Let’s keep this thread going for the moment and write about news. Walter Lippmann was a respected writer and journalist of the early 20th century. His book, Public Opinion, gave us a wonderful definition of news.   “News is a portrait of reality on which men ( citizens) can act.” Lippmann saw news as the fuel of democracy. News has utility, he argued. You cannot use your franchise well unless you understand your world.

Cronkite and many others understood and believed that. That value was built into broadcast news, codified by the FCC and taken seriously. When Reagan decontrolled broadcasting, the monkey was off broadcaster’s backs. They did not need to be told twice that they were free of public obligation.

The medium is largely an entertainment device now. And there is little sense of public responsibility today. Politicizing cable news and allowing networks to assume political identities is merely an extension of their efforts to manipulate the marketplace and search for revenue. Today, the purpose of news is to just make money.

Distressing? Yes. Structural? I am afraid so. I think the fake news label is largely a term used to muddy the waters and divide us. It should not be taken seriously.   The news media is not our enemy. But news is not our friend either. It only is big business.

23 Responses to News

  1. Yvonne March 14, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    Thank you for that clarification. I’m not a journalist nor do I play one on TV so I appreciate you walking us through how we got here. I will definitely be using this information in all my conversations about how ridiculous these 24 hour news outlets have become and how they have tainted how we view journalistic integrity. I refuse to call most of the cable channels “new”. I tell people they are entertainment sprinkled with information. Me I have proof!

  2. Yvonne March 14, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

    One more thought. The “medical breakthroughs” we see covered by the major media outlets are usually money makers for big pharma. We know who is paying for all those commercials on their networks so the journalist/entertainment anchor can get those big salaries. This breaking “news” story has been brought to you by (insert drug here). We’re screwed as no one is reporting on real healthcare because it’s not profitable for the the business of news. 🙁

  3. CP March 14, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

    My hope (there’s that word again) is that there are still journalists that think like Lippmann and Cronkite. Journalists that ask the hard questions and tell stories without bias and let the viewer discern the truth. Journalism seems to parallel healthcare. Both have traded integrity and doing the right thing for increasing the bottom dollar. Conscientious workers can make a difference as long as they can sustain their integrity in the midst of being pressured to focus on the almighty dollar.
    If anyone can point me to an unbiased national news show, I’ll gladly watch. I think The Simpson’s show said it best on a billboard stating “FOX News. Not racist but number 1 with racists”.

  4. Brian L. March 14, 2017 at 10:47 pm #

    Geez, I just did some reading about the fairness doctrine and what led to its repeal. It’s NOT reassuring. I was only 22 in 1987 and was too young and preoccupied to care. Thanks Richard, I understand the big news picture much better now. Not that I’m going to be able to sleep better. (Sigh)

  5. Christopher March 15, 2017 at 7:36 pm #

    I always found my news everywhere, then went to authoritative sources (read as: libraries) and used critical thinking to comb through the detritus to get to the truth. I like watching Charlie Rose on PBS, and have for about 18 years. Morning news shows are just ridiculous, and evening news is just one step away from obscene with the ‘bad’ news that really only appeals to prurient interest (that includes graphic violence). The whole “if it bleeds, it leads” scenario has far-reaching consequences beyond making people feel queasy. It’s destroying our sense of commonality, and desensitizing us all to the horrors of our world. It’s absolutely correct about the monetization of the news, and it’s both sickening and frightening. Do you think Mr. Lippman was a big fan of Benjamin Franklin?

    I miss seeing Walter Cronkite on 60 Minutes, when my parents used to watch it every Sunday.

    • Richard Cohen March 17, 2017 at 9:22 am #

      You are a smart news consumer. You have to be. Switch around and shop. Survival of the smart. People who watch television only and think they know our world are fooling ourselves. And read a decent newspaper.

      I hate to tell you this, but Walter never was on 60 Minutes.


      • Chris March 18, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

        Really? Then I’m fighting a horrible memory war. I could swear I used to see him narrate 60 Minutes segments. Sorry for the faux pas… I try to be accurate.

        • Richard Cohen March 20, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

          Please. No problem. Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner were the originals. Cannot offend them now.


  6. Jan March 15, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

    Either I am just getting older and noticing more, or many things have changed, or both… but it seems as if about everything around me is all about making money.

    I like morning news visuals but do better with my WSJ and quiet.

    And at times I miss my hoppity hop, then interoffice mail.

  7. Jan March 15, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

    And by that I do not think that ignorance now is wise, but at times I think about what it was like to truly know less about life.

