You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone

Long-time American television newsman Ted Koppel wrote a great opinion piece this past Sunday.  He used the recent two-day suspension of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC for his political contributions to sharply point out how our republic is continually being hurt by its citizens flocking to “news” sources that will never tell its viewers anything with which they disagree.  Koppel’s words make a fabulous little essay but I do want to disagree with one omission that either Mr. Koppel forgot or was edited out in the name of space as this did also appear in an actual, archaic, printed-with-ink newspaper.  Ironically enough, the big point that I believe was left out is very similar to the one turning point that Koppel did bring up in how something very positive for the USA turned into a negative.

Koppel’s assertion is that it was the surprising profitability of 60 Minutes that led us down the path we are on now.  I absolutely do not disagree as that was indeed a point where news began to be looked upon by the three major networks at the time (along with all of their local affiliates) as something that could make money (and, worse yet for the news industry, be made to make even more money) rather than being a big part of any network’s or station’s obligation to “serve the public interest” as was then strongly mandated and enforced by law.

However, that in and of itself would not have put us where we are now in an era when all three of the old-guard networks continue to slash their news budgets and many smaller local market stations are giving up news entirely or even outsourcing it to other channels.  If “serving the public interest” had remained part of what it took to get a broadcasting license, news would have continued on for much longer as it was but perhaps only with a faster rotation of anchors, reporters, and magazine shows as owners looked for more profits (which, in and of itself is not a bad thing).

I believe there were two shoes that dropped here to send us to this day and age where not only can everybody ignore the views of the other side of the political fence but, worse yet, begin to allow themselves to be fed wildly inaccurate “facts” and recirculate them as gospel.  That second thud on the floor was the deregulation of the US broadcasting industry in the 1980’s and beyond that greatly relaxed what it took to “serve the public interest” and dismantled what was called the “Fairness Doctrine” where stations had to allow opposing views on the air to balance out any type of opinion piece.

Released from their previous obligations, it did not take long for broadcasting entities large and small to begin slashing budgets.  Furthermore, with no common sense regulations placed upon the then relatively new cable industry to serve the greater good other than by carrying C-SPAN (basically), nobody of any note other than CNN stepped in to fill the void…well, until Rupert Murdoch and the radical element of the GOP and corporate America decided to create the Fox News Channel which, eventually, spawned the almost equally disgusting programming bent of MSNBC.  I say “almost” because, in what might surprise many of my readers, I do greatly enjoy Morning Joe when I am up early enough here on the west coast to watch it as, even though he is an avowed Republican (yes, MSNBC does have a show with a conservative on it!), I find Joe Scarborough to be fair and not mean-spirited when he criticizes the Democrats in addition to the fact that he never hesitates to criticize the GOP (plus agrees with me that this country is going to remain stuck in the mud if we don’t stop automatically saying “no” to everything each other’s parties want to do and generally begin to have respect for people with views that differ from our own).

Of course, without some form of deregulation in the broadcasting industry, we would have never seen the explosion of choice and options to finally take us away from the time when all of the networks and local stations usually played it safe in order to not offend anybody and possibly lose their license.  However, just like Koppel’s assertion about 60 Minutes — a program that resulted in a great era of investigative journalism especially in the areas of consumer protection — the good side came with an extremely bad one that was never tempered either by the government or the “free market.”

Despite all of that stuff I just wrote to fill people in on Koppel’s very important and influential missing point, I strongly urge everybody to read his opinion piece especially if anybody reading this gets their “news” from either MSNBC or the Fox News Channel…because it’s high time that those of you supporting either of these channels realize that neither conservatives or progressives are ever going to go away in this country and that, by continuing to take in the absolute lies that these entities churn out about the opposing political party, all that is accomplished is division, stagnation, ignorance, and increasing hatred for one’s fellow man which, in turn, will only lead to the further unraveling of our once mighty and always-improving republic.

Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly, and the death of real news – The Washington Post

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