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The 24-hour news cycle, and the morphing of the mainstream news and information media into something just short of tabloid journalism may eliminate any chance this country has of ever electing a truly great president again.  How can it be otherwise when a candidate's every comment and every gesture and every flaw is put under a microscope while the important issues of the day are viewed by the media as nothing more than boring afterthoughts, something to be covered absent a more titillating story?  

Ratings have replaced responsibility as the heart beat of the news media; integrity is no longer the benchmark of success, advertising revenue has taken its place.  As a result, instead of detailed accounts of a candidate's views on the myriad topics facing the next president, we are treated to a year-long soap opera, with all the inherent melodrama, gossip, and inuendo.  What a tremendous disservice to the country.  The votes of many will be based solely on the shallow observations of biased pundits, or on the over-inflated opinion of newspeople desperate to make a name for themselves.

Making matters worse, information is easily disseminated today, making the news media's responsibility (or lack thereof) even greater.  All it takes is one news outlet posting a flimsy, shallow, titillating story, and soon, all outlets have the story, running it to death, even if it's not factually true (such as the McCain story in the New York Times about a month ago). As long as one outlet is running with the story, it must be news! Then, if the website or network posting that initial story gets a surge in hits or ratings, spiking the ad revenue, money, money, money, other sites or networks try to replicate the feat, digging for anything and everything that might do the trick.  How is today's candidate supposed to survive this kind of coverage?

How would some of our country's most celebrated presidents have fared in today's news coverage?  Would this country have elected a crippled president?  What would today's media say about an ugly, unrefined candidate?  

I can almost hear Chris Matthews commenting on George Washington:

"What's with this guy?  He never smiles.  He may have given this country its freedom, but people want a president they can talk to. He doesn't seem approachable. He doesn't look like the kind of guy you'd want to have a beer with.  And what about his teeth; who wants a president with smelly, wooden teeth?  That's disgusting."

Or, how about Abraham Lincoln:

"With me now is Pat Buchanan.  Pat, what do you think about this guy Lincoln."

"Chris, there is no way that Lincoln can connect with the average voter.  I mean, have you heard him speak?  That high, whiny voice of his, ha, ha, ha.  That may play in Illinois, but I'd like to see him try to go to Altoona, Pennsylvania.  It just won't play there."

"Some say that he's too odd looking, Pat; what do you think."

"I think they're right.  He just doesn't look like the average Joe.  He's not cut in the same mold as a Washington or a Jefferson. He's not presidential enough.  He has that back-country, 'aw shucks' mentality, and voters are turned off by that."

"I think you're right.  People don't want to vote for someone who may potentially embarrass the country."

It doesn't take a well-stretched imagination to believe that these comments would be made about an Abraham Lincoln or a George Washington if they had lived in our time.  Would today's media have agreed not to divulge the fact that FDR didn't have the use of his legs?  No.  This is too good a story; they'd cover it from top to bottom.  FDR might never have become president in today's society.  What a loss that would have been.

To be sure, some candidates thrive on such coverage; candidates who specialize in parsing or pandering, candidates who always say the right thing because they never say anything at all.  It is the candidate who tries to speak the truth who gets tripped up by current mainstream news media, because the truth is bound to anger someone, and it the negative reaction to the truth that the press loves the most.  Outrage sells better than anything in todays news market, and the media supplies what is in demand.

What is the solution?  It isn't enough for a small number to boycott the mainstream news media, the vast majority needs it.  The populace is lazy; people don't have the time to think for themselves, they don't want to think for themselves, they want to be told what to think. The people want self-serve, microwave news -- they want it fast and tasteless.  The people get what they want in the 24-hour news cycle; the news is always on, even when there is no news.  

Perhaps America's last best chance lies in the newest manifestation of news coverage, the blog.  Without time contraints or reliance upon ratings driven ad revenue, news web-blogs provide unfiltered information for those who want to look beyond the shallow and the meaningless.  While not perfect, blogs provide an alternative to the talking heads on television, the talking mouths on radio, and the typing hacks in print. However, in the end, it may not be enough.  Good people, good candidates eager to make lasting change in this country will most likely be stymied by the style of news coverage that dominates the market.  Only through a tremendous effort by a unique individual, and perhaps a bit of luck as well, can America ever have a truly great president again.

Originally posted to PittsburghPete on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 01:36 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tipjar in the hopes that Obama may break this (32+ / 0-)

    trend.

    "The man and the hour have met!" Ladies and gentlemen, the next President of the United States, Barack Obama!

    by PittsburghPete on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 01:36:45 PM PDT

  •  Al Gore's "Assualt on Reason" (5+ / 0-)

    Will tell you all you need to know. There is a price to pay for passivity and I think we are only beginning to pay it. I will be amazed if Obama can transcend this, but I fear that stupidity will once again rule the day.

    If you plant ice, you're gonna harvest wind- J.Garcia/R.Hunter

    by beltane on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 01:40:29 PM PDT

    •  the fact that Gore decided not to run in 2008 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      beltane

      tells us that courage, vision, and integrity aren't enough to win the day.

