Ex-News Director Looks at What’s Wrong with the News
by Chris McDaniel, Former TV News Director
I‘m an old school newsman and now-retired television news director, but I’ve remained an above-average analyst and more than casual observer of the contemporary news business. Up until about 20 years ago, the standards and practices of journalism were far different than today. My generation of journalists relied on shoe-leather and skepticism to dig up stories, as opposed to modern reporters who, far too often, are quite happy to substitute their own opinions and cheap, quick, internet cut-and-paste to shape their stories. They fit in quite nicely in the evolution of a news media which is more attuned to pandering to a particular political philosophy than to informing with facts (which includes Fox News), and who believe research means quoting today’s pop culture icons and relying on Hollywood rewrites of history, rather than studying and understanding histories and trends, be they local, national or global. “Fair and Balanced” has become a marketing ploy adopted by all, but not a journalistic creed.
I attribute that evolution over the past 20-odd years or so to two factors. The first is the dumbing down of educational standards across the board for decades in the USA, which finally produced the all-too-stereotypical common graduate who can’t read his own diploma and can’t tell you in which century the Civil War was fought. The second was the explosion of cable television followed closely in time by the internet, which together created the job opportunities for a badly educated population.
In short, the deficient educational system turned out poorly trained graduates to populate all walks of life, and that includes journalism, while internet and cable news expansions offered the opportunity to anyone with two working grey cells and an opinion to actually make a living at calling himself a journalist. The difference boils down to original thinking and the lack thereof.