Thursday, April 17, 2008

Brought to you by Disney

I don't even watch TV for the news (OK, I watch The Daily Show), so my expectations are pretty low. But in a moment of weakness I turned on the Clinton/Obama debate last night. I'll admit that there's a certain car crash mentality to my interest. Given all the recent "gotcha" moments in the primary campaign, I wondered how things were going to go for Hillary and Barack. What I saw, though, shocked even me. Clinton slung as much mud as she could Obama's way. Obama took the high road, criticizing the very process that had created mud slinging in the first place. This I expected. But the moderators from ABC news (i.e, Disney), Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, jumped the shark. I expected gotcha, one-note political questions, but when Gibson suggested the Obama wasn't patriotic or when Stephanopoulos brought up Obama's association with a former member of the Weather Underground, it was practically laughable. Clinton was falling all over herself to try to keep scooping up all the mud they were throwing her way. Obama just looked more and more weary. Even when they gave him an opening to criticize Clinton for some recent untruths, he refused, suggesting that maybe this wasn't a substantive way to pick a president. If I were him, I'd leave the political process to those shallow people who thrive in it.

The only question I have left is whether ABC news' bottom-feeding performance is more related to their chase for ratings or their fear of political change.

From a journalist's perspective, Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News responded to the debate this way:

Quickly, a word to any and all of my fellow journalists who happen to read this open letter: This. Must. Stop. Tonight, if possible. I thought that we had hit rock bottom in March 2003, when we failed to ask the tough questions in the run-up to the Iraq war. But this feels even lower. We need to pick ourselves up, right now, and start doing our job -- to take a deep breath and remind ourselves of what voters really need to know, and how we get there, that's it's not all horse-race and "gotcha." Although, to be blunt, I would also urge the major candidates in 2012 to agree only to debates that are organized by the League of Women Voters, with citizen moderators and questioners. Because we have proven without a doubt in 2008 that working journalists don't deserve to be the debate "deciders."

1 comment:

Kevin Marzahl said...

I can barely stomach the news anymore. I keep reading the NYT, the Guardian, and alt.weeklies...but I'm on the verge of just ignoring it all. There's too much stupidity to comment on, and, besides, plenty of people are filling up the comments sections with smart criticism; of course, that hasn't changed the reporting a bit, that I can see. It just reminds me of Benjamin: fascism offers everyone the chance to express themselves.