      If Gore had run he would have won. But with a media so devoted to misinformation and trivia, he would never be able to reach people through all the static to rally popular support for his policies, which is why he's reduced to running an ad campaign to raise awareness of climate change.

      I fear that nothing but a catastrophic economic collapse will cut through all the media bullshit.

      •  I think this (0+ / 0-)

        gaffe by Obama has made a Gore nomination much more likely.  

        "The era of Scooter Libby justice, Brownie incompetence and Karl Rove politics will finally be over this year" Reject Marc Rich justice and Mark Penn politics.

        by IhateBush on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 04:13:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't know (0+ / 0-)

          short of war with Iran or the bottom falling out of the economy before August, I don't think a Gore nomination is likely.

          There will have to be an imminent crisis before the delegates seriously consider nominating someone who didn't run in the primaries. Otherwise, they're most likely going to go for Obama.

          It is a preposterous situation we're in, where the person who is obviously the most qualified can't run for president because he wouldn't be able to accomplish anything once there. But it's a preposterous situation we may have to endure.

          •  The only crisis that is needed (0+ / 0-)

            is that there isn't a majority of delegates for either candidates.

            With the NRCC attacking many moderate Dems regarding Obama's comments, it is likely that there will be at least 30-40 superdelegates who refuse to vote for either Obama or Clinton.

            "The era of Scooter Libby justice, Brownie incompetence and Karl Rove politics will finally be over this year" Reject Marc Rich justice and Mark Penn politics.

            by IhateBush on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 04:45:28 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  outrage sells, and we are buying it too. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    willb48

    just count the number of diaries on this "is he elitist or not" issue today on dkos compared to say, Iraq or global warming or the economy or unrest in Haiti or Sudan.

    there are a ton of talented writers on this site, but i think sometimes we too are guilty of losing the forest for the trees.

    "In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope." -BHO

    by txdreamer on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 01:49:06 PM PDT

  •  No (0+ / 0-)

    Great Presidents show courage, conviction, and honesty, three thinks that renders a candidate unelectable

    •  In most cases yes (0+ / 0-)

      very occasionally they get elected, which is why great Presidents don't come around often.  In the last 150 years, we've had two, Lincoln and FDR.

      "The era of Scooter Libby justice, Brownie incompetence and Karl Rove politics will finally be over this year" Reject Marc Rich justice and Mark Penn politics.

      by IhateBush on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 03:10:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and I only yearn (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IhateBush

        to live in the America that elected FDR.

        Lincoln, if you remember correctly, got elected in a four way race...I'm not so sure he would've won if faced directly against Douglas.

        •  The country that elected FDR (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          limpidglass

          was as desperate, angry, and bitter as the rural areas that Obama was claiming.  They turned to FDR for some semblance of hope, even though FDR offered no real specifics.

          The problem for Obama is that things haven't gotten that bad in America yet.  For someone like him (or Edwards the way he was talking) to have a chance, things actually have to get that bad.  
          It might well get there after 4 years of John McCain.  It probably won't get that bad by November, but a severe downturn in the economy is really Obama's only chance.  

          My guess is that we will have a brokered convention if Obama can't effectively shake this off.  The NRCC is putting pressure on vulnerable conservative Dems to distance from Obama, and it is very possible that there may be a significant number of conservative Dems who refuse to pick either Obama or Clinton, and neither will have a majority of delegates.  

          "The era of Scooter Libby justice, Brownie incompetence and Karl Rove politics will finally be over this year" Reject Marc Rich justice and Mark Penn politics.

          by IhateBush on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 04:09:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Better phrasing my friend (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        IhateBush, limpidglass

        I took a Civil War and a Economic Collapse to elect our only two Great Presidents.

  •  Yeah, the traditional media outlets tick me off (0+ / 0-)

    most every time I watch or listen. My saving graces are: these blogs, The Daily Show, Countdown, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher and Air America (local and national - Thom Hartmann). The cable news networks usually make me crazy with the ridiculous crap they say -- it's unbelievable.

    I'm in the South Hills part of Pittsburgh. I've seen quite a few bloggers on here from Pittsburgh --maybe we should all get together sometime to blow off steam!!

    I've been canvassing and entering canvassing data for the Obama campaign, and he's got a lot of supporters here.

    I hope he continues to hit back on this stupid "news" about his comments, and uses it to his advantage to connect with voters -- he has another golden opportunity if he plays his cards right -- not only to transcend this and any other "controversy" that is manufactured out there, but to let voters know him better and see that he is in fact in touch with the electorate -- by talking to them as thinking adults who are in fact not stupid - as the media and GOP apparently think we are. They play the voters for fools, and we need to educate people on the game they're playing -- which is to their disadvantage.

    Hang tight -- Obama will be fine, and most people will see through the crap this time. Just let it play out and trust that Obama and his brilliant campaign will handle it effectively. They won't take any of this kind of bullshit lying down....

