Friday, October 3, 2008

The Out of Control Media

As the presidential campaign accelerates, and Senator McCain continues his relentless assault on the "mainstream media," it has become clear that we are living in an era that is far too dominates by the media. It was Herbert Hoover who as Secretary of Commerce between 1921 and 1928 guided the birth and development of the radio industry, America's first electronic medium. Hoover, while normally a small government man, believed that the electronic media was a danger to the country and needed to be carefully regulated. The central tenet of his thinking was that the airwaves belonged to the people and that anything heard over the air must be for the public good.
How far we have strayed from that ideal. The culprit: 24 hours a day time to fill on too many cable channels. The need to sustain a steady flow of content has led the American media to lower standards--not expectations--and that has led to a bevy of commentators who tell us their opinions, which comes across to an ususpecting public as news and information. This week has been a grotesque example of what Hoover warned against. As the economy teetered, cable channels, talk radio, and even network TV was inundated by the endless chatter of financial experts who not only gave their openions couched as news, but then went on to say that they knew how the American public wanted Congress to vote on the bailout package (yes, I mean you Lou Dobbs). Hubris has overtaken honesty.
But, as coverage of the financial crisis was frightening, the coverage of the Biden/Palin debate was farcical. The expectations for the Governor were lowered and raised so many times that no one knew what to expect. Doesn't the media understand that each time they talk about the expectations and where they are they themselves are altering the story? Gone are the days when the electronic media reported the news; now they cover it in a blanket of bloviation!
Hoover was wrong on the economy, but right when he told us to fear the electronic media. Watch out!

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