When journalists become the news

Tucker Carlson; Don Lemon: Colleagues reportedly cheer their departure.

The FilAm Editorial

The classic definition of a journalist is that he or she is read, but not seen or heard.

That definition has of course been stretched beyond recognition by personalities who have taken outsized roles in the public arena.

They have helped define what is news and taken sides in issues where often, their mastery of those issues skates close to racism, ignorance or personal bias.

When Tucker Carlson in Fox and Don Lemon in CNN were dismissed from their platforms in those news organizations, the reaction of those who had experienced firsthand their arrogance was nothing short of gleeful. Accounts of the way Carlson and Lemon abused their positions as prime time anchors spread with alacrity, as if to justify the comeuppance many felt at the way their fortunes have been laid low. While holding no sympathy for Carlson and Lemon and their abuses of power and influence, maybe it is time for the media structure to return to some old-fashioned values.

Sixty years ago, people like Edward Murrow and Walter Cronkite delivered the news with an unvarnished precision dedicated to the idea of telling what happened — with no spin. There was no bombast. It was straight news and you get to make up your own mind. The person reading the news did not morph into someone who is the main character in the story.

On Monday evening in the last week of April, Carlson and Lemon led the network news by their unceremonious departure from their broadcasting perch. The day-after story narrated the breathless reaction of many of their colleagues who cheered their departure and humiliation.

As in a lot of things in this time and age, the way news is done reflects the defects of this period. There is a marked partiality toward feting celebrity, the more controversial and opinionated the more watched he is. Substance is, of course, lost for ratings.

One need look no further than the way Fox reacted in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden. The network’s commentator-journalists had to echo Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election because it was losing its audience. In effect, ratings trumped accuracy, and any pretensions of telling the truth were summarily abandoned.

The best way to repair the situation would be a return to values that were valid decades ago and still are today. Is that still possible? One would hope that decency would still matter in our hyper-partisan media universe. We are not optimistic though that this can happen given the proverbial nature of the media industry which produced a Tucker Carlson and a Don Lemon.

Most media these days has seen an utter lack of substance. It is depressing to note that valuable debates over policies often take place on PBS. What we got in firing Carlson and Lemon is a spectacle, a circus.

A deeper dive into the issues plaguing our media would serve our people better. That is the hope, but we know well that will not happen anytime soon, if at all.

© The FilAm 2023

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