    Pennsylvanians for Obama - BRING IT!

    by Kim from Pgh PA on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 02:04:45 PM PDT

  •  Blogs won't transcend the problem (3+ / 0-)

    any more than the proliferation of cable punditry and online news outlets have. Even as blogging increases its audience and inches its way into the canon of traditional/"mainstream" media, it becomes an indecipherable deluge of noise, with all the extremism, ignorance, and sensationalism associated with the avenues of dissemination it seeks to supplant.

    Since the advent of yellow journalism - which is to say since forever - the key element has been not to find new ways in which to reach people, but instead to educate those people so they're able to separate fact from fiction in reporting. The current establishment grinds on many people, coercing them to disengage from critical thinking and retreat into the untaxing safety of America's Funniest Home Videos or the latest travesty of a "reality" show. Low information voters are the desired outcome of this process, which has been very successful over the course of the last couple of decades.

    It's clear that the Obama campaign intends to challenge this trend of dumbing down society and that intent was only typefied yesterday with the difficult truths Barack placed on the table yesterday, as well as in the heinous, patronizing responses offered by Clinton and McCain.

    Can we have another great president? Absolutely. Greatness overcomes seemingly insurmountable obstacles, of which the mindless, bloodthirsty media is surely one. But the success of such an endeavor can only be fully gauged by posterity. I don't think we're in a position to predict when that time comes and who that person will be. Personally, all I can do is to continue to support Barack Obama, the only individual in the brightest spotlight also attempting to meet the challenge.

  •  About the McCain thing... (0+ / 0-)

    Whether he screwed the lobbyist or not, we all know that he's the type of person for which such things are common place. Alpha male, powerful one at that. Not one to practice our bourgeois values of fidelity.

    I'm glad the news media at least put it out there. The man deserves no respect at all. Not an iota.

    As for our other "great" presidents, what was so great about many of them?  Why do you have this need to venerate them, so great that you'd want the media to not dig up the trash on them?

    This is too good a story; they'd cover it from top to bottom.  FDR might never have become president in today's society.

    Actually it's a boring story. And without the initial coverup, it's even more boring. The only interesting part about it (after the fact) is that the media didn't show him in a wheelchair.

    If it weren't for the coverup, this probably wouldn't even be a footnote in history books, let alone on Entertainment Tonight or in a tabloid.

    You only use that example, because it's the most benign. JFK was a whoremonger who couldn't keep his dick in his pants long enough to even do the job. His father really did have mob ties, and it's difficult to deny that he stole the election (though, considering it was Nixon, I have no sympathy).

    Which others would you even put up there? Certainly none that weren't democrats. Truman? LBJ (who very likely is responsible for JFK's death) ? Clinton?

    If you want bigger than life legends, then crown a king. I'll reluctantly take flawed men that only manage things for two 4 year terms with all their weaknesses plastered across the newspapers.

  •  Can You Imagine "Morning Joe" in 1932? (0+ / 0-)

    Joe:  Come off it, Mika, you ignorant slut.  Do you really think anybody's gonna vote for that elitist crip?  Hell, he can't even bowl in that chair.

    Mika: Oh, Joe. Stop it. You're hurting my feelings.

    Willie: Yea. That Roosevelt dude's like a major gimp.  He makes pretty speeches, but he ain't gonna be running no marathons...hee, hee.

    Joe: That's the trouble with these cheeto-eating newspaper readers.  They're completely out of touch with Mr. Joe Gallon-Jug in Pensacola, who just wants to drink his shine and burn a few crosses without being bullied by the Federal government.

    Mika: Joe, you're such a savage...Hold me.

    Willie: Hey, I've got dibs on Joe.

    Joe: Mark my words, people are gonna get in the privacy of that voting booth and they're gonna vote Hoover.  You just wait and see...Whaddaya think, Pat?

    Buchanan: I think J. Edgar Hoover is a great American who's gonna clean up all this commie mess, irrespective of who wins in the Fall.  I predict that he'll personally shoot Dillinger...

    Joe: You heard it here first... Pat Buchanan, folks. Renaissance man.

    Mika: We'll be right back with today's report on bank runs...

    <Benny Goodman bumper music and fade out>

  •  Screw the Presidents (0+ / 0-)

    I'd rather have a Congress with balls enough to stand up to and slap down these legends in their own minds.

    Concocted by CHICKENhawks and commanded by an ass-kissing little CHICKENshit, the war in Iraq is just a subliminal advertising vehicle for KFC.

    by George Gould on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 03:04:44 PM PDT

  •  This is why the media lacks patriotism... (0+ / 0-)

    ..even though they like to witch hunt other people's patriotism.

    The media puts its interests above that of the country's by turning our politics into the Jerry Springer Show for ratings.

    And they have the gall to question people's patriotism when they are the ones ruining our country, enabling dumb wars, and distracting people from real issues?

  •  given the massive problems that (0+ / 0-)

    Obama will have dumped on him when he walks through the White House door, if he manages "good enough" by 2012... i.e. an America that shows signs of becoming viable again and whose world reputation is climbing towards respectability, that'll qualify him for a spot on Mt. Rushmore. He probably won't get it.

    Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

    by alizard on Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 07:39:19 PM PDT

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