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Hard news struggles to break out


Sarah Palin stuns political world by announcing resignation as governor of
Alaska on July 3  (AP Photo/The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Robert DeBerry)

It was tough going for hard news addicts last week as the Michael Jackson story and the drama of lovesick South Carolina governor Mark Sanford dominated the cable news talk shows, but there was hope for the following week as these events lost their primetime luster.  And then Sarah Palin stunned the political world with a bizarre speech in which she announced her resignation as governor of Alaska, in a quaking voice that changed pitch disconcertingly amid muffled giggles, alarmingly enough so that some observers, myself included, wondered if she were having a nervous breakdown.  Fortunately, she managed to navigate through the muddled, confusing and disorganized script without serious mishap. 

One suspects her decision was abrupt, perhaps spontaneous, the final straw after a merciless, nearly year long  battering from the media, especially the liberal blogosphere. She was clearly nervous, upset and bewildered as she spoke, alternating between squeaky incoherence and misty-eyed tears. It was painful to watch. I felt sorry for her.  I have never understood why liberals waste so much time bashing her.  It seems so unnecessary and cruel. 

But whatever prompted her shocking announcement, the foibles of Sarah Palin continue to saturate television news and commentary as they have since her debut on the national political scene at the Republican convention last summer.  And so, it was all Sarah Palin as I clicked on the prime time shows yesterday, and just as quickly turned them off, resigned to another evening of tabloid news occasionally punctuated by a segment on health insurance or something equally stuffy.  I've said before that I don't have a problem with tabloid journalism.  It's fine.  It's just one more form of entertainment, to take our minds off the daily grind.  But what I do take exception to is that tabloid news has overtaken what are supposed to be real news shows, cannibalized them, like a virulent, deadly cancer, until there is virtually nothing left for geeks and nerds to chew on.

Certainly the death of Michael Jackson, the disappearance of Mark Sanford, the resignation of Sarah Palin are all legitimate top news events.  It is the aftermath, the incessant, relentless obsession with the personalities, the sideshows, the panels of pundits paraded out before us, endlessly speculating beyond the established facts and evidence, on program after program, day after day, until we want to scream for mercy, that is so appalling. 

Of course, the antidote is simple.  Turn the damn tv off or change the channel.  I do that.  All the time.  The problem is, there is no alternative.  You watch tabloid news, or you don't watch the news at all.  You'd think there would be a market for more substantive programming, but if there were, someone would have capitalized on it.  It's not a conspiracy.  It's about the bottom line, what people want to watch, the ratings.  Fortunately, we have newspapers and the Internet, where you can get your daily dose of serious stuff. But how nice it would be if, at the end of a long day, one could watch real experts - not political strategists and pundits - discuss the real issues of our time, without having to dig it all up, as one has to do on the Internet.

And even the Internet can let you down.  When I first turned to the liberal blog of record this morning - The Huffington Post, which I really enjoy and think is outstanding on the whole - the headline leaping out at me was "OBAMA RESPONDS TO BIDEN ECONOMY REMARKS."  Here we go again.  Vice President Joe Biden sticks his foot in his mouth, as is his wont, and the media jumps on it like it was the sinking of the Titanic, when it was nothing but a stray and ill considered remark on one of those ubiquitous Sunday morning talk shows.  Biden said, "We misread how bad the economy was," and the gotcha police came pouring out of the woodwork.  And now Obama has to come forward, put out the political fire, explain what Biden really meant to say, and there goes another 24 hour news cycle lost to trivia.  So instead of the economy being the story, Biden's gaffe is the story.  The pundits will debate whether Biden really meant what he said,  whether Obama's explanation is sufficient, and whether the pair can get their act together in the future.  Borrring. 

I'm hoping that by the time the MSNBC lineup with Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow rolls out tonight, this contrived controversy will have lost its legs.  But somehow I doubt it.  Then again, there is the Michael Jackson memorial and Sarah Palin career speculation to wade through, so maybe that story will be crowded out.

I don't, by the way, sit glued to the tube for four hours every weeknight, watching these shows.  They are on and off as I go about my business, and tune in here and there to a segment of interest.  I haven't quite reached the point where I need to get a life.  Yet.


  • Joe 5 years ago

    I do wish Sarah would just go away. Why does conservatism today pander to the common man (or woman) that Sarah represents? Do we really aspire to be an undereducated, unsophisticated, thin-skinned group of religious zealots? That is not being conservative. Sarah is not a conservative, though she certainly may be a Republican.