV news is still messing up in that area.
When I 1st read the book, mosta the political stuff went right over my head. This time around, I noticed Arlen's amusing look at "media consultants" (who have bn advising politicians about TV at least since the Kennedy/Nixon debates in 1960), which brot him 2 the conclusion that with the help of these high-tech advisers, "even someone like a movie actor could be elected president."
Hahahahaha. Pretty funny, right? & this is B4 Arlen even MENTIONS then-Calif Gov Ronald Reagan....
I know what you're thinking. This book sounds awfully dated. & it is, a bit. But just substitute current names 4 those Arlen uses, & the critiques still work.
Bsides, as Arlen points out, as the use of TV consultants grew, presidential candidates worried more & more about creating an "image" that voters could latch onto, something like a "real person" they could relate 2.
& as a result, Issues were talked about less & less.
& of course this is still happening.
When was the last time your favorite news outlet talked about Issues surrounding the current presidential campaign?
When was the last time you heard CNN talk about how the Republican presidential candidates plan 2 put 14 million unemployed Americans back 2 work?
It's bn MONTHS.
CNN & other daily news organizations R more locked-in2 who won the latest primary, & which candidate said something stupid this week.
Have you seen or heard NE news broadcast discuss the economy or jobs in-depth in terms of the presidential race lately? Have you heard them outline Mitt Romney's jobs plan? Or Rick Santorum's? Or Newt Gingrich's?
No. & do you know why? Because -- at least 4 the purposes of TV news -- they don't HAVE any plans. Look 'em up. I did. It's just rhetoric. The only thing all 3 agree on is tax cuts 4 the rich, under the assumption that the Xtra $$$ will create new jobs. Tho there's nothing in the current economic climate 2 guarantee that'll happen.
& if the rich corporation-owners Dcide 2 keep their Xtra tax $$$, then what?
Obama's no better. Even when he comes up with a jobs proposal, his own party in Congress stonewalls him.
As long as Congress remains a joke, it doesn't matter WHO's president. Nothing's going 2 change much. Americans should stop Xpecting their president 2 somehow "save" them or rescue them -- that sorta feeling was what got Obama elected in the 1st place. & tho I thot he had some good ideas, none of them have come thru in the way he'd hoped. The only thing left is his rather good speech-making abilities....
I would LOVE 2 C CNN or some other network sit down with the candidates & talk IN DETAIL about their plans 4 the future -- apart from winning whatever the next primary-state is. Talk about fixing the economy, putting people back 2 work, fixing Social Security & Medicare, keeping gas & food prices down, making it so people don't havta squeeze every dollar til it screams.
But TV news doesn't do that -- it's 2 busy focusing on Herman Cain's women problems, or Rick Perry's senior moment, or Mitt Romney's inability 2 connect with 1/2 of his own party.
& we all lose. TV news should take the chance 2 B BORING in order 2 do the public good. If the upcoming presidential election really is that important -- & 14 million unemployed people should make it the most important election we've had in awhile -- our media owes it 2 us 2 get us as well-informed as possible. Not just 2 discuss 4 days who's most likely 2 win Ohio....
...Oh, Arlen's book? It's the best, most detailed, most passionate, sometimes most angry book of TV criticism since Harlan Ellison's THE GLASS TEAT. There's even some laffs in it.
There's even a Romney in this book....