Monday, July 13, 2009
How desperate can the media be that this morning’s Today show* allocated an entire segment, not just to the subject of why Governor Palin resigned – which is old news already – but to a live, in-studio interview with Levi Johnston to find out what the biological, but otherwise absentee father of her daughter’s child thinks about it?
Not to be critical of Mr. Johnston, far from it, but he’s hardly a reliable, unbiased source on the subject. Does anyone really care what he thinks? (By the way, that question – “Does anyone really care what he thinks?” – is the one that usually occurs to me whenever I hear someone interviewing Karl Rove, so Levi shouldn’t think I’m singling him out.)
Once again it raises an interesting question about the news: Is it the chicken or the egg? Is it that people care so much about Sarah Palin – who I like for the freshness she brings to politics – or is it that people in the media is fixated on her story for reasons having to do with their own points of view?
The media is supposed to tell the stories of our time in proportion, not just to levels of public interest, but to their importance which, admittedly, is hard to judge. What they’re not supposed to do is make the news, advertently interjecting their own opinions by virtue of what and how they present it. Keep us informed, to be sure, but do it objectively.
Today’s media, television news in particular, is so all pervasive, so constantly on in the background, that it’s hard for editors and reporters to tell any story without allowing the process to be influenced by their own thinking. Every decision they make, however grand, subtle or even subconscious, counts. Air time is everything. The nuances and duration of exposure can be career making or breaking. Add to the inherent power of electronic media the demands of competition and profit-making, it’s a miracle the media isn’t completely out of control.
One thing’s for sure, it can’t be easy being a journalist nowadays.
*See the video
“Fame went to Palin’s head,” Levi Johnston says.