    For me now, it’s more about being aware and making choices.

  8. Louisa March 15, 2017 at 10:05 pm #

    That was informative, Richard. Thanks. When I try to educate my Trump supporting relatives and acquaintances with facts – real provable facts – I am starting to get retorts like “the news is made up, statistics are fake” This seems to be a new trend -willful ignorance and refusal to believe anything that does support one’s views. It’s scaring me.

    • Richard Cohen March 17, 2017 at 9:28 am #

      Fake everything is part of the Trump strategy. I have given up on Trump voters. They cannot go with reality.Their eyes will open when they lose medical coverage and older relatives go hungry.


  9. Louisa March 15, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

    I meant does NOT support one’s views..

  10. Chris March 16, 2017 at 4:59 am #

    That seems to happen with science as well, which is why we’ve fallen far behind in the world in STEM education. It’s also where the anti-vaxers came from, and really stupid internet billboards with total malarkey like drinking water for heart attacks. Sorry if that’s a little off subject, but just trying to show the ignorance is really pervasive. The saddest part is scientists sabotaging each others’ research papers with bogus critiques. It makes it exponentially harder to get published–which is the gold standard for science that’s ‘accepted’–and we all suffer for it. You would think science and science news would be held to a higher standard… not in today’s world. It’s bad enough with totally inaccurate scientific information passed off as fact all over the internet, including social media. But when the news media passes along the misinformation with authority, it’s time to call them on it and cull the flock.

  11. Pat Harper March 16, 2017 at 6:37 am #

    It would seem that the veneer of mandate that has been worn by the current occupant of the White House is wearing thinner every day. I, for one, am heartened to see that the separation of powers, severely tested, is functioning. Lies, misdirection and incompetence are being exposed and that’s how it is supposed to work. Already the specter of 2018 loom for those terrified of being caught on the wrong side of certain issues.

  12. Chris March 16, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    But are they really scared? I don’t see the rats jumping ship… they seem to be huddling together in the galley gorging themselves, and ordering all the ‘smarty-pants’ crew and passengers to be thrown overboard.

  13. Dale March 17, 2017 at 12:36 am #

    My lab’s research is 100 percent soft money. Our mission is and has always been separation of natural processes versus anthropogenic impacts relative to ecological degradation in the coastal zone. We conduct large long-term studies using whole ecosystem approaches based on decades of basic research. The focus has always been data over dollars.

    Enter a new era of funding constraints and the typically successful peer review approach starts to become more competitive and sometimes nasty. Those that sensationalized research data not completely vetted to garner additional funding usually get called out on it but not before some level of damage is done. Well meaning consulting companies that now see rising costs to support their employees are selectively mining data to support this development or that. What was originally an altruistic mission to help save our little corner of the planet has become for many now a total focus on the bottom line. It is rather sad for those of us trained under old school scientists. We really are a dying breed.

    • Yvonne March 18, 2017 at 12:22 am #

      Dale thanks for giving me additional ammunition for my discussions about funding for research in this country . We use to be the innovators. Now we follow the bouncing dollar sign. So sad. No money in the cure. The money is in the comeback (a drug dealers view).

  14. Dale March 20, 2017 at 12:14 am #

    It really does depend on the research. But look at the breakthroughs that came from funding via The Ice Bucket Challenge. Meanwhile how long did it take for the NHL to admit that yeah, there can be serious long term traumatic head injuries in sports sometimes and you have to be careful especially with the kids. I.E. politics and special interests can skew the direction of government funded research but even more worrisome are the for profit companies that are more worried about the bottom line. There are some really good scientists at a lot of these pharmaceutical companies but the corporate managers tend to be businessmen worried about the bottom line. It’s hard to know where to draw the line these days.

  15. Jan March 21, 2017 at 9:52 pm #

    I usually have two books out… (ahem, Richard, one soon enough should be yours)…

    I am a LinkedIn follower of Travis Bradberry and am now reading his somewhat oldie, yet really goodie, book that is fully worthwhile. His posts seem helpful, yet intuitive; the book is more directly practical.

    Have short bursts of time? (Short paragraphs abound). I love the practical approaches:

    Emotional Intelligence 2.0

  16. Jan March 28, 2017 at 7:07 am #

    Chris, thank you for sharing that link of her very inspirational story.

    We here are stuck in some ways but rather free in others.

  17. Jan March 28, 2017 at 7:12 am #

    And since I don’t think I can edit my post, here I think technically the word is actually “freed” with a “d”… also think about what that can means to each.